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Amber Mark takes us 'Three Dimensions Deep' in debut album

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Amber Mark wants to take us to a new world with her music. And her debut album, called "Three Dimensions Deep," does exactly that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OUT OF THIS WORLD")

AMBER MARK: (Singing) Every single day, felt stuck inside a bottle. Damn, it felt so fake, and now I've hit the lotto with you. Simple things, things I never thought of. Pull my heartstrings. It's such a different light.

SUMMERS: The singer-songwriter and producer channels her vulnerability and her creativity into this project that she says she's been working on throughout her whole life. Amber Mark joins us now. Hey, welcome.

MARK: Hello. Thank you for having me.

SUMMERS: So, Amber, your album is called "Three Dimensions Deep." Tell us about what that means.

MARK: Yeah. So I went through a lot of phases, I think, with this album because I wrote it throughout multiple years. So there's been a lot of growth, I think, in me personally. And I've always had interest in our celestial surroundings and in a lot of subjects within physics about the universe. And I just kept playing around with the idea that we can only go as deep as the third dimension, and it kind of just happened naturally that way.

SUMMERS: Amber, this idea of longing for answers, purpose and meaning comes through across your album, but especially in the song "What It Is." Let's take a listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT IT IS")

MARK: (Singing) I, I gave it my all. I tried, but nothing could stop this fire. So hard to leave it all behind.

SUMMERS: Tell me a little bit about the song.

MARK: Yeah, so this one was kind of a late addition to the album, actually. I felt that there was something missing that really encapsulated the concept of the album in one song. I was just sifting through some older songs that I had - were given to me, and I came upon a song that I had worked on with a producer called Julian Bunetta. And it felt really full circle because he is the producer who co-executive produced this album with me and has become one of the few producers I work with and has kind of become my - I always call him my music sensei because I've learned so much from him in terms of production and being an artist and just being a human being in general. So it felt perfect. And so I just started, you know, singing gibberish into a microphone that day. And now it's my favorite song on the album.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT IT IS")

MARK: (Singing) Is it that sense of wonder? It hit like lightning. Feel that inner thunder. It's so inviting.

SUMMERS: What brought you to music? Is it something that you grew up with?

MARK: My mom - you know, she was always listening to Earth, Wind & Fire and Stevie Wonder and Sade and all of - Michael Jackson - all these artists. And I always had an interest in music. Then later on in high school, I joined an after-school program that was very similar to "School Of Rock," where we would, you know, perform at school events or local charity events as a band. And I covered the Beatles. That was my first taste of being on stage. Once I did that, it kind of clicked for me.

SUMMERS: I have to know, what Beatles song was it that you would perform that was kind of your gateway into making this a career?

MARK: Oh, it was "Oh! Darling."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OH! DARLING")

THE BEATLES: (Singing) Oh, darling, please believe me. I'll never do you no harm.

MARK: I loved the Beatles back then. I was very - I mean, still to this day - but I was very obsessed with them.

SUMMERS: As you think about the songs on this album, I wonder, is there a song that felt particularly vulnerable to write and produce or any one that sticks out for you?

MARK: Yeah. I mean, there's so many of them. I think I really touch on some insecurities - and some songs in a more aggressive way and some songs in more of a - an emotional way. I think "Worth It" probably really exposes my insecurities a lot and what I'm trying to almost advise myself, and how I'm trying to motivate myself.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WORTH IT")

MARK: (Singing) You think you don't deserve it, but you are so damn worth it, baby.

So I really had the intention of just writing this song to myself, kind of as, like, some sort of anthem. I guess you could, like, compare it to, like, "Eye Of The Tiger" or something (laughter). And I also had the intention of - for the listener to be able to listen to that song and sing that song to themselves. Because I think that feeling of not being - you know, not feeling good enough or not feeling capable, it happens to all of us.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WORTH IT")

MARK: (Singing) You don't think you deserve it, but, baby, you are worth it.

SUMMERS: OK. I want to play one more song from your album that I think will remind some of our listeners of a past era of music. Let's listen to "Darkside."

MARK: Oh, OK. That one hasn't been picked yet. I'm really excited (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DARKSIDE")

MARK: (Singing) There's so much stressing about all the doubts in my head. Oh, boy, when you're around, you calm me down. You transcend.

SUMMERS: All right, Amber, talk to me about this song. What influenced you? How did you create it?

MARK: (Laughter) So I would say this one is probably the most unexpected on the album, I think, sonically. I was in a yoga class one day, and I heard this very - like, they always play ambient music at the end. And I heard a really beautiful ambient song and, like, fell in love with it and asked the teacher what the name of the song was and, like, immediately went home and wanted to sample it. As I was making it, I was like, OK, what am I trying to do here? I know I want to go a little more '80s with the sounds. And I was like, OK, what would it sound like if Michael Jackson, Phil Collins and Prince had some weird love child and it was a song?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DARKSIDE")

MARK: (Singing) Take flight. Lift off the ground like a satellite. You make me feel a little lighter. The dark side gets a little brighter. When I died, your atmosphere brought me back to life. You make me feel a little lighter. The dark side gets a little brighter.

And so I just, like, went in with the melody, just started, like, screaming into the microphone. And (laughter) when it came time for me to come up with lyrics, I really wanted a song that kind of talked about, you know, you're in this, like - maybe a dark hole or you're in the tunnel and you're finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And you're not there yet, but you see the path and you know where to go.

SUMMERS: Amber, like many people, I have certainly been missing live music. And I know that you are set to go on tour later this year, something that did not feel possible months ago given the pandemic and the lockdowns that we've talked about. What are you most excited about, about getting out there?

MARK: I'm so excited to go back on tour. I think the thing that I'm most excited about, though, is just connecting with fans and people who have been connecting with my music on an emotional level. It's always so surreal to be on stage and see these people who are just screaming back the lyrics to me and, you know, hearing their stories of how my music has changed them. And it's such a dream come true. I mean, there's so many songs in this world that have really done that to me, and to be able to do that for other people is - it's the ultimate goal, really. Being at live shows and connecting with them in person is the reason why I do all of this. So I'm really excited for it.

SUMMERS: Amber Mark's new album, "Three Dimensions Deep," is out now. Amber, thank you for spending some time with us.

MARK: Thank you so much for listening.

(SOUNDBITE OF AMBER MARK SONG, "FOREIGN THINGS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.