There’s a certain spiritual experience happening when Ambré Perkins graces the stage. The singer and songwriter can initially come across as shy, but this disappears throughout her performance, as she begins intimately connecting with the crowd. Ambré mainly focuses on inciting a kaleidoscopic aesthetic through a reciprocal cathartic exchange between herself and the crowd that's channeled via meditative, acoustic R&B.
At only 23 years old, the musician's artistry reflects a rate balance of maturity and poise — but Ambré isn’t new to this. The New Orleans native has been wowing audiences with her music since she was in high school, and her rare talent eventually led to her writing songs for artists, including H.E.R., Kehlani and Ty Dolla $ign. Now with a new EP on the horizon, the artist is concerned with making a bigger name for herself.
“I’ve been doing music my whole life, pretty much. But [it] was more so just me enjoying music, and writing poetry, and songs and stuff to myself — and nobody really knew about it,” Ambré told Blavity. “Then my sister heard me singing one day, and she told me that I should do it for real and start singing in school. I did, and everybody was just very excited, and that made me feel like I was really good at this. Ever since then, I’ve just been pursuing it as a career, but I didn’t drop my first single until 2014.”
A lot has happened for Ambré, since then. For starters, she uploaded her first song, “Girls Love the 90s,” to SoundCloud. The track is a nostalgia-filled, alternative, R&B delight, covering both Usher’s 1997 hit “You Make Me Wanna” and Drake’s feelings-induced track “Girls Love Beyoncé.” Along with showcasing Ambré’s musical taste, the single illuminated her promising lyrical prowess, and eventually garnered over 10,000 likes on SoundCloud.
SoundCloud | Ambré
The singer’s early success on the streaming platform captured H.E.R.’s attention in 2015.
“After I put out my first few songs on SoundCloud, this producer found me on Instagram, and [they] were working with H.E.R,” Ambré said. “First I was just sending them stuff, and they would record. But then H.E.R. and her manager wanted to fly me out to New York to work with them, and we just started working. It was cool; we just kind of hit it off.”
Ambré's creative collaboration with H.E.R. earned Ambré songwriting credits for the songs “U” and “Changes,” both of which were featured on H.E.R’s eponymous debut compilation album.
“It was fun,” Ambré said of working with the artist, who hadn't quite achieved mainstream success when she first signed on. “It was like working with one of my sisters. We were cool and there was no pressure — because she wasn’t who [she] is now at the time. She didn’t really know who I was, and I didn’t really know who she was, so we were just focused on creating something special.”
Special is an understatement. In a post-’90s R&B musical landscape, H.E.R.’s acclaimed debut is perhaps one of the most refreshing albums from an R&B newcomer in the last five years. A perfect balance of traditional and alternative R&B, the album won Best R&B Album at the 2019 Grammy Awards. Grateful for the album's positive reception, the win came as a surprise for Ambré, who never thought her work achieve such a major feat.
“It was a shock for sure, but it felt good. I was speechless, and I felt super happy for H.E.R. — that she was able to touch that many people,” Ambré said.
Currently, Ambré is more focused on developing her own career. Although she’s released singles in the past, Ambré said her new EP Pulp, which is due before the end of this year, feels like her debut.
“This EP for me is like the direction where I want to take my sound, because my other projects were just like songs that I put out just because — and most of them were demos that I had wrote for other people,” Ambré said.
YouTube | AMBRE
“Fubu,” which was released last month, is the EP’s lead single. The track is a groovy, psychedelic R&B vibe that reintroduces Ambré’s style to the world. She explained that what makes this song different from those she's written for others is that it’s among the most organic compositions she’s ever written.
“I think the difference is I’m more free with my stuff, and how I would like to present myself to the world,” Ambré shared. “When I write for other people, I have kind of a freedom because they want what I bring. At the same time, I still take into account how they want to present themselves.”
Ambré credits her upbringing in New Orleans, surrounded by the flavors of local sounds and music, as one major influence behind the creative drive propelling her songwriting process.
“I think it gave me an extra sauce,” Ambré said. “It makes me have to be a little bit more raw, because of the things I was exposed to. The environment in New Orleans is really everything. You get the best music. It’s so raw. There’s no sugarcoating where I’m from, and I want to represent that in my music.”
After taking two years to create Pulp, listeners can expect to get a heavy dose of New Orleans realness — at least, this is Ambré's hope. The EP will also present another opportunity for listeners to get to know who she is as an artist.
“They can expect some real s**t,” Ambré said. “I play on my guitar, and have produced songs on it. I would explain it as psychedelic R&B. I just kind of want people to expect to go on a journey with me."