Liverpool artist Amber Jay allows herself to be led by her gut feeling, writing about whatever grips her in the moment. Her new single – ‘Pencilled Brims’ – focused on themes of intimacy and drawn from her own life, is no different. From a musical journey that began at the age of 13 to now where she draws from heavyweights such as Marika Hackman and girl in red, Amber’s delicate vocals and experimental soundscapes are laid bare on her latest track which acts as the prelude to her 2021 debut EP. In conversation with RIOT, Amber delves into the evolution for her sound from teenhood to present, what message she hopes listeners would take away from her music, her bucket list goals and what people can expect from her upcoming EP.
What is the inspiration/message behind “Pencilled Brims”?
I took an experience from my own life which influenced the main core of the song but then dramatized it slightly towards the end. It focuses on a moment of intimacy and kind of puts a vignette around that experience. The song was already semi produced before the middle eight was even written, so with it sounding quite haunting and sensual it reminded me of the sort of thing you’d hear in Killing Eve. I kept that narrative within my head and tried to pull on the themes from that when I was writing the later section. It all fits quite nicely even though I know it’s very clearly influenced by different things in certain sections.
From the beginning of your musical journey at 13 to now, how has your sound evolved?
It took a while for me to figure out what I wanted my sound to be. I knew I could write all these intricate and delicate songs, but I didn’t want to be a folk or acoustic artist. I thought the ‘singer-songwriter sound’ was the only way I could go as my voice is quite soft and I write mainly on guitar, but I knew that wasn’t me. I found it hard to communicate or give examples of what I wanted my sound to be like. When I started discovering artist’s I saw myself in, only then did I start to make sense of what I knew was missing. I started to find my direction when I discovered artists like Billie Eilish and Marika Hackman. They were people who ‘looked like’ me, wrote delicate and emotive songs yet challenged the conventional vision of what that meant, through their production choices or how they presented themselves. I would write really fragile songs, but I didn’t want them to be pretty. I wanted them to be sinister, to evoke unease but to still have pieces of my personality within them. A good example of this is ‘Pencilled Brims.’ It’s haunting and gritty but then the middle eight is hilarious and quirky. I’ve always had a strong gut feeling, so I tend to try and listen to that now as much as possible.
Do you take inspiration for your song writing from personal experience or is it from the world around you?
A mixture. I can be watching a programme or film and just get this huge urge to write about it. I try to then choose instruments and sounds that would exist in the world of that film/programme and build around that. I also write a lot about my personal experience too. Whatever is kind of gripping me at the time, I tend to write about.
If listeners could take away one message from your music what would you want it to be and why?
What I always think is that I want to be visible to other young women. To be an example of someone who has always struggled with confidence and not feeling ‘good enough’ and to show that you can be quiet, young and female and none of those things mean you’re lesser than. I want to help young girls feel their worth. Along the way I’ve had important female figures give me words of encouragement and they’ve stook with me. For me, seeing certain artists just being themselves and visible fills me with confidence. It’s that whole thing of if you can see it, you can be it.
Your debut EP is due in 2021, in three words ( without spoiling anything) what can people expect from it?
‘A Haunting heartbreak soundtrack’ (I hope ‘A’ doesn’t count as a word!!) – we’ll allow it
Who influences your music professionally as well as personally?
I listen to a lot of Marika Hackman and Billie Eilish. I love the vulnerability within their voices but the strength that vulnerability creates. That is something that has given me confidence within my own voice. They both influence me a lot. I’m also influenced by relationships, events and the world around me. I’ve began to write more about my perspectives and the injustices I see in society.
Finally, what’s on your bucket list as a musician?
There are so many things. I’d love for my music to be used on Killing Eve, I love that show and scouse girl power all the way! I’ve always been fascinated by the red rocks amphitheatre, to perform there would be amazing. My favourite place I’ve ever been was Monument Valley and it definitely has the same energy. I just want to do all the things.