tricky kidsThe Trickster may have asked her to sing on his new album and in turn supplied the remix midas touch for her 'Rhythm Child', but New York's Amber Sunshower remains the Nu Soul diva who's so old school she named her album after her grandad.
Crazy name, crazy girl
hair is curly and braided. Her personality is warm. And her left reast,
covered by a sheer opink bra, is popping out of her white, embroidered
Indian shirt as she squeezes her arms together while making a point.
Amber Sunshower is volutous with a capital V. THe Queens-bred, Brooklyn-based girl's debut solo album, Walter T. Smith - named after her recently deceased grandfather - provides a more rounded picture still.
Her musical tasted lean toward Tricky [who invited her to sing 'Chaos' on his forthcoming album, Pre-Millennium Tension] Goldie, Björk, Brazilian singler Milton Nascimento and Lena Horne, while the album's producers include PM Dawn and Sunshower's new husband, Thimas 'Tikk Takk' Diver. In love with the rhythm of words, Amber's smooth, versatile lyrics flow like poetry over the hip-hop beats and jazzy melodies.
"Poetry was my way of saying how I felt and not being restricted," she explains of her childhood muse during a jaunt on her record company's Los Angeles offices. "I never really considered it poetry. My grandmother didn't call me the little poet. I didn't get that name until I was 19."
That was in 1990, the year she invester $200 in her first demo, three tracks laid down in two hours over beats borrowed from a DJ. She gave a copy to a friend who was dancing with Queen Latifah. Naturally, the singer got to hear it and, even more naturally, Amber was signed to Tommy Boy Records.
"I got caught in that whole scene where it necame popular to be a poet," reflects Amber. "Everyone was trying to get a record deal bnased on being a poet."
Amber and her DJ, Asushi, became known as Groove Garden. One underheralded single and a difficult tour with Digable Planets later, they were dropped. Amber
a year in exile but she's not bitter.
"As an artist and a human bring, we have to suffer. I had a dance teacher who used to say you have to suffer for the right reason."
Eight months later, the marketing minds at her new label, Gee Street, were still struggling to find a pitch for Amber Sunshower to bat on. She wasn't rapping and she wasn't singing big soul ballads like Faith or Mary J Blige.
"I was the act that everyone was afraid of. They didn't know what to do with me."
"Then the Los Angeles Times described her as "black alternative soul" and everyone stopped worrying about marketing gimmicks like Amber Sunshower-caps. "There's 10,000 reasons why I should not have done this and 10,000 reasons why I should have. I've learned to just trust the reasons why and let the reasons why not be somebody else's conversation.
Which is probably why Tricky was up for remixing 'Rhythm Child', and how he manged to take the song to a different emotional level.
"Tricky is so cool," enthuses Amber. "He makes up a track. He goes, 'Can you write to the track?' You go, 'Yes', you go 'No'. He leaves you alone for a little while and you usually try and approach it as this intense thing 'cos it's Tricky. He goes, 'Whisper it' and you go, 'OK', and it works. I trust huim. It's a different body and a different of looking at a song.
Up next - fear-of-flying permitting - is a US tour with De La Soul and Fishbone. And then? Any clues in a song called 'Voices Inside My Head'?
"Well," ponders this word-loving soul-poetess, "the voices inside my head are just saying that as long as I don't get on that many airplanes, I'll be all right."
Amber Sunshower's debut solo album Walter T. Smith is released in November.
Also check out the main Tricky article and the one about the tricky kid Ragga!
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