At The Table: Amber Iman
A quick google search of the name AMBER IMAN land you will land upon a treasure trove of videos highlighting the liquid gold lying in the vocal cords, so graciously being poured out on audiences all across America. You may have seen her in Shuffle Along on Broadway or as Peggy Schuyler in the first national tour of Hamilton. Amber Iman, as an actress, singer, activist, and so much more, and we had the pleasure of sitting with her at the Table to hear about her upcoming show at the Triad. Check out her interview below and buy your ticket to the show!
D: Tell us a little about your background. Where are you originally from? And when was the first moment you remember falling in love with the arts?
A: I was born & raised in Atlanta, Georgia. My mother is an actress, so I've always been "in the arts". I traveled with my mother everywhere - whatever set she was on, rehearsal room she was in, voiceover booth, I was there, soaking up everything. I don't recall the moment I fell in love - it's all I've ever known and it's always felt just right.
And that changed me. How can I expect the greatness to happen if I don't even try? You have to start somewhere, and you have to start now.
D: One thing I truly love about you is your ability to speak out against injustices or pure BS, how did you develop your voice and what makes you so fearless?
A: I think I just got tired of waiting for other people to speak for me, or defend me, or make things happen. And I asked myself, who are you waiting for, and why are you...waiting? Do it yourself! I'm just too grown and tired to deal with foolishness. And a lot of people reach out to thank me: for speaking my mind, for saying what they are too afraid to speak aloud, for being a voice. I don't mind being the loudmouth, lol. I still don't know why people listen to me, but I don't mind speaking up lol!
D: What has been your favorite project to work on a show and why did you love this particular process?
A: I'm doing a lab right now, with a creative team that I trust. They believe in me fully, and trust me and want me to keep doing ME. They are constantly encouraging and pushing me to be ME: freely, unabashedly, and unapologetically. And it's so scary lol. It's such a dream situation, but it's so rare. It's finally here and I'm afraid of it. When a writer and director ask for your thoughts and opinions and ideas, and take your feedback and use them to enrich the work, you feel like you're creating art, that your voice is heard, and matters, and it feels like a true collaboration. I'm so happy to be in this space. My soul needed it.
" And I asked myself, who are you waiting for, and why are you...waiting? Do it yourself!
D: What was the process like in creating your own show? What inspired it and how did it come together?
A: My friend Jocelyn Bioh was so instrumental in my process. I called her one day out of pure frustration and exhaustion. I was tired of doing work that didn't motivate and challenge me. I was tired of only being given four lines to say and only a piece of a song to sing, when I know that I'm more than capable of carrying more weight. I just wanted to create an opportunity for me to be my best, greatest, fullest self, but I had no real writing experience and didn't know where to start.
She said, buy some notecards and write down all the songs you LOVE to sing - in the shower, in the car, at weddings, in church, no matter what it's about. Put the notecards on a wall or a mirror and just look at them everyday and the story will start to tell itself. And she was correct. I stared at the cards for about 2 weeks and did nothing, just stared. And in that 3rd week, I started to see the connections, the through lines, the stories, the lessons. I made notes about everything and I put the outline of the show together in one day. Then I called my good friend writer/composer/producer Matt Gould. I said, I wanna do a thing, but I'm scared and have no idea how to do it. Matt held my hand every step of the way. He and I sat down and went through the music, shaping the arrangements to tell the stories the way I wanted to tell them. We cut songs, added songs, flipped them, experimented with sounds and textures, just really took time to shape the sound. Then he sat with me with his own note cards and took notes on everything I wanted to say, gave me his ideas and input, which I took back to my outline and kept crafting.
We found a venue that donated their space, a liquor sponsor, and a friend designed my flyer for free (tap into your resources). We called in some musician friends to make an amazing band - and we did it. It was hard and stressful but worth every single second. Every day leading up to the show, I regretted it. But those were growing pains. The challenge was so overwhelming, and I felt unprepared, and out of my league - but I had to push through. Those were some of the best days of my life.
Keep going. It's going to get better, SO MUCH BETTER.
D: What advice would you give to women looking to create their own work?
A: Start. right now. Get out of the way. Don't judge it. It'll be mess and that's just fine. A while back, someone interviewed Ne-Yo about his success as a songwriter, about how he continually churns out hit after hit. He said, for every #1 song, there are 39 that didn't make the cut. But you never get the 1 without the 39. And that changed me. How can I expect the greatness to happen if I don't even try? You have to start somewhere, and you have to start now. Tap into your resources, lean on your friends, ask for help, and know that it's all possible. The Lena Waithe's and Issa Rae's and Katori Hall's and Lynn Nottage's all had to start...somewhere.
D: What would you say to “the amber of 10 years ago?”
A: Keep going. It's going to get better, SO MUCH BETTER.
And people are stupid. They'll tell you you're not pretty enough, you're too tall, too young, too Black, too strong and they're idiots. Ignore them. Keep GOING! D: When do you feel the most BOLD?
A: Seeing and being surrounded and supported by other fierce, focused, fabulous women makes me feel the most BOLD!