The following is an interview with the up and coming performer and artist, AMARU. Below you'll also find an Independent Spotlight exclusive critical glance into Amaru's new tune!
Right off the bat, I’d love to touch on your presence in film. I was astonished by your lengthy filmography as an actor. Are you still pursuing this? Did you make a decision to pursue music simultaneously?
Well, believe it or not, I started singing before I started to even show an interest in acting. It wasn't until I moved to Europe and saw Denzel Washington on a television series that triggered my interest in acting. I then decided to study acting, both in LA as well as in Europe and next thing I know I'm in front of a camera doing bit parts in commercials. As I progressed, I booked larger roles in films and I even did two plays. But my first television appearance was way back in 1987 in my native country, the Republic of Suriname (South America,)on a high school quiz about current affairs. I was the captain of my team and my school was the first runner up! I'm still auditioning for acting roles, though.
What about music lures you toward it versus acting?
The performance aspect of music is what appeals to me the most. The second most appealing thing about being a musician is songwriting. I mean, to write lyrics and set those lyrics to music... creating something from scratch, to see your creation come to life, so to speak, that's a very rewarding feeling. And to be in front of your audience performing those musical creations for them... magic!
You have three singles out, the latest of which is ‘The One,’ which you describe as an “ode to love and a tribute to the 80s.” Elaborate on the latter - What do you like about the 80s and what is worth homaging from the era?
I get asked that often! It's almost as if people despise the 80s, I think! No, seriously, I think the 80s were a very good era for music. As a child of that era, I can tell you that I truly enjoyed the variety of styles and new genres, the very basic and barely-there fashions, the fact that people were not extremely concerned about image, that sort of thing. There was room for everybody and everybody had a real opportunity to have a legitimate career in music if that's what they wanted. I see many 80s acts still performing today and those shows are always packed with people. I mean, it's like what the 70s were for my mom and her generation, you know?
Nowadays it's all about wearing one outfit once and that's that, it's all about which wig will go with what outfit... it's so much more superficial and about the outside as opposed to the music and actual talent, in my opinion...
Your music is very soulful - How would you classify yourself? Are you a soul artist? A pop artist? Why?
Thank you, I appreciate that! When I write my songs, I always make sure that I will be able to "groove" to it. If it's good enough for me, I know that I can stand behind it and present it to my audience. Having said that, I'd like to think of myself as an "Urban Contemporary Pop/R&B Latin Artist..." Yeah, I'm staring my own category!
You’re currently nominated at the SCM Awards in Memphis - How did this come about? Why is ‘I’m The One You Need’ worth its nomination? What, in your opinion, is special about the Amaru sound?
YES! I am, ain't that something! I was alerted to these awards by a friend and decided to enter the previous single. I had no clue they would include it, so I was elated when I found out that my single "I'm The One You Need" is nominated for "Song Of The Year" and "Video Of The Year." I think that the song garnered these nominations because it's a great pop song and the hook will remain in your head for days, which makes for a great pop song, as we all know. In addition to that, I think the fact that it's a synth driven track with a pumping bass, also adds to its appeal.
What kind of importance do you place on music videos? You’re also nominated for an SCM Award in that category and your video for your new single, ‘The One,’ is fairly artsy.
Thank you, I think it's fairly artsy, too! I remember a time when music videos were fun and an addition to the released single - a time when music stations received a ton of new videos every week to air for their growing audiences - a time when people still purchased and collected music... I think to have a music video accompany one's single, that increases the visibility of the artist, it generates conversation at the water cooler, it's a great promotional tool for any artist.
These days music videos are not about the content of the single anymore, haven't you noticed? People could be singing about love and the video is about something totally different. For my new single "The One" I wanted a video that was simple yet cinematic and also rather reminiscent of my "good ole' 80s." In addition to that, it's my video message to "the one," so I wanted that to come across too. I think the "loves me, loves me not" reference with the roses illustrates that very well.
Talk about the differences between the ‘Radio Mix’ and the ‘Sunset Mix’ of the new song - Why should listeners delve into the three versions versus just listening to the main edit?
The "Radio Mix" of my new single "The One" is just that: intended for radio stations. As you may well know, radio stations won't play songs that are too long. A radio friendly song is not only catchy, but also is no longer than 3.30 - 4.00 minutes. The "Sunset Mix" of the new single is a longer version of the song, featuring extra vocals and instrumentation. Basically I'm just trying to supply my audience with variety, you know? I mean on the CD-single of "I'm The One You Need" I also included the "Spanglish Mix" of the track, which is partially sung in Spanish with additional Latin instruments to fit the mix.
You’ve released alternative mixes of your music that embrace your South American roots. How do these mixes sound different, and why is it important for you to embrace that heritage?
Yes, I touched on that just now. I am from a South American country with a very diverse population. I am bi-racial and I was exposed to various genres of music, including Salsa, Merengue and Bachata, for instance. But not only am I proud of my ethnic background, I also feel very much connected to my Latin roots, even though Spanish isn't the first language in my country. But I do feel that all South Americans are Latinos!
In addition to having very soulful music, your music tends to focus on love. Do you have motivation to move or expand outside of that realm? Is there other subject matter you’d like to tackle musically as a songwriter and composer?
You know, love is a universal language, so that's why I think we as recording artists choose that subject matter to sing about. However, I am working on a song I wrote back in 2004, called "Tell Me," which is about social injustice, poverty, war and sorrow. In addition to that, I'm also working on a song called "Independence Day," which is about a relationship between myself and somebody else, which I never had yet I wished I had... and this one is not about that romantic kind of love, mind you. But in due time I'll divulge more about "Independence Day" and "Tell Me."
Have you performed this new music live yet? Is there a plan to? What kind of instrumentation would back you, if any?
No, actually, I haven't performed "The One" live yet, but I am in talks of doing some gigs in the new year and if things go according to plan, I may even do my first ever gig in the USA! I work with basic backing tracks, as I simply can't afford to work with a full band at this point, but hopefully as I progress, that may change.
Finally, I always love to ask the same question of each Independent Spotlight interviewee. It’s fun to learn about you now just a music creator, but consumer. If we were to spin your iPod or Spotify on shuffle, what five songs may pop up?
Oh wow! I take my iPod to the gym every day and I listen to the same songs all year long... I think the top five would look a little something like this:
1. Breakfast Club - Right On Track
2. Jody Watley - Don't You Want Me
3. Madonna - Can't Stop
4. El Debarge - Real Love
5. Babyface - It's No Crime
A Brief Review:
To round out this feature of Amaru, I wanted to pen a brief review here toward the end touching on his new track, 'The One.' It's Amaru's third single, and it's impressive an impressive production. As Amaru mentions in the interview above, he uses basic backtracks when performing live. In the studio, however, he's working with a producer to craft his own beats. That's quite good, and shows some good artistic involvement on his part.
Lyrically and vocally, it's a soothing, lovely little love track with quite a good hook. I dig how Amaru harmonizes with himself, and I also like the little flute pieces scattered throughout. Of his three established singles, it's by far the strongest, with 'I'm The One You Need' trailing as a close second. 'Put Your Hands Up' is a decent party track, but its a bit void of the emotion Amaru brings to the table on 'The One' and 'I'm The One You Need. Purely as catchy, pop love tracks, those two fare quite well, especially for an indie artist just getting started. He's most certainly worth keeping tabs on.