In India, the monsoon season lasts from July to September, with massive thunderstorms and rainfall dominating the climate for four months. It reaches the coast of southern state Kerala first, before arriving in Delhi and the rest of India by July. For 24-year-old R&B singer Amber Mark, who spent the majority of her childhood traveling back and forth between Gao, India and New York City, she would leave every summer during the torrential downpour while her mother stayed behind.
After her mom passed away nearly five years ago, Mark would tell herself that she wasn’t really gone, but just stayed behind in India during monsoon season. It’s the somber, yet sweet metaphor that lent itself to Mark’s soulful, earthy pop ballad entitled “Monsoon” off her first EP 3:33 A.M. The song references her literal flood of tears and includes a snippet of her mom’s voice at the end of the ballad. “But you’re not here, and with all my tears,” she sings, “It feels like monsoon every day.”
Mark’s mother was a devoted dancer turned painter in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and serves as the most important figure in 3:33 A.M., which was tinged with melancholy references as a way to process the seven stages of grief and to serve as an ode to the woman who gave her life. As dark as the subject matter was, the songs also unleash an optimism about what’s yet to come. Mark’s second EP, entitled Conexão and released today, treads into different waters, exploring the complications within a relationship. It’s the next chapter of her life and delves into love and loss in ways she hasn’t yet explored in song.
“After my mom passed, I kind of shut myself down from that,” Mark tells CR. “I just felt like I’d experienced the highest feeling of love that you could experience and there was nothing else to really go through. And then, obviously, found out that I was wrong. It just comes in a different form. It’s still as strong, just not the same shape.”
“Love Me Right,” the first single released off Conexão, starts off slow and slinky, but Mark’s voice, husky and deep (think Amy Winehouse or Anita Baker) functions as an instrument all on its own. The ballad develops into a sassy strut as Mark grows more and more frustrated with her lover, the subtle piano-led groove really allowing her powerhouse vocals shine through. The lyrics themselves reflect an emotional intelligence and maturity uncharacteristic of someone her age.“Why won’t you realize you’ve gotta love me right, baby?” she sings with equal parts fervor and pain.
The music video features Mark swathed in colorful flowers, swirling in light pink bath water, culminating in the singer confronting her lover about being treated poorly in a relationship. The tune was born out of a session on the treadmill at the gym, as Mark grew increasingly frustrated with an ex-boyfriend who she thought wasn’t showing her the appreciation she desired. She immediately rushed home and started writing. Mark wanted to create the most “un-cheesy love song” possible.
Her mother’s job growing up took her to Berlin, Brazil, and Miami in addition to her main home bases of India and New York. It was this global influence that found its way into her music, tinged with the romantic stylings of bossa nova (smooth Brazilian jazz) that comes through with slow, uptempo drum beats. 3:33 A.M. had instrumentals influenced by India while Conexão contains touches of soul, samba, and pop.
The title track, “Conexão,” means connection in Portuguese and is about Mark grappling with her connection with a boyfriend and getting to the point where she can be her entire self in front of him. If “Love Me Right” is a jilted breakup anthem, “Conexão” is an rosy-tinted beginnings of a relationship.
And then there’s “Love Is Stronger Than Pride,” the only cover off of the EP. Mark’s sister had encouraged her to cover Sade for her EP and the lounge singer-like stylings of the song was one Mark had grown listening to as a child. After writing a letter to the soul icon seeking her approval to release the cover, Mark was starstruck when she not only received Sade’s blessing but praise for the track. “She ended up really liking it, saying she loved what I’d done with it which probably was the most nerve-wracking week of my life,” Mark says. “Having her listening to a redone version of her song, I was 90 percent sure she was going to be like, ‘This is horrible! Who do you think you are?'”
Mark is about to embark on a cross-country tour before joining Leon Bridges for the international leg of his tour. She’s in the process of writing her full-length album and will visit familiar destinations including Berlin and Brazil. Unlike a lot of other artists she knows, the traveling and performing don’t give her performance anxiety. It’s the sessions in the studio that put Mark on edge, even though she’s learned how to produce and write all of her own music.
“Sometimes I get the fear like ‘Oh, I don’t belong here,” she says. “That’s a lot of artists’ fears. I get intimidated by sessions but on stage, it’s completely different. I really enjoy the energy and the audience.”
Music served as a catharsis, a form of therapy for the singer, who manages to carry traces of her mom wherever she goes. While Mark’s wardrobe spawned from the typical “New York City uniform,” she says, typically consisting of all-black ensembles with an occasional Adidas sneaker or ath-leisure tracksuit thrown in here or there, the vibrant orange and yellow dresses are from her mom. Mark still wears this one camel-colored rajasthani jacket, made from recycled Saris, that reminds her of going to the marketplaces in India when she was younger.
“I don’t have a hard time really talking about it,” she says. “I still get sad every once in a while, and I still think about her every day and miss her, but it’s good to celebrate her life. That’s how I keep her alive is to talk about her and tell her stories.”END
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