Amber Mark Talks 'Conexão' EP & Getting Sade's Seal of Approval

Amber Mark
Courtesy of Universal

Amber Mark

New York-based singer-songwriter Amber Mark debuted in 2017 with the 3:33am EP, capturing the stages of grief she endured after her mother’s passing. In between EPs, she guested on DJDS' “Trees on Fire” alongside Marco McKinnis.

While her debut EP was based on the grieving process, Mark’s latest EP Conexão chronicles her journey to find love again. Consumed with listening to João Gilberto, the four-track EP blends her soulful, smoky vocals with Brazilian Bossa nova, transcending genres and establishing her as one of the most innovative artists of 2018. The EP even features a cover of Sade’s “Love Is Stronger Than Pride,” which is approved by Sade Adu herself. 

In conjunction with her forthcoming EP, we caught up with Mark about her new music, the reality of taking about grief constantly with journalists and covering an R&B icon.

How did you get into music?

I was always in love with the idea of making music - and always wanted to be involved in either the creative side or the industry side. I went down the creative path in my teen years and when I was in high school in my junior year, I would perform at this program that was very similar to School of Rock. That was when I started writing and realized that’s what I wanted to do.

Your debut EP 3:33am was rooted in grief. What was it like putting those emotions into your songs?

It was more so that I was just expressing myself through music because that’s the most relief I felt -- it’s almost therapy for me. It felt good to let all those feelings out into music. There were people around me who I could express myself to, but music really helped. Being open with it and having other people listen to it. Everyone kind of goes through it. It helps me connect with people. It helps me to know it helped other people.

Have people approached you about the impact of your EP?

Yeah. I’ve gotten so many messages on social media of people they’ve lost in their lives. It’s been pretty crazy hearing their stories - it’s really sweet. I never thought that I would connect with people so much because I was singing about stuff so personal. Losing a loved one is always very hard so it’s quite useful to be able to connect with these people.

Is there a story that stands out for people?

I’ve heard stories of other people that are similar stories to me - their mother or father passing away. People have come out to me on Instagram. It’s amazing that they can tell me and confide in me. I always want to take the time and write these long messages telling them how much that means to me.

Can you talk about the meaning of Conexão?

Conexão means connection in Portuguese. First of all, one of the songs on the EP is called Conexão. After I wrote 3:33am I was trying to figure out what I was gonna do next. I had already been writing about love. I was very against writing about love, but time passed, and that’s what I was feeling. I started writing about relationships I was going through. When I was writing I always wanted to do a Bossa nova inspired track. In writing, it fit with the Bossa nova genre. That’s the reason for Conexão -- because it depicted the whole project.

How did you chronicle that emotional journey?

After my mom passed away and I went through the emotional rollercoaster, I felt like I had come to the conclusion that I had already had my soulmate - there was never going to be a stronger love than that: I was never gonna experience that again, which I still to this day think is true. Once I started to be in a relationship again, I realized that I found love just as strong but in a different form. I wanted to write about that connection you build with someone and how close you get with someone. Obviously there are some ups and downs and drama -- that’s where "Love Me Right" comes in. But I just wanted to touch on different aspects of relationships and things I had gone through.

Who do you dream of collaborating with?

I dream of collaborating with Q-Tip and Timbaland - it’s all producers. I’d really like to work with Drake and DRAM. The Weeknd would be dope. The list goes on and on. If Michael Jackson were alive, I’d love to collaborate with him.

How do you handle having to talk about grief and your mom over and over again with journalists like myself? I imagine it’s not easy.

It gets easier the more you do it, but I’ve never been private about feelings about losing my mom. I’ve always been open about losing my mom. Everyone goes through it - everyone’s been through it. There are obviously certain details that are graphic that I reserve, but on the emotional side of things it helps people. I’m happy to be able to communicate with people who have gone through it - it makes me feel good as well. Yesterday I had a podcast interview and we were talking about my mom and the whole process of her passing away. I said something and he responded in this metaphorical sentence and he started tearing up and eventually he confessed to me that his dad was in the process of passing away. Then it got really emotional and I started crying. It was this whole emotional thing that I hope will be edited out. Sometimes it can be hard to talk about, but I think it’s important.

Are you working on a full-length following this EP?

That’s what I’m doing now in L.A. -- we’re writing for the album. We’ll be putting it out end of this year or early next. I think it’s been two weeks now. All beginning stages.

When do you feel like you got your big break?

I don’t know. I think a pivotal moment in my career has been hearing myself on Beats 1 and hearing Zane Lowe say my name has been awesome. There are little moments that add up here into that big break thing. Questlove posted on Instagram a track I did called “Love Me Right.” I’m covering a Sade track and obviously because we’ve rearranged it, I had to get her approval and the writers'. She sent back a message wishing me all the success and saying she absolutely loved it. Just hearing general people liking your music is a big deal.