On first impression, Amber Mark is composed. She is restrained in her speech but ready to elaborate at inquiry. The most animated she becomes during our hour-long conversation is when she describes the concept behind her first full-length record, Three Dimensions Deep, released earlier this year, which blends together quantum physics and spirituality. "I really wanted to express that in a poetic way," she says. "We always have this feeling that there's a soul. We always talk about our souls and love and how real it is—and the feelings we feel are so real. A lot of scientists say that we know higher dimensions exist. We have the math for it, but we just can't visualize it. We don't know how to visualize what our brains can't comprehend—what it would even visually look like. What if the soul and love and afterlife—what if all of those things exist in higher dimensions?"
Despite her down-to-earth demeanor and catchy, eclectic, R&B-forward sound, Mark is more than meets the eye and the new album takes us all the way inside her wonderfully weird world. Several of the songs are lyrically rooted in the reality of straight twenty-something women dating in the post-#MeToo era of West Elm Caleb and toxic vulnerability. On "Most Men," a pared-back opening, with Mark's soulful voice echoing alongside an organ, makes way for a bouncy R&B beat. "I wanted to come at that song as if I was consoling the listener," she explains, opening up to her audience with the intimacy she would share with a close friend.
The cathartic track is followed by "Healing Hurts," which pinpoints the poignant pain of leaving someone you love. It's self-soothing, something she is no stranger to. "After my mom passed [nearly ten years ago], I went through lots of grief and that whole process," she says. "I started writing again because it was a form of therapy for me." Even though Mark always had an affinity for music, having sung in a choir at age twelve and experimented with the guitar, she finally had something to work through and writing music was a skill already at her disposal. Before she knew it, she had made the music that would become the backbone for her first EP, 3:33, which she released in 2017. After her mother's death, she explains, the time had always seemed to be 3:33 whenever she looked at the clock. The number three was also significant because her mother passed away on June 3, 2013, at 10:23 PM. Her mother had also been born in 1953, her brother in 1983, and herself in 1993.
Mark still lives in the same apartment where that grieving and songwriting happened. She makes her home upstairs from Palma, a small, family-style restaurant her godparents run, as quaint as you would imagine any vine-covered, candlelit, wood-tabled establishment in the West Village to be.
Life seems like one big creative project for Mark. Her studio is in her bedroom, ready to indulge the whims of someone who is always acutely aware of ideas bubbling just below the surface of consciousness. Anyone can catch a glimpse on her Instagram page, which is dotted with candid videos of her finessing a new beat, working late into the night, and crooning covers for the hell of it. It's easy to see she loves what she does.
But Mark didn't always have this space to play. Growing up, she traveled and lived wherever her mother could find work, which took them to places as far as Europe and India. Home to her was her mom, and moving around was her way of life. After a childhood of such constant change, it makes sense that Mark is able to so easily access her imaginative, rich inner life—this dimension, if you will. "I feel like I just need a space for myself," she agrees. "If I'm on tour, I need to have space for myself where I can really just let go. It really does come to play with my music. I need equipment, I need a mic, I got to get it out."
Focused on self-mastery, Mark isn't shy about doing whatever it takes to nail her sound. While the album is co-executive produced by Julian Bunetta, who is best known for his work with One Direction and Harry Styles, her creative success couldn’t have happened if she hadn't taught herself Logic Pro a few years ago. At the time, she was interning at Roc Nation, writing a lot and working on GarageBand to piece together her songs. After assembling her demo, she shared it with a few friends to produce it professionally, but she was dissatisfied with their direction. "One of the producers gave me Logic, so I was able to start messing around," she recalls. "Then one day, I came back from Philly after being in a session that did not go well at all, and I just remember sitting there and being like, 'I could do this. I know what I want. I hear it. I can play that. I can just make the beat.'"
Soon after, she finished "Can You Hear Me?," which ended up on 3:33, and put it on SoundCloud. Then came "S P A C E" and "Monsoon," with its distinctly Indian samples in the background. These got the attention of record labels, one of which flew her out to Los Angeles. She lawyered up, hired a manager, and rode the wave of new artist energy.
Fast forward to now, and Three Dimensions Deep, expansive at seventeen tracks, is more centered, more grounded, more layered and complex. Not unlike Mark herself. She names "On & On," which was co-produced by Bunetta, as one of her favorite tracks. "I think I really wanted to talk about how heavy baggage can feel, and the pressure—what would it sound like with the beat, the tempo?" she explains. "It just sounds like somebody's walking and holding onto something really heavy. I just love that song!"
Mark is attracted to a variety of different influences, like wet Eighties snares and bossa nova, with a sound that could be the love child of Michael Jackson, Phil Collins, and Prince. She’s still early enough in her career to explore it all—anchored by her voice. "I think [my sound] will just constantly get bigger and bigger and maybe weirder and weirder," she muses. Her creative process, on the other hand, seems firmly rooted in three dimensions of possibility.
Dimension one: "I have so many different ways of making a song and writing a song. The easiest probably is when I have that feeling and I'm inspired by some emotion I'm going through or some experience I'm going through."
Dimension two: "Sometimes it's like I'll have an idea for a visual and I want to score the visual that I have in my head and so I'll write a song based off of this visual that I have."
And dimension three: "Sometimes it's a lyric idea and I want to write a song based off of the lyric idea."
Then, climbing out of her own wormhole to return to the present, she laughs and adds, "Sometimes I have a deadline and I need to finish the song. You know what the hardest part really is? It's just getting up to go to the computer and plug everything in."
With so many tools and interests at her disposal, it's easy to imagine Mark reaching new dimensions in the future, with her box of a bedroom transforming into the celestial cube pictured on her album cover—a thinning veil between the artist and the melodic muses of mathematics.
Three Dimensions Deep is out now. Mark performs at the Pitchfork Music Festival this Friday. Read this story and many more in print by ordering CERO04 here.