Amber Rubarth Interview

“The Only Process is Discovery”: Amber Rubarth

Amber Rubarth is a Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter. She has a very soulful voice and crafts personal lyrics. Her latest release is the album “Good Mystery.” Amber wrote in to discuss carving sculptures, writing songs for fans, and her favorite food.

Do you remember the first song you wrote?
Yes. I wrote a song called “Masquerader of Love” when I was 14. I think I had just learned the word masquerader and really liked it. I have a recording but it is locked away tight in a secret vault. It is a piano song and is actually quite dark, especially for such a young age. I remember thinking it was strange because the few people who heard it would tell me it was great and they were proud of me for writing something so poetic and all I could think was that I was trying to communicate a sadness I felt and that it was weird people were giving praise to that, I think I would’ve preferred a hug.

What is the currently most played song on your iPod?
Let’s check…. well, I have to admit I don’t have all my music on here right now because my computer broke last week, but the current top 3 spots are Andi Almqvist “Can’t Stop Laughing,” Lauryn Hill’s “Lost Ones,” and Chopin’s “Nocturne in Eb.”

Do you have a favorite food?
I like food that matches the color of the plate it’s on. I guess you’d call me a visual eater. I especially love fresh spinach salads on green square plates. Oh and I love sushi, especially Unagi.

You play both piano and guitar Which did you learn first?
I started playing piano when I was three (by ear)…. it is my first love. I didn’t start guitar until I was 20 and it was mostly because the piano was too heavy to carry to coffee shops for open mics. I now love them both, but if I were stranded on a desert island with just one, I’d have to pick the ivory keys.

Before starting a career in music, you had an apprenticeship in wood sculpture. What is the most bizarre thing you’ve ever carved out of wood?
My first sculpture commission came about when a lady came in with her husband and was gifting him a portrait sculpture of himself, but 3 feet tall and with a peg leg and lantern. Yep.

You really make an effort to reach out to your fans. You go far beyond the standard deluxe edition. You offer many options to fans who donate to your site. What’s the biggest “special edition” thing you’ve done for a fan?
Thanks! Although this wasn’t the most expensive on the special edition list, the most intimate one for me has been writing a song for someone. I’m not really a pump-it-out songwriter, so I really have to get deep into it before I’m able to write about it.

What inspires you lyrically?
I write when I can’t figure something out. Or when I think I’ve figured something out and want to share it, then I realize halfway through that I’ve missed something key and the song wins again. It’s always a discovery.

What are your hobbies beyond music?
Aikido. Running. Reading. Listening. Walking around and getting lost. Dancing to either hip hop or old school country music on wooden floors in socks. Cuddling with my teddy bear.

You tour a ton. Do you have a favorite thing to do on a day off?
Last week I was in Oak Park, IL and stayed at a little bed and breakfast that was down the street from Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio. There were quite a few of his homes and buildings all in that little neighborhood and I took a tour and became a bit obsessed with him and his work. I always thought that if I didn’t do music I would do architecture because I love math and somehow building a house seems very similar to me as music. Still, until that tour I had never experienced space in such a beautiful, impacting way, it was like listening to my first symphony. I have since decided that one day I will build my own house (and studio).

How would you describe your sound?
It’s all built around the song. It can be playful, or heart-wrenching, or funny, but my main purpose is to be honest and learn something through writing the song that teaches me something or captures something that exists in a different way.

Do you follow a specific process when creating music?
The only process is discovery, where the song turns the corner and surprises me right when I thought I had it. I also often (but not always) either cry or laugh while I’m writing my songs, or many times both. When writing “You Will Love This Song” I think I was doing both equally.

Do you have a favorite memory from growing up in Reno, Nevada?
Reno is a funny place because it is a casino town on one side of the river and families living quietly in homes on the other side…. and somewhere in the water downtown there is a spot where river-rafting families will float alongside people who stare out in the distance after spending too much time at the slot machines. It is a special place. With music in Reno (that’s where I started music) there’s always been such a warm, wonderful, and very talented community of songwriters and musicians there. That’s my true favorite part and what keeps me going back, many of my closest friends are there.

What are you enjoying most about being based out of Brooklyn now?
I love cities that are made mostly of people who’ve chosen to move there, it’s always interesting talking to people and there’s some sense of community amongst people who grew up as outsiders, or people not quite fitting in where they were before. So the city itself (all of NYC) gets me excited. Brooklyn specifically is fantastic because there is so much artistically happening here right now that there’s a buzz in the air that grabs you as you walk around. Plus I love that many of my favorite friends, musicians, inspirations all live here….. 🙂

You have had over a million plays on Myspace. What do you feel has been most beneficial to getting your music out to people?
Word of mouth, word of mouth, word of mouth. I still don’t even really know how to use MySpace. I lived in LA for a year before moving out to Brooklyn and there is a great group of songwriters there, many who I became close with and some who listed me as their influence / top friends which I think helped spread the word a lot as well. But most of all, above anything else, word of mouth.

What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to up-and-coming songwriters?
Be courageous in your songwriting. And read Stephen King’s “On Writing” – there are quite a few gems in there. Also, Paul Zollo’s “Songwriters on Songwriting,” a collection of interviews with many of the world’s greatest songwriters talking about their craft. It’s interesting because by the end everyone has such different points of view and approaches that you realize you have to do what works for you and there is no rule book to follow. The process is just as creative as the song.

For more info on Amber Rubarth, check out

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