Amber Darland

Amber Darland

 Bellingham, Washington, USA
BandFolkPop

Amber Darland delivers powerful, honest poetry, pure vocals and infectious melodies. Her music is compelling because it’s both political and deeply personal - creating acoustically driven folk-pop with purpose.

Band Press

SHOWCASE OF TALENT – By JENNIFER CARTER/Skagit Valley Herald

August, 2005

SHOWCASE OF TALENT
Skagit Valley Herald

Wednesday nights at Althea's give area songwriters a chance to strut their stuff

By 9 p.m., Amber Darland had already been playing her acoustic guitar and singing for about an hour straight.

But the audience still wasn't satisfied.

"I will be back," the 25-year-old songwriter assured the small but attentive group, after finishing what she thought would be her last song of the night at Althea's Tea House in downtown Mount Vernon.

"I love this place."

But some people in the audience weren't ready to let her go.

"Stop the clock," a man at the bar shouted, as others chanted "Short Jeans, Short Jeans."
"Short Jeans" was the first song the 1998 Mount Vernon High School graduate ever wrote as a 16-year-old.

Like so many of Darland's compositions, the inspiration for "Short Jeans" was drawn from her life.

"On a good day, when I wake up, I might be five feet," she said before launching into the song.

The chorus includes the lyrics: "Darn you genetics. You gave me short jeans. I'm sick of all my pant legs having home-hemmed seams."

Darland was one of three performers Aug. 17 at the Northwest Singer-Songwriter Showcase, held weekly at Althea's.
It's the kind of event where the music takes center stage, even though the stage is simply a back corner in the cozy, smoke-free establishment.

A blow-up globe — fashioned into a disco ball with tiny mirrors — and decorative squares of purple fabric hung from the ceiling above where the musicians performed.

Customers lounged on couches and armchairs, sipping coffee or wine as they listened to the music.

The mellow atmosphere makes Althea's an appealing place to perform for local independent songwriters, said Josée Allard, the Anacortes-based musician who organizes the weekly event.

"Everyone's searching for a venue that has an audience that listens," she said.

When Kacey Rimmer bought Althea's from a previous owner in early 2004, she knew she wanted to bring as much live music as possible to downtown Mount Vernon. The events that grew out of that ambition include a weekly open mic night on Tuesdays and "Out of the Ashes," a jam session for people with disabilities, on Wednesday afternoons.

When Rimmer approached Allard about having regular performances at Althea's, the weekly showcase of local singer-songwriters was born.

Local musicians perform their own songs from 8 to 11 p.m. Wednesdays. Allard performs every week. The other two singer-songwriters vary from week to week.

Each musician is supposed to play a 45-minute set starting on the hour. But if Darland's recent performance is any indication, there are no complaints for playing right up to the beginning of the next performance.

Allard auditions all the showcase's performers. She said she finds them through word-of-mouth, weekly newspapers from Seattle and Bellingham, posters and at the Althea's open mic night.

Allard said sometimes she has to scramble to fill the weekly slots at the last minute.

"But we've been successful since May 25," she said. "So obviously singer-songwriters are looking for a place to perform."

Darland was one of the performers at the first singer-songwriter night in May. Her Aug. 17 performance was her third at Althea's. She plans to return for a fourth singer-songwriter showcase on Sept. 28.

The Bellingham resident is the daughter of Jim and Becky Darland of Mount Vernon. Darland grew up in a musical family and learned to play several instruments, including the violin and the electric bass, at a young age. She played the trumpet in the Mount Vernon High School jazz band.

After graduating in 1998, Darland went to Western Washington University in Bellingham, where she majored in sociology.

Darland's songwriting really took off as she started college and began to experiment with playing the guitar and singing.

"I discovered that I had a voice," she said.

Many of Darland's songs reflect her experiences as a social worker and volunteer. The young musician is finishing a stint coordinating a volunteer program for Western Washington University students as an Americorps member, for which she receives a living stipend.

Her song "Tough Girl" was inspired by girls in drug and alcohol recovery to whom Darland gives music lessons as a volunteer at SeaMar Visions, a Bellingham clinic.

With her time in Americorps coming to an end, Darland said she's hoping to find a part-time job and spend more time on her music. She plans to record her first full-length album soon and take it on the road.

Darland said she's happiest when she can integrate her music into helping people in her community.

"It's a great way to relate to other people," she said.

Darland said music can help "bridge the gap" between individuals and find a common human experience.

"More than anything, I want people to be empowered," she said.

Amber Darland - Truce - Album Review – What's Up Magazine -Bellingham , WA

Within a few stanzas of Amber Darland’s new record Truce I was concerned that this album was going to be more of the same kind of “Happy Folk, Hippie” acoustic, introspective singer-songwriter drivel loaded with cliche lyrics that seem cheekily clever to some sometimes but had been making my skin crawl as of late.

Luckily for me, as I continued to listen I realized Darland’s record was a cut above. Very Indigo Girl-like at times, Darland and her ultra solid group hum through the 11-song collection in fine fashion. The band creates a neat percussive sound with their acoustic instruments. The songs are well produced, and Darland’s voice is strong and heartfelt.

Some of the highlighted selections were “Without Blame” and “Fall this Way.” The title track, “Truce,” was my favorite song on the record. Amber stepped outside of herself and wrote a great protest song. She also has done a fine job wth a nice package that includes a lyrics sheet, which a lot of sensible folks really enjoy these days. My only problem with the CD was that lyrically it became a little too personal and serious. Hey, I don’t know man. I guess that is subjective.

Music and Message Matter to Amber Darland – Bellingham Herald

Jan, 11, 2009
Music and message matter to Amber Darland
MARGARET BIKMAN / THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Folk-pop-rocker Amber Darland, 28, can sometimes be found strumming her guitar, playing her harmonica and singing her tunes at the Bellingham Farmers Market, but since the market's closed until April 4, you might catch her at one of the open mics or coffee houses around town. She's now a full-time musician and she's planning to hit the road this winter, with gigs in California in February and in New York in March. Before then, though, she'll play on Monday, Jan. 12, at the open mic at the Fairhaven Pub & Martini Bar, and on Jan. 29 at the Main Street Bar & Grill in Ferndale. She spoke with The Bellingham Herald about her life and her music.

Question: Where did you grow up and when did music first "strike a chord" with you?

Answer: I grew up in Skagit Valley and started making music at a young age. I learned to play piano, violin, upright bass and trumpet - performing in orchestra and band throughout grade school. But I found a deeper passion for music when I began playing bass guitar in middle school. The bass guitar led me to experiment with songwriting. I basically played it like a guitar and wrote my first song on it. I remember sitting in my bedroom with a friend playing one of the songs I had just written. It happened to be about teenage angst and confusion with a hint of hope. The song made her cry. The feeling of that moment has always stuck with me. All I had done was poured my heart out on to paper then put it to song. In turn, I became witness to the power of music moving emotion. For over 13 years now, this moment has repeated itself over and over among friends and strangers alike as I have continued to write and perform.

Question: What kinds of things inspire you as a songwriter?

Answer: I see music as a universal tool that can be used to communicate commonalities, deepen connections, uplift spirits and move people to action. I feel called to share this gift of music and to empower others through it.

Question: How did you transform yourself from a fast-food eating, big-box shopper to someone who is more aware and involved with sustainability, supporting local businesses and recycling?

Answer: In 1999 I left home and came to Bellingham to attend Western Washington University. While working toward a degree in sociology I became increasingly aware of the way that my everyday choices were impacting the world around me. And as I gained more knowledge about social and environmental issues, my passions grew deeper. I started paying attention to where my food and other products were coming from. I could no longer ignore the thought of slaughterhouses or sweat factories so I stopped eating fast food and began shopping locally. The love I had for animals since childhood evolved and I began volunteering in animal shelters and advocating for animal rights. My appreciation for farmland and the outdoors morphed into marching for migrant workers rights, boycotting large corporations and finding ways to live more sustainably. Each day I try my best to translate my beliefs in to action.

Question: What's important to you about volunteering, supporting local organizations, being passionate about your beliefs?

Answer: Whether it be giving guitar lessons to adolescent girls in recovery, volunteering for yard work parties at a local non-profit organization, fostering homeless animals or playing music for benefit shows, volunteering in my community will always play an important role in my life.

Question: What's fun for you about performing live, particularly in Bellingham venues?

Answer: From coffee shops to farmers' markets to late-night venues - Bellingham offers independent artists like myself an excellent space to grow and be nurtured. I feel appreciated as an artist every time I play a show in this town. Most shows feel very intimate and I find that I can really connect with my audience both on and off stage.

Question: What's new for you musically?

Answer: Less than six months ago I decided to make a career change and began pursuing music full-time. I have given music my complete devotion for at least a year to really see where it might go. Thanks to the support of so many friends and fans, I am finally finishing recording my full-length album - it is set for release in February. I have also had some recent opportunities thrown my way and I'll be hitting the road at the end of February to do some touring down the west coast then over to the east coast in March.

Question: What music do you enjoy listening to?

Answer: I enjoy listening to emotionally charged music. I love catchy melodies, thick harmonies and a diversity of instrumentation. Some examples of the folks I listen to would be Patty Griffin, The Weepies, Devotchka, The Indigo Girls, Ellis, Coyote Grace and Melissa Ferrick. I appreciate artists who are intentional about their music and message. Most of the musicians that I listen to share common values and convey messages about hope, social justice, environmental consciousness and positive change.