Chatting on a lovely spring day, musician and actress, Amber Skye Noyes, is just as enchanting as the mythical elements that inspire her. Recently, Amber launched her Kickstarter campaign for her new EP, Rivers; her first work of music released in five years. The music featured on her EP is definitely romantic, filled with solid lyrics and anthematic sounds. Not only is Amber a stiking and stunning singer-songwriter, she's also an accomplished actress, having been seen in CW's "Beauty and the Beast," "The Blacklist," among others. Amber discusses her lyrical and musical theme inspirations, from mysticism to crystals, and folklore, her vocal surgery that was a major milestone in her musical career, and of course the intricate, and personal items she's making for fans who fund her Kickstarter campaign.
How have your life experiences shaped your lyrics and musical sound altogether?
Amber: Well, I have been writing songs since I was about 8. Well, actually before that I was always kind of singing or humming or making up songs. Then I actually wrote my first one down on paper when I was 8. I still have it somewhere! Mainly I've always written songs about relationships, I would say, even when I was young. Maybe my mom let me watch too much "Melrose Place" growing up or something (laughs). Maybe it was just a way to try to understand and contextualize the character’s feelings and things I saw on TV, but I really relished those times I could sort of “play” with new feelings, even if they weren’t my own current experience. I think that’s definitely where my actor side and my musical side began to intersect growing up. As I got older into my teen years, songwriting and singing was definitely a way to kind of cope with things I was feeling.- heartbreak, longing, all that great stuff. It was a way to channel my emotions into something tangible and linear, and I still write that way, when I’m at my unhappiest I write my best work haha! I grew up singing all different types of stuff. I loved Aretha Franklin and gospel and soul growing up, Tina Turner and James Brown. I don't know where that came from as my parents didn't really listen to them. I think I had heard it somewhere. I remembe always playing Celtic music and Celine Dion in the house. I asked for Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation album for my 11th birthday- She is a brilliant songwriter. You wouldn’t guess I loved her if you heard me sing, but I love soulful music so much. My granddad exposed me to a lot of 40’s music when I was little, all the big bands, Judy Garland. I did musical theatre, toured Germany in a classical choir. I’ve had a really diverse musical upbringing and tasted all the flavors until firmly landing where I am now (laughs).
When I moved to New York I definitely “paid my dues”, as they say, in lots of different types of studio settings, singing everything from hooks on hip-hop tracks, and singing backup vocals. I even tried being in a rock band for a while with these veteran NYC rockers. I kept playing live shows, writing different types of songs and taking bits and pieces of what felt right as I went and it evolved to where I am now. My new EP is dark but it's very big, and atmospheric sounding despite it’s pop sensibility. I always keep a strong organic element like a piano or guitar as the centerpiece and play with synths, huge vibe-y drums, and layering to keep it in a lush, dynamic space sonically. I’ve been working with an amazing production team here in NYC called EMW Music Group,and also a producer named David Schoenwetter. I’m really excited about the new songs on the EP. There are some really fun, energetic tracks on the EP, and also some sexier, slower jams that I’m really proud of too.
That's excellent. I love that you're musically inclined; you really like not only the lyrics but the musical atmosphere of it as well. I think that's what makes it even better.
Amber: Oh they go hand in hand, definitely.
Absolutely, absolutely. I love that your music has mystical themes. That was very interesting. I love that. What are some of your mystical muses and what draws you to mysticism?
Amber: I've always loved fairytales and folklore ever since I was a little girl. I used to write my own short stories about fairies and there would be a magi or a character with powers or something. It was really in the last couple years that I really started thinking, 'Okay, if I'm going to really hone in on who I am as an artist right now, what am I really all about and what world do I want others to be a part of when they are with me and listen to my music...You know, things change. If this album really takes off, I could be singing these songs for the next 50 years. I better really like this music, what it represents, and it better be really authentic! I really just dug deep and asked myself, well, what do I really like, what have I always liked? If you’re not authentic, fans can really sniff it out. I looked at all the everyday things that I actually enjoy. I like mystical stuff, I love crystals, and forests, going to renaissance fairs, and "Game of Thrones" and "Lord of the Rings." Wearing some unusual piece of jewelry everyday. It’s my personal philosophy of creating “Everyday Enchantment;” Life gets so heavy and it’s amazing to still play “pretend” and step outside the ordinary and to believe that magical stuff can happen, things you don’t understand.
I was like, yes, I should just make my music an extension of that and an expression of that, because that’s who I am. Am I going to write about fairies? No! (laughs) I write about love, relationships, self-discovery and those universal things that people need music in their lives for-- but I just use really dynamic, mystical imagery to help tell those stories in an engaging way.
Right now my music, (lyrically, sonically and also visually) feels so aligned with who I am as a person, as a woman. That's really exciting to me because it just feels authentic and fun. I don't have to try to be anything. I just get to be myself and that’s incredibly powerful and liberating.
Let’s talk about The Kickstarter campaign for your EP. Why did you decide to use crowdfunding as a resource to promote your music?
Amber: Well, of course it helps promote the EP, but more importantly Kickstarter actually helps actually me create the EP which is huge. There are no rules anymore in terms of how to do things as an artist. It's sort of like a weird, modern-day patronage that used to exist maybe in the Renaissance. Anyone can be a Medici now, even in a small way. People just don't go to the record store any more. A lot of people don't even go on iTunes anymore to buy music, they just stream it. The consumption and creation norms of music are constantly changing. My Kickstarter campaign has only been live for about 2 weeks and it’s been such a humbling experience. Strangers that I don't even know, friends and family, fans from “Beauty and the Beast” who were a little interested in my music are now really intrigued for this new EP, and I’m so grateful. People are able to “pledge” various amounts of money toward the EP campaign to help fund it’s completion, and in exchange for not only being able to listen to the EP before it’s released, they can pick various “rewards” I’ve created.
For people who might disagree with the idea of crowdfunding, I think it’s really special that as an artist I'm offering all sorts of really unique rewards that you wouldn't normally have access to. One of the rewards (that somebody's already pledged for!) is an in studio session in NewYork, in the recording studio, with myself and my music producer, which is really cool. I also have other smaller rewards too like these cool crystal necklaces, which is something I would definitely wear. Hopefully these will be collectible items one day, pieces that are all part of the world I’ve created and I’m inviting people to be a part of it
I’m about ½ way through the kickstarter campaign; it runs until May 26. It's very nerve-wrecking because Kickstarter is all or nothing funding.You either raise your entire goal amount or you don't get anything. I really believe in this EP and I am very confident that it'll work out, but it's a little scary not knowing if it will get funded. So I really want people to check out the Kickstarter page, watch the video I made, hear the music sneak previews, and get excited about who I am as an artist. Every bit counts and helps this EP come to life!
I think it'll be great. I think you're doing really well so far, and I believe in you.
Amber: Oh, good!
I think it's a great tool. I like to decipher what everybody's reasons are that use it and utilize it. When you're in the zone creating, writing and singing, getting in your musical element of lyrics and style, what does music say to you during those moments?
Amber: Well those are very different “zones” sometimes!. The writing zone, that presents itself in many different ways. I often write a lot when I'm just walking or slightly distracted, like walking my dog or when I’m driving or showering. When my brain, my everyday brain, my “grocery list and checklist” brain, is doing something like driving a car or walking then my creative brain can sort of just open up and catch all these different ideas that sort of come to me.
I always say “catch” ideas because it sort of feels like just that sometimes, that I’m “catching” a great lyric or melody that fell out from above. There's an urgency sometimes. I have to write it down because I'm like, "quick! It's going to go away. I have to catch it before it’s gone!” Sometimes songwriting can feel like that. As for singing, well, I love singing in the shower like everyone else and write great stuff there (laughs!) When I'm onstage singing, when I can really feel everything just resonating and kind of buzzing in my body, I know I’m in the zone. I love feeling the ebb and flow of the emotions in my body on stage and how when I'm actually singing things are vibrating and pulsing. It's a very physical process. As much as I can tie that to the emotional process of actually telling the story of what I'm singing then I know I'm doing it right.
When I'm in the recording booth, that also feels very different, very intimate. The microphone captures every breath and detail so I get to feel like I’m whispering or singing right into a lover’s ear or something, which is a little different than on stage. Writing, recording, performing live…those are all very different animals. It's fun to adapt and embrace each one; There's a season for each one. I would say though the more fun you have when creating a song, (and you can still have “fun” writing a really sad song!) the better it'll be to sing and play live in the long run so it’s a good idea to set yourself up for that.
Absolutely. I totally agree. So it's safe to say that music is your first passion. Do you want to do that pretty much for the rest of your life? Is that what your goal is?
Amber: Music has always been a passion and I know it'll always have a place in my life. It's exciting and scary to know, or rather to not know, how my career will take shape. Will I blow up and be some huge platinum selling artist? I don't know. But I do know that I will always keep creating, no matter what, because I sort of have to, as an artist. It’s a bit like breathing! (laughs)
I'm an actor as well. I've had some recent successes that I'm really grateful to have had. People often say, "Oh, which one do you want to do more? Acting or singing?" I don't know if that's because people naturally just want to be like, "What are you about? I need to put you in a box. I need to figure you out!"
To them I say, you know, Music and Acting are like two very favorite, very different lovers of mine. If I don't have to choose between them I'm definitely not going to! (laughs) They give me such different things, but I’ve been doing them both for so long they are both interwoven into my creative being! I can’t separate them. And really, at their core, music and acting are both forms of storytelling, and emotional and physical expression. Right at this moment, I'm very committed and excited about my EP. I’m always auditioning for interesting acting projects, but I'm very much ready to give birth to this EP and share this music with the world.
As you should be. I just thought you were a musician. I had no idea that you acted also.
Amber: Well, it's great because I have a lot of fans through my acting work and they didn't even know that I sing. Which is crazy because that's like the color of my hair or the color of my eyes, it’s so a part of me. How could they not know that? (laughs) Well, they know now!
Yeah, I love it. Hey, if I could do both, I would totally do both as well. I'm a creative person and I'm with you on that for sure.
Amber: But I should say, the EP, it’s called Rivers-- It’s going to be coming out in September, which sounds like a really long time away but it's not!
It'll be here before we know it.
Amber: It'll be here fast. I'm really excited about it. I've been working on this for a long time. My Kickstarter video talks about all that good stuff, about the process and everything. I haven't released a body of music in about 5 years. I’ve gone though a lot these past few years, including a vocal surgery which I urgently needed. I hadn’t told many people about it, because I thought they would think I wouldn’t sound great anymore, but that’s not true. And it’s part of my journey so I feel I need to share it. I’ll spare you the medical details but it was a scary time before my surgery. I kept losing my voice, even from just talking too loudly, and I was scared I wouldn’t be able to sing anymore. But my surgery was incredibly successful, I was also really diligent about vocal therapy and re-training so I’ve been fully recovered for a while now. I sound and feel better than I ever have. That’s why I’ve been so committed to releasing this new EP. I'm really ready to release this and to share all the creativity that’s been welled up inside me for years.
Yes, for sure. My time is up with you, but I have one more question. I'll make it fun. Let's see if we can do this. I'll give you this one. Do you have a guilty musical pleasure?
Amber: Guilty musical pleasure... Oh man. Like something I probably wouldn't want a ton of people to know?
Yes, like something that you find yourself singing to all the time or listening to and you hum it quite often and then you're like, "Dang I wish this song would get out of my head." But it's a guilty pleasure.
Amber: Ok well, well first off, I am like a sponge. Literally if somebody is speaking with an accent, I'll probably have a little bit of a twang after talking to you, but if somebody is speaking with an accent... I have a British friend and after we hang out, I have a British accent too. It's weird. If I'm in a store and I hear some random song, I will be singing it later, without a doubt, and I won’t remember where I picked it up from! But guilty musical pleasure? Hmm. I will totally put on Celine Dion, or Barbara Streisand, or Whitney Houston, or something on a Saturday while I'm cleaning the house and just really belt it out. My neighbors love me. (laughs) I’ll practice my moves in the mirror like no one is watching. I did that as a little girl and I still think it's fun. I try not to take myself too seriously.
You've been so lovely.
Amber: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. It's people like you who help music come to life.