I had the pleasure of (virtually) sitting down with Amba Jae to discuss her life and her music. Our chat was an opportunity to discover more about the singer. We joked about South East vs South West London, talked about TV series, and reminisced about our days in sixth form. The 25-year-old R&B singer-songwriter from South London recently released her second single, Circles’, which has garnered praise for its emotional and relatable lyrics.
What with us being stuck in a second lockdown, I firstly checked in with Amba, asking her how she was coping. We agreed this year took an unexpected turn. “For a lot of people, this year has forced everyone to really look at themselves and reflect on what's going on and deal with anything they may need to deal with. There is no running away because you're on lockdown.” She went on to explain how the nationwide lockdown has pushed her to write more music. “I have written so much - I have a book full of songs and I was just like 'you know what, let me focus on myself.’ I also did fitness stuff”, Amba laughed "although I have slowed down a bit but let us not talk about that.”
Amba detailed the importance of practising self-care, and I wondered what self-care practices she had embraced, what was helping her stay sane during lockdown. “I believe in positive affirmations. Anything you want, it can manifest, as long as you put the work in, and you are consistent with it. I did a lot of meditation during lockdown, even now, I try to keep up with it as often as I can. Meditation, fitness stuff - I was doing it between 3-4 times a week.
Before discussing her latest single, Amba and I spoke about where her journey with music began. She expressed music has always been her passion, “I was always doing school concerts and talent shows. My friends and family would suggest I do music but back then, I didn’t have the confidence to do it. Until two years ago, everyone around me, at the same time was saying, 'why are you not doing this? Why not take it seriously?’ And it was like, ‘why is everyone at once just on my back?!’ I wondered if it was a sign...or the universe trying to tell me something. One friend gave me two weeks to put a cover on my Instagram and she didn’t want to hear any excuses. I thought, ‘you know what, cool.’ I did it and the response from that made me think, ‘oh, maybe I can do this.’ It’s always nerve-racking starting something new but with such a good response and all the support, I kinda just took it from there and became more consistent with it. I genuinely feel like this is my lane and I can't see myself doing anything else.
This summer, Amba released her first single, 6 o’clock. The mellow R&B track showcases Amba’s talented vocals, with a catchy hook and chorus, describing the highs and lows of a relationship. “‘6 o’clock’ is a song about love and no matter what, you are there for that person. I feel like a lot of people can relate to that. You might have that one person where no matter what you're gonna ride for them. [For the video], I wanted something that was fun. I wanted it to represent me as a person. I don’t take myself too seriously. With the ball pit, my friends at the beginning, it was just a fun video and I wanted to get that vibe across.”
In contrast, Amba’s most recent single, ‘Circles’, is more personal. The heartfelt song is accompanied by beautiful visuals that tell a story about past experiences. “Circles is more deep. A lot of songs I write are based on something that I might have gone through, or just me venting. As an artist, I find it easier to write when I’ve gone through something. I think it's a lot more raw when you're writing from experience and this particular song was obviously from a past experience that I've been through where it might have been a little bit back and forth. But somehow, you know that you have that magnetic love where you keep coming back to each other. Although there might be issues between you both, I was at a point where I was like ‘I can't keep doing this and this has gotta stop, so I'm gone.’
We slightly digressed as we spoke about the notion of ‘settling’.
[In Circles] You’re basically giving us advice, with your lyrics.
“It’s just about having that strength to move on from something that might actually be unhealthy for you. I feel we tend to stay in unhealthy situations because of the familiarity, but it's so important to know that there is bigger and better. For me, I am at a point in my life now where I won’t settle.”
With the music video, did you have any input in the creative direction?
“I wanted to have a lot of input regarding direction for it. I worked with a videographer, Koroma Kaptures as well as my manager and a friend. You know when you have a vision for something, and it must come out that way. I wanted to make this transpire on the screen and it came out exactly how I wanted it. The whole Polaroid scenes, capturing moments of the good times but then throughout the video, you see the bad times. I think it was important for us to capture these flashbacks. At the beginning of the video, there was a still of us in the car and then it ended with the same. I wanted that to play on the whole ‘circles’ idea of us going round and round.”
So, what do you have planned for 2021?
“I plan to be consistent. I have so many ideas in my head. Moving forward, I am looking to release an EP soon. I hope to work with other writers. It’s important as sometimes you can get stuck in your writing style. I want to learn from and bounce off other writers. In 2021, I just pray I am able to do more shows. Honestly, I can’t wait for my EP to drop - I’ll probably drop another project sometime next year! I feel like I am on the right path and in God’s timing it will all work out.”
As our chat was coming to an end, I wondered whether Amba had any advice for people who are thinking of pursuing their dream…
“I would say just start. The hardest part is starting. Music for me is my life. I can be in the studio until 5am and it doesn’t even feel like it’s that late! I would say try not to live with any regrets. With everything going on right now, it has shown life can be short, life can change. So just live your life for you – there are always opportunities so just go for it.
I thanked Amba for her time and expressed my excitement for her next steps. Out of genuine curiosity, I had one last question...
What are your top 3 karaoke songs?
Alicia Keys – Fallin’
Ella Mai – Trip
Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On