Amber Ikeman’s “Rocky Mountains” Describes the Journey to Self-Acceptance

Photo Credit: Rachel Mascari Photo

Born in Toronto, Ontario. Moved to Sarasota, Florida. First performance was a song from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for show and tell in preschool. The moral of Joseph’s tale is ‘are you going to wear your life or are you going to live it?’ How do you think this might have been a forerunner of the career path you are now on?

I love the way you summed up the moral! Throughout my life, I’ve shed a lot of expectations about who I’m supposed to be. I try to live my truth, as best I can, on my terms. One of the ways I’m doing that is pursuing a career as an artist. It’s not the easiest or most conventional path, especially in my family. But I believe it’s part of what I need to do to live my fullest and most authentic life, rather than forcing myself to do something else that doesn’t really fit me. I suppose getting that message from Joseph early on stuck with me.

High school. “I felt like I belonged with the other misfits there, people who were also sensitive, creative, and a little weird.” What makes a good school culture, one that is more accepting?

Great question. I think that being exposed to diversity and teaching that every person has value promotes acceptance. It’s important to learn that there isn’t only one ‘right’ way to be.

“I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety since I was 18. … Sometimes when we’re feeling good, we’re afraid that it’ll all come crashing down eventually.” What are some resources that have helped you through challenging times?

Therapy, family, friends, my dog, spirituality, music, nature. And Porter’s Call, a wonderful organization in Nashville that offers mental health support for musicians.

College to a 9–5 job to being a dishwasher while pursuing a music career. “I suppose what brought me to it at that time was the longing to live the life I truly wanted — and the discomfort of living a life that wasn’t really me.” Can you describe the moment you realized that making music at a high level was your true calling?

When I realized that I was unhappy with my 9–5 job and life, I started searching for something else to do instead, still afraid that pursuing a career as an artist would be too hard. One of the paths I considered was audio engineering/producing, thinking that it might be a little more stable and marketable than performing. I visited a school for that, where the president spoke about how, if you choose your “plan B” (the ‘safe’ option), you never really get to work on your “plan A” (what you really want). I cried through his whole speech, realizing that I had just been searching for a backup plan and never gave my plan A a real shot. It became obvious in that moment that writing/performing was my calling, and I wanted to put my energy into being the person singing in the vocal booth rather than the person behind the mixing board (although now I understand that it’s possible to wear different hats).

Spirited and earthy Folk-Pop songstress. “Back To You” (off the Rise album). “It’s about the lonely side of being a solo traveler.” On the reverse side, what are the positives of traveling alone?

There are so many! You get to do exactly what you want, when you want. There’s a lot of time to reflect and lots of opportunity for ideas and insights about yourself. I think that it can actually be easier to meet people if you’re traveling alone, especially other solo travelers. It builds confidence and independence. And it’s really great to travel alone if you’re an introvert like me.

Moving to Nashville. “When it was time to go, I was beyond ready to leave, seeing that there really wasn’t much left for me where I was. … I was planning to move there after my 2018 tour, but I was so completely exhausted in every possible way, from the grief of losing my mother and from living on the road for 5 months. I needed stability and familiarity, so I came back to Bozeman. … I want to be immersed in a community of creatives, and maybe, just maybe I will feel like I belong a little bit more.” What do you hope your next big move will be?

I haven’t thought about it too much, but sometimes I can see myself moving out to the desert in the Southwest when I’m older and…retired? Or perhaps back to Canada someday.

Four and a half years after your last release, you released “We Are More” earlier this year. “My mouth is open, but I can’t speak They try to tell me I’m free I see no chains, but I feel restrained As I stand politely and wait.” What inspired this song?

I actually started writing the song in 2016, during the presidential election. That particular line was inspired by the way that Hilary Clinton acted during the debates. That sparked feelings about the many times I’ve felt like I couldn’t speak up for myself and had to behave the way a woman is ‘supposed to’ and the struggles I and others have experienced as a result of systemic injustice towards women.

“Rocky Mountains” describes the journey to self-acceptance. “The more we reject fatphobia and accept ourselves and others, the harder it will be for fatphobia to exist.” Besides through your music, how have you been able to connect to others on similar journeys?

There’s an initiative called Every Body Belongs in Bozeman, where I used to live, that helped me connect to others on similar journeys. I’ve also connected with people through different body liberation and intuitive eating spaces online, like Fat Torah. I’ve been longing for more opportunities to connect this way, and am considering starting an online community through my blog/alter ego, The Shameless Shebrew.

“It’s so important for folks to see people like themselves in the media because it promotes belonging and inclusion.” Which artist has influenced your journey?

Barbra Streisand influenced me a lot when I was younger. Not only did I love her voice, I loved how she shamelessly flaunted her well-endowed nose and spoke about how she wouldn’t change it.

“Prioritize balance!” How do you balance career and everyday life?

It’s easier said than done, because I feel like there’s so much overlap in my career and my everyday life. I try to set boundaries for myself, like not checking my email after 5pm or so. I also try to give myself at least one full day off a week from anything related to the business side of my music, and plan to do something fun on those days.

“Don’t let fear stop you. … Growth is slow and happens a little bit at a time, and it’s good to look back and acknowledge the progress you’ve made, even if you’re not yet where you want to be.” What are some wins (of any size) that you’ve had lately?

I’ve received some really affirming comments on social media and via email about my latest single release. To me, that’s the biggest win. Gratefully, that single has also been added to a handful of playlists and is reaching more listeners. I’ve been meeting more people in my new home, Nashville, and starting to feel some connections deepening. And honestly, having the opportunity to do this interview feels like such a win — thank you!

“Flying solo doesn’t have to mean being lonely, and it doesn’t mean that no one wanted to go with you — it can be an empowering choice you make for yourself!” What’s your next solo date going to be?

Hmm…I might take myself to a bakery in my new neighborhood. I’ll walk or ride my bike, have a leisurely breakfast or dessert, maybe bring a book.

Third album will be released in early 2023. What can fans look forward to hearing?

A collection of five songs about body acceptance, mental health, and feminism, with flavors of folk and pop. Some are tender and soothing, others are upbeat and empowering, and all are written about my own experiences with these issues. Three of the songs are already released as singles, and the fourth will be out on December 2, followed by the fifth in January with the full album.

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