Photo Credit: Matt Alves
When you’ve written for some of the best and brightest in pop, it’s only a matter of time before you show the world what you can do. After penning hits for the likes of Kelly Clarkson and Rita Ora, Ames is following the route taken by Sia and showcasing what a talented songwriter can do when placed in front of the mic on her debut EP, My Name Is Ames, out now.
With the album out for all to hear, we were thrilled to talk to Ames about her past in Honduras, the internal strife felt before living as her true self, her work with the LGBTQ community, and more.
Kendra: Did you start out solely as a songwriter?
Ames: Not solely, no. My parents put me in piano lessons when I was four-years-old and I was playing hymns and classical pieces long before I wrote an actual song. I played in church on Sundays and I also joined a Christian band in my youth group. I guess performing was the first step for me.
Kendra: Every time my fiance’s parents suggest we move from the coast of California to the country of Virginia, I flip because of the inherent culture shock I’d face. So I can only imagine what it was like for you to relocate to (Honduras) at 13 as a missionary. Looking back, what was the biggest cultural difference that seemed odd at the time but in hindsight, you’re grateful to have experienced?
Ames: The biggest cultural difference was the poverty in Honduras compared to the wealth of the United States. Even though my family was considered “middle class” here, we were considered very wealthy in Honduras. We moved there right after Hurricane Mitch, so the country literally looked like a sad picture torn out of National Geographic. People had close to nothing but the clothes on their backs and enough food to last them the day…. If that! I learned to take pleasure in little things.
We, as a family, gave up a lot to move there. We had a little TV and some VHS movies, some books, and some board games but that was pretty much our “entertainment.” At night, if the electricity would go out, we’d have nothing to do but play cards by candlelight and drink warm Coca Cola. I learned to really treasure those times. I still try to keep that mentality even after having to move to the states again. Sometimes, since living in L.A, I fall out of practice. I get caught up in the entertainment, the social media, and the nightlife but it doesn’t make me happy. I was happier in Honduras with just a book and a banana.
Kendra: Of course, you were also dealing with the struggle between your sexuality and the Christian church. How did you manage to find solace during that time?
Ames: I found my solace through reading, writing, and a T.a.T.u. CD haha (I listened to that CD about a million times)! I lived in a lot of fear during my childhood. Knowing the Bible pretty well and I’d learned that homosexuals weren’t met with mercy back then. I gradually became “ok” with the thought of going to hell because I just adored women so much. I had so many crushes, so many butterflies in my stomach, I wrote so many love letters, songs, and poems (that I never sent). While terrified of damnation, I loved women too much to ask God to remove the “affliction.” I never saw it as that. It felt too beautiful, too good.
Kendra: You mentioned listening to the likes of Fiona Apple. Were there any LGBTQ artists that you filled your CD collection with then that inspired you later in life?
Ames: Ani Difranco was another, Melissa Etheridge, Jennifer Knapp (who was, at the time, a Christian artist but later came out!) and T.a.T.u.
Kendra: From then to now you’ve accomplished so much in the songwriting realm, but for you – when did you realize that you wanted to not only write the music but perform it as well?
Ames: I think the performing actually came first. I grew up performing, so it was always a part of my life. The songwriting came later, closer to when the Hanson came out with “Mmmbop.” We’d known their family when we lived in Oklahoma, we were all part of their homeschooling group. Their success led me to believe it was possible to make a life in pop music.
Kendra: I think a lot of people are going to be able to attach themselves to “Old Hero” because we all have at least one person in our life who acted as such. With all you do and will continue to do you for LGBTQ youth, how do you handle knowing that you too are looked at as a hero to some?
Ames: It’s hard for me to think of myself as a “hero;” I struggle daily. I think the proudest accomplishment I’ve achieved in my life is sobriety and living “awake.” Life is hard… it’s really hard. It’s so easy to “check out” when the going gets tough. Being awake and living mindfully is much more rewarding in the end though. I am proud of myself for that, but I’m not a hero.
Kendra: Will the rest of My Name is Ames fall in line with “Old Hero” in terms of mood, or are we getting a wide array of emotions on the record?
Ames: You’ll find a wide array! A few tracks are very pop-leaning, bittersweet in lyric, but upbeat. There’s a pretty quirky song in there, and then a song I wrote for my mother. So… it’s up and down, but that’s me!
Kendra: Will you be touring now that the album is out?
Ames: I’m unsure what the future holds for me just yet! I divide my time pretty evenly between my own project and writing with other artists for THEIR projects. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing folks. I’d like to continue being of service to them as much as I can. At the end of the day, I’m always a songwriter.