Amber Rubarth Interview


Amber Rubarth, a singer/songwriter whose beautiful music is getting worldwide attention, just got back from a US tour with Joshua Radin and Gary Jules. We got a chance to catch up with her and learn about the tour, her life as a independent artist, and what inspired her to pick up a guitar for the first time at the age of 20 and pursue a career in music.

IM: Hey Amber, welcome back from the tour! How was it?

AR: The tour was AMAZING!!!!  Truly fantastic.  I was familiar with Gary Jules & Josh Radin’s recorded music but hadn’t seen them much live… so first and foremost it was wonderful to see their shows every night and fall in love (over and over again) with their music.  Second, it was my first time on a tour bus (!!) and my first time to Canada!  Loved both. In fact, I’m missing it still.

IM: Do you have any memorable experiences you can share?

AR: Tons and tons of memorable experiences, but some of my favorites were (1) bike riding through new towns with Joshua ~ he found a pawn shop in Toronto where all the bikes were $80 so we took ours on the bus with us…. and (2) my birthday 9/21 where all the boys surprised me with a big cake in Ohio.  And (3) singing on stage with Josh and Gary the last night, that was a ton of fun.  I love those guys, the whole band, the whole crew…. everyone was truly wonderful.

IM: That’s awesome. Who invited you onto the tour?

AR: I’ve heard two different things of how I was asked… I found out through someone I know at MySpace who said they submitted me as a “good idea” as an opener, Josh said he heard of me from Brett Dennen a while ago (who I opened for in CA, he’s amazing!!) and told his management he wanted me to open.  I had met both Josh and Gary once at the Hotel Cafe where we all were on the same night for a benefit they were having, but hadn’t really talked more than a few minutes to either before the tour.  Now I count them both as close friends and it looks like we might be touring again.  Everything was so perfect, I was smiling every day of the tour.

read more of the interview after the jump.

Good Mystery (2009):

Amber Rubarth – Pilot

Site | Myspace| or buy Good Mystery at MF, where artists earn all the money (a new project I’ve been working on!)


IM: Changing topics a little, did you play any instruments when you were younger? What made you realize, in your early 20s, that being a musician was your number one passion?

AR: I played piano when I was a little girl, my mom told me that when I was three she came home from work and I was playing everything on the piano (by ear) that my older brother had been taking lessons for.  She then signed me up for lessons which I took for about a year or two.  But after that, I only played piano alone in my house (I was very shy) and then didn’t pick up a guitar until I was 20 years old.

IM: Interesting, so did you go through a phase where you experimented with different genres of music? Or were there any artists, in particular, who influenced you?

AR: When I first started playing guitar it was mostly as a way of backing up my songwriting.  I was most interested in writing melodies and words more so than the guitar.  One day I came to the realization that I could try to play guitar like a piano, and that made the world of difference for me.  I’ve always loved piano, and once I started treating the guitar like piano, playing more melodically and having a bass and melody part, I enjoyed it so much more.  Now I often write songs on the guitar first and then put melody and lyrics over that, I love it so much.

I was most influenced, and still am, by people I see live.  Other than that, I love old music…. Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, The Supremes, doo-wop.  It still always comes down to the song for me…. something that can make you feel good and say something at the same time.  I especially love things that sound different than what they’re saying, for instance a lot of those old songs make you bop your head and dance, but they all have pretty dark or sad emotional content.  I love that.  Sadness with a bounce, it goes so well together.

IM: I really admire how you just rolled with your passion for music. Do you think more people should quit their day jobs to pursue their number one passion?

AR: Thank you!  My mentor at the wood sculpture studio said it best…. If you don’t do what you truly love you will never be truly great.  And if you’re not great, you’re not serving your purpose in the world.

I don’t think everyone should quit their day job.  It’s interesting, after going to Europe now quite a few times something I’ve noticed is that many people over there let their passions out when they’re not working.  There’s a saying there “Europeans work to Live, Americans live to Work.”  I think it’s important to find your passion but that doesn’t at all mean that needs to be the thing that makes you survive.  As long as you find time to do it, that’s the most important thing.

IM: Speaking of passion, you book many of your own shows and personally crafted 1000 Collectors Edition boxes of Good Mystery. You seem to have a very hands on approach with the various aspects of your career. Do you prefer it that way?

AR: Hands on.  Yeah.  I do really enjoy it.  Before doing music I was doing wood sculpture and 90% of our work was commissions, so I remember always enjoying thinking of the person the sculpture was going to while I was creating it.

I do think that I go overboard with it sometimes, mostly because yes – it can get very overwhelming for me.  I am working on trusting others with things and also learning to delegate and work with other people now.  There are many people who have huge talents and love for the business part and lots of things that I do but don’t need to, so I’m working on finding those people and working together with them.  That was another thing I learned on tour with Josh and Gary is that they both have people working with them, and that keeps them able to focus on what they love and do best, music.  That was a big lesson for me on this tour and I’m shifting my ways.

IM: So I’m curious, what motivated you to move from Reno to Los Angeles and then later Los Angeles to Brooklyn?

AR: I moved from Reno to Los Angeles, inspired by a weekly series at a little venue called Room 5 started by Jay Nash, where four songwriters would play in-the-round and all back each other up.  It was inspiring and I knew I wanted to be more involved in a “scene.”  Reno was a fantastic place to start for me because people are so encouraging and supportive, but I was very anxious to see what else was going on and be pushed more.

My reason for leaving LA was two-fold, one…. I didn’t like traffic.  And two, I had two other musicians who I was very fond of, Alex Wong and Adam Levy…. and I had written with them before and performed with them.  It has worked out wonderfully, Adam and I have toured together (U.S. and Europe) – when I met him he was touring full-time as Norah Jones’ guitarist but has since shifted over to performing full time solo and with his band.  Alex and I are now in a collaborative project called The Paper Raincoat, we just released our debut album this last month and have been getting really great response with that. So I’d say, it was the right move.  Or at least one that makes me happy and inspired now.

The scene in Brooklyn is incredible and people are so friendly and supportive.  It’s beautiful when a place where things could be so competitive it is just complete friendliness and collaboration.  I can’t imagine being in a more lovely place.  I’m a fan.

IM: One last question…who have you been listening to recently?

AR: Ooh!
Ezra Furman is one of my favorites.
Tom Waits, always
M. Ward, always.
John Elliott
Josh Ritter
There’s a BRILLIANT artist from Sweden I am trying to bring out here in February, his name is Andi Almqvist.  Absolutely gorgeous music, brilliant songwriting.
Chet Atkins.  Holy cow, wow.
Randy Newman.  Harps & Angels is one of the best albums I’ve ever heard.
Scott Joplin.
Chopin. (learning some of his nocturnes on the piano)

I tend to like boys I guess….  :)

IM: Thanks for the interview, Amber!


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