Exclusive: K-Pop Superstar Amber Liu On Making Her Big U.S. Push This Year
Already a global superstar from her work with K-Pop group f(x) Amber Liu, who was born in L.A., is ready to further career in the U.S. In exclusive news, Liu has signed with Kevin Morrow’s Steel Wool Entertainment here in the States. Morrow, formerly of Live Nation and House Of Blues, has worked in recent years with Anderson Paak and Watsky, among others. He can’t wait to break Liu as a solo artist in the U.S.
“Between all the movements going on and all of her music is so positive, it couldn’t be more timely,” Morrow says. “Her message is the message of female empowerment right now. I think that’s great. And Amber can sing, rap and dance. There are not a lot of people who can do all three and she can write. And she produces her own videos. She is one of those rare talents that can do just about everything. So at a time when you see this stuff start to cross over, she’s someone with urban leanings, but at the same time she can do a pop song, so I can’t think of a better time for her to put out her own material. Her new music will be a mixture of everything. She’ll be doing K-Pop stuff, she’s gonna be straight-up rap, it’s gonna be a little bit of everything.”
Adding to her already global profile, Liu has signed deals to be an ambassador for Nike and Loreal’s Redken brand. It’s an exciting time for Liu, who feels she is ready artistically and emotionally for this next challenge in her career.
I spoke exclusively with a very animated Liu, who told me why this is the right time for her to return Stateside, what she is working on and why her brand deals send such a powerful message that being your own person and sticking to your ideals can pay off.
Steve Baltin: It sounds like it’s a very fun time for you as you have so many different outlets.
Amber Liu: Yeah, I’m always in the studio working on music and dancing. I’m training with a bunch of choreographers here in L.A. who are really good friends of mine and [I’m] learning as much as I can and reflecting on the years I’ve been in the industry and what did I not have time to work on because I was always busy working. But [I’m] kind of going back into training mode and resetting myself. On the other side I often do video production and direct my own videos, so every time me and my friends want to do something we’re just like, “Let’s make a video and do this. Let’s make a skit about that.” So everyday is different and I’m just hopping back and forth to the studio and meetings and always crazy and fun.
Baltin: Is there one thing right now that is jumping out at you as being most fun?
Liu: I’ve had so many ideas in my head and I never had time to just put it all down or I didn’t have the resources or I wasn’t in the right area to do what I needed to do. Some of these projects I’ve been working on I can finally just put it down and put it into a song or a video. Like this idea I thought of five years ago I’m finally singing. It’s just having all those memories and reflecting on who I was and who I am now and seeing that growth I feel accomplished, but it’s comforting and I feel happy I can keep growing and growing. That’s why I think it is fun to me.
Baltin: As you get set to come over here creatively talk about mixing those two worlds.
Liu: With my group it was such a different dynamic because we have to come together and we’re part of a team. Definitely doing my solo stuff it’s fun in a different way. I get a lot more say, however, there’s a lot more work to do because I have to make everything happen. My personal creativity is obviously a lot bigger and I can just grab from a lot more things and deeper into myself, but within a group it’s a little bit harder cause you have four heads coming together. We all have our own goals. But because I’m doing more stuff when I’m a solo act I have to learn so much more and know about so many more things. What’s really cool is that transfers into my group thing and I’m like, “Oh yeah, I know how to do this, I’ll help you guys.” I think that’s where it’s the most fun. I’m doing things I’ve never done before and I can just do whatever I want.
Baltin: Do you feel like you’re prepared now for the journey of a solo artist?
Liu: I think I’m at a point personally where I’m comfortable with myself now and I understand that I’m not perfect, but I can only be the best I can be. That took years and years for me to understand. That’s why, I think, for a long time, I was very unsure of what I wanted to do. But now I’m having so much fun figuring it out and taking what’s been in my mind so long and putting it into a piece of art. And my whole team are my friends, and it’s just years and years of grinding and figuring it out.
Baltin: What piece of art so far comes closest to what you eventually want to capture?
Liu: For years, I’ve been writing music obviously. When I first started off in the industry I always wrote things on the side, like little tunes, little poems and then when I started getting a little bit more serious about it, going in the studios, writing it with my friends, going to studios and other sessions and writing back a whole bunch of music, then looking back at that cataloge compared to now it’s a total different sound, total different vocals, total different person in general. I was writing for other people at the time and I didn’t really have an identity. I’m comfortable with myself now and I understand how goofy I am, how stupid I can be, how emotional I can be or how focused I can be. I could feel it now; this is my track, this is how I would sing it. And I think that just came from a lot of trial and error and having experiences writing for my group, writing for other people, attempting to write for myself and it not working. I’ve built up a good cataloge of cool music I’m really looking forward to releasing soon.
Baltin: When did you see the K-Pop explosion coming?
Liu: When I first debuted back in 2009 K-Pop was already starting to get bigger because of the internet. And that’s how I found it because I’m not Korean. I enjoyed the music because it was different and it had this whole performance that went with it. Everybody’s in sync, the vocals are off the chains and I was like, “Yo, this is really cool.” I fell in love not only with the K-Pop stuff, but the whole culture. And when I got to Korea and started in the business there were a lot of people that were not Korean that were fans. We went to China for a bit, Japan. Our group was coming to the States a lot, for South By Southwest to perform and now there are these K-Pop conventions that are in L.A, New York and all over the world. So it’s amazing how K-Pop can go so international cause people are vibing off the music.
Baltin: Since you are trying to mix it all together what would be the dream scenario?
Liu: I just want to be touring. I want to do everything. I don’t know if that’s too ambitious, I want to do everything. But definitely taking that dance aspect that’s so big in K-Pop and incorporating it into my set and singing a whole array of stuff. It’s all these ideas and dreams that have been in my head so long because I don’t think I was ready. I thought I was ready years ago, but now I feel like it’s time for me to put all that into motion and I know what I need to do to get to where I want to be.
Baltin: Who are the dream collaborators?
Liu: I’ve been listening to a lot of the Script lately, they’re amazing. I kind of want to put out an actual EDM record one day. I love EDM too, Seven Lions, love to work with Max Martin, so many people. I just want to make music, everything’s cool.
Baltin: Talk about what the Nike and Loreal deals mean for you in terms of showing people that you can follow your own path and people will respond positively. That’s a great message to share.
Liu: I know when I was growing up I was always lost and just thought I was alone and that I needed to find where I belonged. And it’s such a coincidence you bring up Linkin Park because I listened to them my whole middle school, high school. And what I love about music and art in general is that you can take something so negative or positive, any emotion no matter how sad or happy, and turn it into art. And I think bands like Linkin Park, when I would listen to those lyrics, it made me feel like I’m not the only one out there that feels like this. We trap ourselves in a bubble, I think that’s what happens for a lot of us. But for me, when I went through my depression, I always felt like I was alone and because people never understood me I had to shut myself out from the world. Art and music was the only thing that could ever help me get over that. But then recently I met some good friends who’ve counseled me through things and mentors that really believed in me and made me believe in myself. And I started becoming more vocal on my views of certain aspects. Seeing brands take that on, number one, it’s very overwhelming. We’re all fighting for the same thing and I hope that the fight for equality, the fight to help people get over their anxiety or depression, whatever thing they’re going through, I hope that we can all come together more as a community. Me doing music and being “famous,” or whatever you want to call it, is cool and all, but to me that’s my job description. All I want to do it use my art and use what I can make to help somebody. And if brands believe in that too and more people are just coming in that makes my day. That’s the reason I do my job and the reason I will fight for the people who feel like they can’t go on.
via Oh_mesgo amber! as it stands she's still signed with SM for f(x) and non-north american activities. she's signed with the management company that also manages Hayley Kiyoko, Anderson .Paak and Elijah