Singer-songwriter Amber Smith’s work-ethic can be admired, playing countless gigs around Wales and Plymouth has garnered her an ever growing following and her talent can be confirmed by her success in Plymouth’s Battle of the Bands in 2013 – where she came 2nd, despite being a fairly unknown newcomer. In December 2014, she released her single Hope Too Much and we recently had the opportunity to catch up with Amber, finding out what’s coming next and how she thinks the UK’s independent and local venues can beat the struggle to stay open.
HUNOW: You’re from Wales but live in Plymouth for your studies, has experiencing a new city influenced the music you make?
AS: Definitely! I was thrown into a world where I no longer knew the majority of people around me. I hadn’t experienced that kind of independence of being away from home yet. For a long time I stayed in my room writing music before showing it to anyone. Luckily I had a lot of support when I broke out into the scene there. It made me work harder on improving my performances as it’s easy to be forgotten in a place where no one knows you in the first place. My music and confidence improved and I met some really inspirational people along the way. I was also experiencing a huge change in my life by moving away from my hometown so I had a lot of inspiration to write from the events going on in my life.
HUNOW: You have a lot of live experience, do you have any shows you’ve played that really stand out?
AS: Some of the most memorable gigs are from when I just started out and had really bad stage fright. Once, near the beginning I was performing at Kama Lounge, Newport and the whole crowd just surrounded me singing along, cheering and supporting me. I knew I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. I still have the name of the venue stuck on the back of my guitar with insulation tape. I also took part in Plymouth’s Battle of the Bands 2013 and I wasn’t too well known so when the votes went up and I realised people I had never even met before were supporting me, that was an amazing moment. I won the first heat and ended up coming 2nd in the final against some other really talented musicians.
HUNOW: Having released your single Hope Too Much in December 2014 can you share any info about any larger upcoming releases of yours? Are you working on an EP or an album?
AS: I’m working on an album with an incredible producer at the moment called Jared Harding. Initially we recorded the single Hope Too Much and during that time built up a great working relationship and he brought so many brilliant ideas to the table. I’m really looking forward to the final outcome. Also one of the singles from the album is having a music video made by Coco Beam films in March which is gonna be loads of fun!
HUNOW: If you are working on a release is there a general theme to it?
AS: I’m at a point in my life where I’m coming to the end of my study and figuring out what I want to do without actually knowing exactly how to get there. My music is heavily influenced by this. There’s no step-by-step guide to life or how to get where you want to be, you just have to keep working at it at the same time as trying to maintain friendships or relationships when people around you are also on different paths. This reflects in my lyrics and the album is based around the struggle as well as the excitement of figuring out who I am as a person as well as telling stories of paths I’ve crossed along the way.
HUNOW: As an acoustic musician it’s usually just your guitar and you. Do you ever find it difficult to pour your heart out on your own?
AS: I actually find it a lot easier as a solo artist. I received some advice when I first started recording and that was to bring myself back to how I felt when I wrote the songs and sing as if I was still in that moment. It brings so much more emotion to the music and I feel if I had a full band behind me it would be a lot more difficult at times to really let go because I’d be concentrating on what they were doing too. It helps me understand myself better and makes the music so much more believable because I’m being true to myself and I’m not thinking about what other people are expecting from me.
HUNOW: A lot of local and independent venues are struggling to stay open around the UK. Being a performer who relies on local venues, how do you think venues can be saved?
AS: I host a live music night at a venue called The West Hoe in Plymouth and the owners have an excellent work ethic and are so welcoming. I think a lot of it is down to promoting their events, their services and giving to get back. I promote throughout the week and the staff give me feedback on how well the live music night is doing and note how much work I put into it which pushes me to work harder. Locals and musicians then attend and spread the word which brings more people in. In return the staff treat them well and provide a great night with excellent service, food/drinks and if you can make someone’s night memorable, they’re more likely to come back. It requires effort from both parties.
HUNOW: You’ve recently announced you’ll be performing at Volksfest in 2015, how did this opportunity come about?
AS: Over the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to meet some exceptionally talented musicians and promoters. Through this, I met Tom Baker who works for Syco within Sony. He’s a brilliant musician who holds some great live music nights and after announcing he was running a stage at Volksfest 2015 he invited me to play. It’s an amazing opportunity and I’m really grateful to him and the rest of the crew to be performing there. They’ve already confirmed acts such as Atomic Kitten, East 17, Land of the Giants, Wilko Johnson and The Retro Gents so I’m really excited for it.
HUNOW: It being over 3 years since your first gig, how do you feel your style has changed over the years, both musically and in terms of performance?
AS: When I first started performing I had insane stage fright and that affected my projection in my voice a lot. I grew a lot more confident and I can push to hit harder notes as well as speak to the crowd and entertain them. Performing at weddings also caused me to become a lot more organised with my set lists and helped me make connections. Over the years my songwriting has grown to be more mature and versatile. I’ve don’t feel I need to be restricted to one genre. I’m a self taught guitarist and I’m always learning new things but I think the main thing is that I learnt to write music that really meant something to me and spoke about things that I found difficult to express in any other way.
HUNOW: What kind of guitar are you rocking? Do you have any gear that’s on your wishlist?
AS: I have a Fender electro acoustic called Elle that’s covered in dinosaur stickers and memories from my previous gigs and I love her! I really want a busking amp at the moment so I can get out there and sing to the world when I don’t have a gig that day.
HUNOW: Last of all, is there anything you want to plug?
AS: You can follow me on my Facebook page which is constantly updated with music videos, photos, new originals and gig dates.
For 25p singles go to: www.musicglue.com/amber-smith.
Finally if you want to see a music video with fire go to:
https://vimeo.com/cocobeamfilms/ambersmithslow! Thank you everyone!