Born and raised in Weleetka, Oklahoma, Amber Hayes grew up influenced by the iconic female entertainers before her. Amber's first foray was in theater, and after landing numerous parts, she was cast in 2008 as Kathy Twitty in the nationally touring Conway Twitty production, Conway Twitty: The Man, The Music, The Legend… The Musical. In 2010, she released a six song EP, C'mon which had two Top 40 singles. She also had her music featured on the television show Hart of Dixie and in the movie Cowgirls N' Angels. This past November, Amber released a new EP, Running Out of Memories. She graciously took the time to talk about the EP, the importance of honoring the past and what's ahead
You are an accomplished singer, songwriter, actress and theater performer. Which one came first?
Actually, music came first. I grew up in Oklahoma and started singing on stage when I was five years old. Even though I did other things, such as acting, country music was always a part of me and ultimately what I knew I wanted to do. When I was 15 asked to come to Nashville to perform on Midnight Jamboree with Jean Shepard. I really fell in love with Nashville then and it became more apparent to me that singing country music was what I was supposed to do.
What in particular drew you to the country genre?
You know, I am big story-song girl and I love country music because of its lyrics and real life stories. A lot of people don’t like their grandma and grandpa’s music, but country music is what I was raised on and I love it! I still enjoy other types of music but I have that soft spot for country [music].
You have said that you admire artists such as Reba, Dolly and Barbara Mandrell. Are those women whom you would like to model your career after?
Absolutely! Growing up in Oklahoma, Reba was all around and I would always go to her shows, both in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. I always knew that I wanted to have a show like hers; to be able to perform and put on a show that when people left they would say “what a great entertainer.” It’s the same with Barbara and Dolly. They played a big part in me wanting to do all the things that I’ve done. In addition to those women, I am a huge fan of Conway Twitty, George Strait, Garth, Trisha and Jamey Johnson as well.
In your songs, the listener can definitely hear traditional influences. Is honoring the past in your music important to you?
Yes, that is a big part of who I am and what I want to do as an artist. I love traditional country music and always reflect on the people who came before me. As a young artist, I hope that tradition is something that I can keep a hold of in my music. I want that to be part of my musical story. I know the format is changing, but I think there is room for people who still want to play, and believe it is important to play, traditional country music.
Your EP Running Out of Memories was released in November. Why did you chose that song title as the EP title?
Running Out of Memories was one of the songs that I co-wrote. When I see those words, I think that, good or bad, memories are things that we are never going to run out of, so I thought it made sense to use for the title. It’s a title not only for the listener, but for me as well. It hit home for me because I’m still on a journey and whatever happens, I know that you have to see the good in everything. i am trying to enjoy the ride because the journey is so important.
On the topic then of memories, is there a positive memory from the past year that you can reflect on?
Well, on a personal level, I got to spend a week with family in D.C to see my great uncle receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. As far as my career goes, being able to work with Bobby Terry on this record was a high point for me. I have known him for years and have always loved his production. We saw one another out at a show and got to talking. He was saying how he liked what I was doing and asked if there was anything he could do, to which I said yes, you can produce my record! So that’s how it happened. He also played everything on the first three songs of the EP. He just blows me away!
You co-wrote a few of the tracks on the EP. Do you enjoy songwriting and is it important for you to have a song you wrote on your records?
I love writing. Even when I was younger I loved to write. When I moved to Nashville, I figured out really quickly that writing, especially co-writing, was a huge part of country music. Like anything that is new, writing was hard at first, but I love it now and am very glad people encouraged me to write. I feel like it has enhanced my life by giving me a different outlet.
To be honest with you, it is cool to have one of my songs on my records if it is good enough to make it but, and I learned this from being around Conway Twitty, all that really matters is if you like the song because if you like it and it is a hit song and you pass it up because you didn’t write it, you would feel awful. There are such great songwriters here in Nashville and I think we need to embrace them.
Where can fans catch you perform?
Shoot I’ll go anywhere! (laughing) I have toured internationally and was recently in the south. I performed in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma over the past month, which was kind of crazy busy, but great! I love playing live shows; on stage is where I feel most comfortable. I was really shy at a young age, then Grandma sent me to dance and I started singing. The first time I was on stage I was like a totally different child. People said, “oh my gosh who are you!?” (laughing) I felt, and still fee, very safe onstage, knowing it is where I am supposed to be.
With the year winding down, what are your professional plans for next year?
I hope I can write and record more music to have out maybe by the summer of next year with a single out in the spring. I would love to hop on a tour and one of my personal goals is to play the Opry.
Lastly, I always love to know, is there one recent album that you cannot stop listening to?
Yes, yes, yes, yes!! I love Dierks Bentley’s Riser album and cannot get enough of it! You know it’s one of those albums where it’s just been a permanent fixture in my cd player in my car. The songs are all great, the production is great and he sounds great! All around it’s awesome!
Purchase Running Out of Memories here
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