The Audio Diva Interview: Amy Serrata

Friday, October 16, 2009

Wanna meet an artist who is dedicated to the groove? Well, today is your lucky day! It has only been a month since the profile of rising soul star, Amy Serrata made its way into my in-box and still I'm "rooted" in my thinking of her being one of the musical gems of my 2009. After hearing the part spunky and part lush nature of cut, "Rooted", I was hooked by the jazz meets modern soul sound I was hearing. Thus, I just had to know more and hear more from this Bay Area vocalist. Recently, I had the pleasure of asking the rising soul starlet some questions about her life as a up-in-coming and self-promoting singer and about the music she craves, and well, as you can see before you, she answered my ever-so-"tough" questions! So for all you Adventurers who missed out on Amy's introduction the first time, here is a chance to catch-up and get to know the ever so talented and lovely Ms. Serrata and her music.

How did you get started with singing?

I’ve been singing for such a long time. My dad encouraged me to take private vocal lessons when I was around 9 years old. I continued taking lessons classically and sung in choirs in school all the way up to college. I started getting into gospel when I was 18 which has really influenced my sound because I started experimenting with adlibbing and going into my deep lower register.

Was singing your first choice of a career or was there another field you were interested in?

Hm I am also an artist and I have taught art to kids for a while. I actually gradated from The Academy of Art University in San Francisco and I really enjoyed print making and textiles in the fashion department. I also love to paint abstractly too. Music was always my first love though. It was something that came effortlessly. It has always been a dream of mine to pursue this as a career and now that I am doing it full force I feel so alive, inspired and happy.

When did you decide that you wanted to do singing for a living?

I decided that I wanted to do this full force when I was singing with Stanford University’s gospel choir. It just reawakened my passion for music. At one point I thought I could just be content with singing in gospel choirs but I realized that that would not be enough for me. I have been writing poetry for years but then I started to adlib on my lyrics and then I learned how to restructure my writing so that it would fit as a song. The rest is history. I then teamed up with some amazing producers and then wrote my album!

I read that you were in the Stanford Gospel Choir, how did you get involved with that and what did you learn from your experience being involved in that type of ensemble?

I got involved in it because I found out that you could join that choir even if you aren’t a Stanford Student. I have loved singing in gospel choirs which I have been doing since I graduated from high school. I learned how to tap into my high and low register and everything in between. It really reawakened my passion for music and I saw that I had a special gift that I needed to use. I often got many solos at the shows and I was so alive on stage and so many people would come up to me afterwards saying how much I touched them. I wanted to continue doing that and I was lucky to be able to join this choir that helped me in that process.

How did you happen to work with Brandy’s father, Willie Norwood?

I met Willie because he is a vocal coach and even though he lives in Los Angeles he told me that I should come out and meet him so I flew down there to meet him and there was just a great synergy there between us. I knew that I was forming a long term relationship with an amazing instructor. He directs a gospel choir as well so his ear for harmonies is amazing. He really has that golden ear. I flew him up to work with me on my final recordings at a studio in San Francisco and he helped me with the harmonies and ad-libs in my songs. I already had those in there but he helped me bring my music on to a whole another level. I look forward to working with him again on my next material which I plan on working on this year.

Take us into the process of recording your glorious debut. What types of messages/sounds did you want to convey on your first time out?

I really wanted to convey my love for soul jazz and hip hop and blend those all together. I was lucky to team up with three amazing producers here in the bay area HMD, Hyp and Nymbazi. I worked on pre-production for over 3 months recording in an apartment in Oakland forming the structure of the songs, harmonies, hooks, bridges etc. It was an amazing process where I was able to teach myself and be guided by others in the process. I accomplished my album in five months which I look at now as a major accomplishment. My lyrics are messages that I have personally gone through or that I felt needed to be heard. I look forward to creating new material conveying other messages that I have been experiencing and that I know others can relate to.

What’s your favorite song off of your debut and why?

Hm gosh I would have to say…"Rooted" and "Love Another". I have been getting a lot of positive comments on those two songs. But really I love many of the other songs as well LOL. "Rooted" is about how when I feel alone or discouraged or unloved I am reminded of my strong roots that I come from. My family heritage my ancestry and how I can draw strength from my family because I have been blessed to be born into an amazing family. So that’s what "Rooted" is about. "Love Another" hits home for me because it talks about how you need to love yourself first before you can love another person. I think we all have our own personal journeys with accomplishing that. A major way that I have been able to tap into that love for myself is doing my music because I feel like I have a purpose and I am able to love others more deeply. I also feel like I am showing my love for others through my music too.

Where there any challenges when putting this album together?

Yah I was trying to figure out what my style and voice was as a singer songwriter. I am influenced by so many sounds lol. I listen to a wide range of music, Jay Z, Beyonce, Common, Q-Tip, The Roots, Lauryn Hill, Adele, Estelle, Kanye West, Joss Stone, Aretha Franklin, Bjork, Fiona Apple, and so many others. I also had to trust myself as a songwriter because it was the first time putting all of my melodies lyrics together in 2008. So to hear all of the amazing feedback on my album feels incredible. I had to learn how to start my own publishing company, copy right my music, and just basically figure out the process that it takes to do an album. Sending it to a mixing engineer, mastering engineer, getting the photography and graphic design done, learning how to promote my album its really been a grass roots effort for me. But every day I am reawakened by my passion and drive to get my voice heard in the community.

Your sound has a throwback to that 60’/70’s Southern soul vibe mixed in with classic jazz elements, what do you think of the current revival of that vintage sound?

I really enjoy the music that is coming out today. I didn’t purposely cater my music to that sound it just organically came out of me. I really love soul rnb jazz and hip hop so its nice to see that people are acknowledging the amazing music from the past that has so shaped what music is today.
In coinciding with the previous question, what are your thoughts on the current music scene? Do you sometimes feel pressure to conform to a more mainstream sound?

Oh yah of course! In fact funny that you say that but with my next material I do plan on going more main stream with my music and faster as well. I plan on keeping my style but pushing it even more. If you plan on making music your career and doing well it should not only be about your artistic expression it also needs to be a valid business decision as well. Because the reality is you need to have your music sell! LOL so you need to do what appeals to the masses of people. And I plan on making this my career and my lively hood. That said though I do think you should not just sound like everyone else because you will be looked over. Look at MIA, Santigold, Janelle Monae, Bjork all of these people took a risk on their sound and they found a huge following from it. There really needs to be a balance between the both.

For those who are budding singers, what kind of advice do you have to give to them?

Hm budding singers who want to do this as a career and cut an album? I would say really work on your songwriting abilities write often and rewrite them as well. I think it is ideal to be able to write your own songs if you can pull it off. Learning about the music business is essential too because if you plan on doing well in this business you will most definitely be starting out independent and independent musicians have to learn how to do it on their own. So its great to be a musician but if you plan on going far you need to learn the ropes re how to get an album done, how to network efficiently, how to promote your album, how to book gigs and on and on!

What artists, groups or sounds are you influenced by? And who would you like to work with in the future musically?

I am influenced by so many sounds! Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Amy Winehouse, Adele, Estelle, Lauryn Hill, Joss Stone, Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, Little Dragon, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Common, Q-Tip, The Roots and I could go on and on! But I mostly listen to rnb, jazz, soul, funk and hip hop. Oh and pop pop has a big place in my heart. I would love to work with Lady Gaga she is an amazing songwriter and performer who has written for many people in the business. I’d love to work with basically all of the people that I listed above!

I heard Questlove from The Roots digs your music. Tell us about that and how that made you feel! Have you gotten responses from other artists?

I actually met Questlove from Twitter technology is amazing isn’t it?! He sent me a link saying how I am one of the people that he loves listening to. I met him about a month ago at the Fahrenheit, a club in San Jose, when he was out here doing some dj gigs. I came up to him after his set and he knew my name. I had a press kit for him but he said that he already bought my album and that he is spinning it all over I was floored. It made me feel amazing because Questlove has a huge influence on music today and he is a taste maker. So when you have someone like that give a stamp of approval it is a big deal. It really made me feel that I am doing something right! It gave me an added confidence and drive to keep pushing because I have something special. I have gotten a lot of positive feedback from other musicians and once they hear it I usually get booked for a show or if they are a musician they want to collaborate with me which is really flattering. I look forward to singing on other peoples tracks, writing for them, performing with them, touring and on and on.

Have any other artists reached out to you to want to work with you?

Yes, a DJ from the thievery corporation Kevin Johnson has reached out to me telling me that he wants to be on his upcoming new project that will have 2 original songs on it that he will be producing on a label. He wants me to be on that project which will be amazing. I have also had several producers who have worked with Kissey Asplund that I reached out to that expressed an interest in working with me as well. Many local hip hop rappers in the bay area have expressed an interest in having me on their material as well as doing shows with me too. I will be doing a show with The Conscious Daughters, a well-known Bay Area female hip-hop duo very soon with Pam the Funktress, a well known female DJ in the hip hop scene. They will be putting out new material soon and they would like me to be featured on it as well. I’m trying to think about all of the others…there are many others and I plan on reaching out to a bunch more people as well to get the ball rolling on other projects.

What is coming up for you musically? Touring? New songs?

I have been busy booking shows here in the bay area right now creating a local buzz and the response has been great. I have basically been getting at least four shows every month which is a great start. I plan on working on new material this month actually which I am really excited about. I would like to release a couple singles and then work on an EP or a full album I haven’t decided which. The music business is changing a lot right now and a lot of people are no longer doing full albums so we’ll see. I plan on lining up shows in Southern California hopefully this year so that I can create a buzz down there as well. I have been contacting a lot of blogs, radio stations and newspapers so that the word will get out even more. So far I have been getting a lot of reviews all over in the US and the UK and I recently got a large order of my albums from a distributor in Japan. That blew my mind because they randomly found me.

I’ve been to the Bay Area once and fell in love with it (and really want to go back!) What’s the Bay Area music scene like? Are you working with artists/producers in that area?

Yes basically all of the producers that I work with are in the bay area just because its so convenient to sit down with them and to listen to all of their beats. I like to work with producers in person, forming the song, laying down harmonies etc. I would like to work with producers in other parts of the world though as well.

The bay area music scene is really great it covers a lot of underground music. It feels so honest and not pretentious which is why it’s a great area to start out musically. I have been immersing myself into the local hip hop scene here and have loved every minute of it. I go out a lot to meet people, do shows and to network. I am a total mingler and the great thing about the bay area is that it is so small so everyone knows everyone. Word gets out quickly and people have been seeing that I hustle really hard. So that alone has gotten me numerous shows.

Do you have any other hobbies or working on any other projects outside of music? If so, what are they?

I am actually taking some journalism classes right now because I have always been interested in writing. I would love to write reviews on albums and work as a freelance writer. I am also really interested in the business side of music because as an independent musician I have had to throw myself completely into it and I’m seeing that I’m pretty good at it. I would also like to start doing my art work again and get some art shows going but right now I am so busy with my music I don’t really have much extra time.

Okay, final question! If you could only take 5 albums on to a deserted island, what 5 albums would they be?

Oh gosh I don’t think I could limit to five albums! LOL Right now I am obsessed with Jay-Z’s new album, so that has been in my car a lot. I also love Adele’s first album that she came out with and I have been listening to Lady Gaga a lot as well. My obsessions fluctuate depending on what is new.

Thanks so much for your time, hope we can chat soon again and keep the music playing!

For more about Amy Serrata:
Official Site

1 comment:

  1. Joss Stone's new album "Colour Me Free" in stores Oct. 20th (U.S) | Worldwide Nov. 20th.

    Promo video:


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