A morning w/ Amber Maya

We caught up with Bajan-New Zealand Artist Amber on her Cropover vacation in Barbados to talk music, fashion and life!

We woke up super early to make our way to the East Coast of Barbados to visit Amber to commence the interview and also to take a few shots for you to get a vibe for her visually…all before the sun broke the surface of the horizon!
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Jr: Morning Amber *Over a cup of tea and prepping looks* – shall we begin?

Amber: Ready!

Jr: Lets start off traditionally – tell us about yourself?

Amber: Well firstly I’m from Barbados, of course! I’m an island girl through and through. I’m a singer/songwriter, a dancer and a fashion lover. I currently live in New Zealand, where I’ve been for the most part of the last six (6) years.

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Jr: New Zealand – Wow – from one island to the next – why there and how did you get into music?

Amber: Yeah, exactly! A slightly bigger island! I get that question a lot. New Zealand seems like the furthest and most random place but I’m half kiwi. My dad is from New Zealand, so I grew up coming here on vacations and visiting family. I eventually moved here to finish my degree in performing & screen arts, as such it has become a second home and a base for me.
As for music, I got into it quite late. At a time in my life when dancing – the creative path that I had been following mainly – got put on a hold for a while. I found myself back in Barbados in unfortunate circumstances, after withdrawing from dance school in New York. It was a perfect opportunity for me to open myself to another creative outlet. Music has always been a huge part of my life and something I dreamt of pursuing, but never really had the courage to. I starting writing and turning poetry into songs, and one thing led to another. I haven’t stopped since!

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Jr: That is really interesting…dancer turned singer/songwriter. What can we expect from your style of music with those influences and experiences? Would you say movement drives your music in anyway?

Amber: As I continue to evolve as an artist, the integration between dance and music is definitely getting stronger, so i would absolutely say that my music is being more and more driven by movement as i grow. I think movement and how the music feels in your body, the way it manifests in a physical way is so important! Even if the movement itself isn’t larger than life. I’m appreciating that integration much more now than when i started out with acoustic stuff that could very comfortably fit into an indie/folk-esque bracket. At that time i couldn’t really find a great way for my dance and music to marry. But that being said, movement has always been an influence given my experiences, but in a subtle way. So when you listen to my music now, especially with a song like BARE, I think you’ll find the layers and layers of instrumentation and vocals that you can expect to drive you forward in what i’d like to think is an ethereal and definitely physical way.

Amber Maya - Bare

*  Amber: Sorry I went off on a tangent! That’s a big one for me at the moment. I must admit that the newer stuff I’m working on now is being driven by movement in a more palpable way!

Jr: That’s cool I love it! It shows the passion! *

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Jr: Speaking of “BARE”…which we were going to mention next…is such an incredible track with a lot of feeling. Can you let us in on where you were at when you created that track and is this more of the direction you spoke of for your future music?

Amber: Thank you!! “BARE” is one of those tracks that we (myself and James Risbey, who produced it) sat on for a long time. We first recorded it at the end of last year and we sort’ve treated it like a little baby that we didn’t know when to release into the world. so it’s nice for it to finally be out! We referred to it as “17”, and i think James still does, because it didn’t even have a name for so long and it was just saved as track 17.
When I wrote “BARE” I was very affected by a young family member of mine who was terminally ill, and who had been battling for a long time. I was in a place of feeling hopeless and angry that there apparently was nothing to be done and no way to fix it. In the song, there’s the refrain “how do you reconcile this?”, and it’s extremely simple, but i think it sums up where I was at.
I suppose because the song has had such a long life already, it’s taken on more meaning, and now when I listen to it, I think of the police brutality and the countless lives lost that we hear about (or don’t) daily. and how do we reconcile that? For me the sentiment is the same.

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* Amber: Again a tangent! Hope you weren’t expecting short answers. I’m apparently incapable. 

Jr: I’m living for the long answers! * 

Amber:  As for the direction of my new music, yes you can expect it to be more along the same line as BARE but better! Hahaha.. I’m using more Caribbean influence, and taking more of a hip hop and r&b influence. I want the music to be more bold and it will be!

Jr: We are so sorry to hear about your family…but its great to see you used that emotion in a positive way. We are happy you shared that with us now and through words with beautiful melody in your music! As we are on the topic of police brutality…what are your thoughts about all that is going on in world currently? Do you see yourself as an activist of sorts?

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Amber: Absolutely! Well music is definitely the channel for me to speak about those things.

I’m utterly horrified by the things i see every day. it’s gotten to the point I think where we’ve become numbed to it. Where I can read an article, or see a post about an innocent person killed, and I may not even shed a tear, because i’m so used to it – almost expecting it. And when i think of that, I can’t believe that this is the world we are living in. It feels archaic and too real all at once.  Every day real people with real families are becoming headlines, hashtags and Facebook posts and the world literally watches. It’s heartening to see the amount of support and the rise as a result, but it’s difficult to stay optimistic when injustice is so persistent at our front doors. but I think we push in whatever ways we can until the glass ceiling finally breaks.  I couldn’t in good conscience call myself a true activist, when there are so many people on the streets protesting every day, and doing so much more than i am. Though i think it’s time to change that.

Jr: We wholeheartedly agree with you on that sentiment -“I think it’s time to change that!”…and as for glass ceiling…lets dive into your inspirations and which women contribute to your motivation, aspiration and execution of your artistry?

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Amber: So many! But all for their own incredible reasons, the biggest would have to be: My Mum, Maya Angelou, Nina Simone, Lauryn Hill, Rihanna and FKA twigs!

Jr: Such an incredible group of women…we can see the influences definitely in your style and music…is fashion important to you? *BTW – You look amazing in each look for the visual aspect of the interview and the images are incredible! As we are coming to the end of the shoot – packing up to say our goodbyes!*

Amber: Thank you! The shoot was such a fun time! Fashion is hugely important to me! I love style and I am constantly inspired by all kinds of fashion. From thrift shop to high fashion. I think it’s the most immediate and an amazing form of self expression.

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Jr:  Well on a closing note, we think you are awesome, we want to thank you for the time and want you to know you are totally good STOCK! One last question in relation to cropover…are you a “bang bim” or a “know the face” sorta woman? when it comes to the season…? *yup, we had to. LOL!* 

Amber: Thank you so so much for having me 🙂 Hahahahahaha! I’m definitely a bang bim!

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Creative Direction, Interviewer & Styling: Junior Sealy
Photography: Roland Dyall
Clothing by: Path Homme, L A B & iD, KTZ, DWNS and Xhosa - Cropover Band - Cacique.
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