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Amber Mark Opens Up About The 4-Year Journey Of Grief, Growth And Spiritual Awakening That Led To 'Three Dimensions Deep'
Amber Mark

Photo: NELSON HUANG

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Amber Mark Opens Up About The 4-Year Journey Of Grief, Growth And Spiritual Awakening That Led To 'Three Dimensions Deep'

The sparkling keys, otherworldly synths and fearless songwriting on 'Three Dimensions Deep' is as much the result of Amber Mark's personal growth as it is an homage to the essence of her mother, and their shared love of being different

GRAMMYs/Mar 6, 2022 - 02:48 pm

Musicians who don’t fit neatly into one genre or label often experience resistance. Based on  appearance, a previous single, or even background, listeners create expectations for the artist’s future work; more times than not, they are disappointed when the artist doesn’t meet their expectations. Amber Mark — a singer/songwriter who has had multiple evolutions in her six-year career—  has experienced this on a musical and personal level.

So, in an act of introspection (and rebellion), Mark crafted her most personal and ambitious project yet. Three Dimensions Deep offers an intimate view of Mark's life through introspective lyrics and sonically diverse production. The album is full of boom-bap, Afrobeats, dance, '80s pop and trap influences and yet, somehow, is still unapologetically Amber Mark. "This album has so many sounds, cultures, and textures because it represents me and my life. I’m not what you expect me to be; I’m me."

Her late mother, Mia Mark (who gave birth to her on a "spiritual midwifery farm" in Chattanooga, Tenn.), was responsible for Amber’s fearless mindset. The two lived a nomadic lifestyle during Marks' childhood; their bond growing unshakeable as they globetrotted from Munich to Berlin, to Nepal, and NYC. 

But with alternative lifestyles comes unwanted opinions. Mia’s unconventional parenting, including homeschooling as the family traveled, was often the subject of scrutiny from prying outside forces. "I grew up with this free-spirited woman that not a lot of people agreed with," Mark recalls. "A lot of people told her, ‘you can’t do that to your child.’ [Laughs]. But I’m thankful that she did. It made me who I am today."

After Mia passed away in 2013 at the age of 60, Mark channeled her grief into her music. "S P A C E," a single about one of the stages of grief from Mark's 2016 debut project, 3:33am, soon gained traction on SoundCloud. One thing was becoming  clear: Amber Mark had arrived.

Six years later, Three Dimensions Deep reconciles the end of their relationship with Mark’s spiritual awakening. The 17-track LP is a journey through the inner workings of who Amber Mark is as a Black Woman, navigating an unjust world with the ever-evolving pedagogy of her womanhood, first delicately planted by her mother.

The hip-hop-inspired "One" kicks off the album with Marks asking her mother for guidance in both her musical and personal life. Taking on the perspective and stance of her mother on "Out of This World," Mark desires to grant herself the kind of reassurance that Mia would. The sparkling keys, otherworldly synths and fearless songwriting on Three Dimensions Deep is as much the result of personal growth as it is an homage to the beautiful essence of her matriarchal figure and their shared love of being different.

In celebration of Women’s History Month and the release of Three Dimensions Deep, Mark spoke with GRAMMY.com about how the power of Black womanhood informed her creative decisions in the album’s creation.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Before we jump into your fantastic album, I wanted to take some time to understand the bond you had, and continue to have, with your mother.

Our mothers, or mother figures in our lives, are always the biggest influence on children. For many reasons, my mom was kind of out there and in her own la-la land most of the time. She was a German free-spirit woman who loved to travel a lot. She fell in love with the movement in the '60s, really got into Buddhism then, and even as a young kid, she was really into that stuff. 

When she got older and moved to America, it further flourished, so I grew up around this woman who not a lot of people agreed with due to taking me out of school. People would often say, "you know, you can’t do that to your child." [Laughs]. But I’m thankful that she did because it brought out so many cultures and sounds that I put into my music. I don’t think that I would necessarily be attracted to those specific sounds if I hadn’t been surrounded by those cultures as a kid, so I feel she had a significant influence on me at that point. 

Just her free-spiritedness impacted me as well. And the things that I find annoying about her too, that may have definitely influenced me unwillingly. As we get older, we realize more and more that we are our parents. 

Not only did you craft a fire body of work with Three Dimensions Deep, but it’s glued together with a cohesive theme that then branches into smaller themes. But the essence of your mother and the unshakeable love you have for her can be felt throughout the whole album. How important was it to show the growth of your artistry and your very existence as a woman in constructing Three Dimensions Deep?

It wasn’t something that I thought about too much; I was writing whatever I was feeling, and the spirit of my mom, the memory of her, is still very prominent in my life — which probably will be for the rest of my life. I always knew I wanted to incorporate her energy throughout the music. 

You mentioned "One," and the chorus on that song where I say "up above," and people think I mean God and which, yes, it can be totally looked at in that way, but it’s really me talking "I want to make you proud of me, up above" in referring to my mom.  I still do look to her for answers, but more in a spiritual way. Because this album has so much to do with taking this journey through the universe within…it made sense, almost inevitable, that she would be incorporated in the music. It really became this fruition of gaining this feminine energy and power.

I had certain insecurities with who I was as a person and throughout my career, and I was going through what we all go through in relationships: questioning your capabilities. Like many artists, I used music as a form of therapy; it’s how I process what it is I’m going through, so I started writing about those feelings. 

You said creating this album became a long spiritual journey. How long did the creation process take?

This album has been four years in the making, so we needed to touch up every song. Last year we touched all of the songs on the album and "Out Of This World," which the beat was made in 2017; I didn’t touch anything vocally or lyrically until last year. There is growth within the music and the album itself, for sure. Just to look back at some of the demos I had been making in 2017 compared to the demos that I make now, it’s crazy to see the growth that I’ve had in my own production, writing lyrics and making melodies. 

My fiancé and I have been listening to you for some time, so we can hear the growth vocally and totally. Even the production you chose to perform on. As a fan, it was interesting to listen to you work out life’s obstacles almost in real time as you show us your insecurities, vulnerabilities and flaws in the process. And even though you don’t have all the answers, it was the brave and courageous attempt to go head up with these grand, ambitious ideals that life plagues our minds with. So, how did it feel on a psychological level to go from the caterpillar to butterfly over the course of four years?

Oh, God, there’s been so many moments — it’s really been a roller coaster — because there have been moments where I go, "damn, I can’t believe that I wrote this song, this is insane!" I really feel that I’ve gotten to a point where I feel this confidence…

Aye, not to cut you off, Amber, but that is exactly how I felt when I heard "Darkside" [Both laugh]. I was like, "sis is taking us to a level we have not seen from her before. Wow!" That song is crazy! I’m sorry, keep going, please!

I had been listening to a lot of '80s vibes during that time of writing [the album], and I hadn’t written anything yet, but I knew I wanted to go in that direction. And I knew I was going to get a little weird with it. But I felt like people…would be like, "what, R&B? Okay, I see you, she’s dabbling in Hip-Hop, okay," and then all of a sudden there’s this blaring 80s vibe! But people seem to be responding to it really well, so I’m happy. 

The thing though that I was most eager to do with this album, in terms of growth and the feeling of metamorphosis or transitioning into a beautiful butterfly, was really just me trying to experiment with as many sounds that I have always dreamt of dabbling in and genres that I dreamt of dabbling in. I think "Darkside" is a perfect example of that. 

I am so lucky to have Julian Bunetta, who co-executive produced the album. I would come to him with demos like "Darkside" and "Out of This World" — I didn’t even realize that the 808 I put in was not in the right key for half the time because I was making the beat on my headphones while I was on tour way back when. But [Julian] was so accepting and excited to try and experiment with all these different types of sounds; he also confirmed all these questions I had with my music-making abilities when it came to production. He was very much like a music sensei or a Jedi Master.

I don’t know if I’ve gotten to the butterfly stage yet; I don’t know, maybe I have. It’s like Pokemon: you evolve, but there are more evolutions. There’s always more to learn from and grow from, so hopefully, I can continue expanding. 

I definitely think you got to the Butterfree stage; I don’t want to use a weak Pokemon...

I love Butterfree!

Same! I think one of the most intriguing aspects of your album is the way you dive into grand and ambitious questions: Where do you stand in the face of the universe? How can you mesh the powers of spirituality and the scientific into one creative process? Why is the world so full of hatred and suffering? What happened to this relationship? Which are all the makings of a classic existential crisis. Why did you choose to use your womanhood grown from the relationship with your mother as a basis of power to face these tough questions throughout Three Dimensions Deep?

I always want there to be some kind of motivational feeling behind my music because I love music that does that.

I didn’t set out with the intention to write about a specific story. I never have those kinds of intentions going into any of my projects; even with 3:33amand Conexão, I was just writing what I was going through or what I was feeling at the time. Sometimes it would be significantly later, and I wanted to go back to a feeling that I had gone through and wanted to release through song. It wasn’t till, I would say, 2020…when [Three Dimensions Deep] became a spiritual, scientific concept.

I’m so grateful for the extra time that I had because we got to postpone the album in 2020 because it allowed me to look at the music and the tracks… that were already written and ask the songs "what is the story that I’m trying to tell here? Where is the direction? What is the journey that I’m trying to go on here?" And when you look at the music, it’s like putting all the puzzle pieces together and seeing this storyline.

I went in with that intention while I was rummaging through old beats, and it was crazy because "What It Is" was the first song that I had ever worked on with Julian the first day we met, and I never touched it after that; I completely forgot about it. So it was exciting finding that song and doing full circle; I immediately felt inspired and decided to lay down vocals that honed in on the concept.

There were certain songs that came in later, like "Worth It" [and] "Event Horizon" … [that] were written once I had the concept for the album…. [which was] self-discovery, tapping back into my spirituality that I felt I had become quite disassociated with.

For so long Black people, especially Black women, have been pigeonholed into this "urban" category. As a Black woman thriving off of her diverse palette and complex musical range, you're doubling  down on the fact that Black musicians are not just R&B and rap — we are so much more. What do you hope young women and men, who are looking at you as their icon, take from your journey?

As a Black artist, you really do get pigeonholed, and it’s kinda coming at you from all different angles, and people will always associate you with the one artist who is doing something "kind of weird" if you’re doing something "kind of weird." What you said about me expressing this variety of sound and genres, tapping into a multitude of influences and proving otherwise, that’s the biggest compliment I could ever receive, so thank you for saying that.

But to be able to do that for the youth, regardless of gender, is so exciting; to be able to send that message to them and for our people, that’s what is driving me to continue doing this. That’s what’s motivating me and inspiring me; it’s symbiotic; I’m putting out stuff, and I’m receiving it, they’re putting out stuff, and I’m receiving it.

It’s all about doing what makes you happy and what you’re proud of, and sharing that with the world. Everyone is going to have their opinion, but what matters is really are you, yourself, excited to share these things with the world? That’s what’s going to make you feel the most accomplished and excited. Listen to your intuition and what feels good within yourself. Use that as motivation and freely express yourself. We can do anything.

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Beyoncé To Alison Krauss: 9 Times Women Made GRAMMY History

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Beyoncé To Alison Krauss: 9 Times Women Made GRAMMY History

Celebrate Women's History month with Ella Fitzgerald's firsts, Alison Krauss and Beyoncé's mosts, and more history-making women at the GRAMMYs

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

Updated May 5, 2021.

To highlight Women's History Month this March, we dug into our archives all the way back to the GRAMMY Awards' beginnings in 1958 to acknowledge the women who have made GRAMMY — and music — history. From the first women to ever win a GRAMMY to the top GRAMMY-winning woman, first female GRAMMY performers and the first female GRAMMY host, take a look at nine examples of how women blazed trails through the lens of the GRAMMYs.

Ella Fitzgerald: The first woman to win multiple GRAMMYs

The 1st GRAMMY Awards took place in 1958, and women were among the first crop of recipients. The first female multiple GRAMMY winner was jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, who took home two statues: Best Vocal Performance, Female and Best Jazz Performance, Individual. The roster of first-time female GRAMMY winners also included Keely Smith, Salli Terry, Barbara Cook, Pert Kelton, Helen Raymond, and Renata Tebaldi.

Who were the first women to win GRAMMYs in the General Field?

The General Field categories — Record, Song and Album Of The Year and Best New Artist — are among some of the most coveted awards in music. Astrud Gilberto became the first woman to win Record Of The Year when she won with Stan Getz for "The Girl From Ipanema" for 1964. The first Song Of The Year female win went to Carole King for "You've Got A Friend" for 1971. The first female Best New Artist was country singer/songwriter Bobbie Gentry. And the first female winner for Album Of The Year went to Judy Garland for 1961 for Judy At Carnegie Hall.

Carole King: The first woman to win multiple General Field GRAMMYs

The first woman to win multiple GRAMMYs in the General Field was King, when she swept Record ("It's Too Late"), Album (Tapestry) and Song Of The Year ("You've Got A Friend") for 1971. The first women to win multiple GRAMMYs in the same General Field categories include Roberta Flack, who took Record Of The Year for 1972 and 1973, for "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and "Killing Me Softly With His Song," respectively. Lauryn Hill, Norah Jones and Alison Krauss have each won Album Of The Year twice, but only once in each case for their own recordings. Taylor Swift won Album Of The Year twice for 2009 and 2015, the first woman to do so as a solo artist. At the 59th GRAMMYs, Adele became the second solo female artist to win Album Of The Year twice. Additionally, she became the first artist in GRAMMY history to sweep Record, Song and Album Of The Year twice in her career, after doing so for 2011 and again for 2016.

Beyoncé: The woman with the most GRAMMY wins

At the 63rd GRAMMY Awards in 2021, Beyoncé became the performing artist with the most career GRAMMY wins ever (28) as well as the most nominated woman artist (79). (Quincy Jones also has 28 GRAMMY wins, yet primarily as a producer/composer).

Read: Who Are The Top GRAMMY Awards Winners Of All Time? Who Has The Most GRAMMYs?

Ella Fitzgerald, Wanda Jackson: The first women to perform on the GRAMMYs

The first televised GRAMMY event, a taped "NBC Sunday Showcase," in honor of the 2nd GRAMMY Awards, aired Nov. 29, 1959. It was Fitzgerald's performance on this broadcast that earned her the distinction of being the first woman to take the GRAMMY stage. When the GRAMMYs transitioned to a live television broadcast format for the 13th GRAMMY Awards in 1971, the first solo female performer was country singer Wanda Jackson singing "Wonder Could I Live There Anymore."

Bonnie Raitt: The most GRAMMY performances

Singer/songwriter Bonnie Raitt is the woman who has performed the most at the GRAMMYs. From her first solo performance of "Thing Called Love" at the 32nd GRAMMY Awards in 1990 through her latest performance in honor of B.B. King with Chris Stapleton and Gary Clark Jr. at the 58th GRAMMY Awards, Raitt has graced the stage nine times. In a tie for a close second are Franklin and Whitney Houston, who each notched eight career GRAMMY performances.

Watch: All the GRAMMY performers from the 1960s–1970s

Whoopi Goldberg: The first female GRAMMY host

Whoopi Goldberg served as the GRAMMYs' first female host at the 34th GRAMMY Awards in 1992. An EGOT (Emmy, GRAMMY, Oscar, and Tony) winner, the comedian already had an impressive array of credentials when she helmed the GRAMMY stage. Not one to shy away from pushing the envelope, she delivered arguably one of the raunchiest jokes in GRAMMY history when referencing the show's accounting firm: "I must tell you, Deloitte & Touche are two things I do nightly."

And the first female Special Merit Awards recipients were?

The inaugural Recording Academy Special Merit Award was given in 1963 to Bing Crosby, but it wasn't long until women made their mark. Fitzgerald was the first woman to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award in 1967. The first woman to receive a Trustees Award was Christine M. Farnon in 1992, who served as The Recording Academy's National Executive Director for more than 20 years. Liza Minnelli became the first female artist to receive a GRAMMY Legend Award in 1990.

The first recordings by women to be inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame

Established in 1973 by The Academy's Board of Trustees to honor outstanding recordings that were made before the inception of the GRAMMY Awards, the first female recipients were inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame in 1976. Billie Holiday's "God Bless The Child" marked the first solo female recording. Gershwin's Porgy & Bess (Opera Version), featuring Camilla Williams, and the original Broadway cast version of "Oklahoma!," featuring Joan Roberts, were inducted into the Hall that same year.

From Abbey Road to "Zip-A-Dee-Doo Dah," view the full list of GRAMMY Hall Of Fame recordings

 

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The GRAMMYs' Trailblazing Women, Part One

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

By Paul Grein

Women have been making history at the GRAMMYs as long as the awards have been presented. In 1958, the first year of the awards, Ella Fitzgerald won two awards: Best Vocal Performance, Female, and Best Jazz Performance, Individual. Opera star Renata Tebaldi and pop singer Keely Smith also took home awards.

Since March is Women's History Month, let's see which women were the first to win in various GRAMMY categories.

These are the first women to win in each current category that has been in place for at least five years. There are 56 categories that meet these criteria, so we're dividing the list in two. Today, we'll look at 26 categories, including Best Comedy Album, Best Music Video and Producer Of The Year, Classical. Tomorrow, we'll look at the remaining 30 categories (including the "big four" awards) as well as the Special Merit Awards.

The fine print: The category names are as they appeared this year. In many cases, the wording has changed over the years. Except in categories that exclusively recognize behind-the-scenes contributions, the focus here is on the first female artists to win. Where the first woman to win shared the prize with a man, we also show the first woman to win on her own.

Best Americana Album
Mavis Staples won the 2010 award for You Are Not Alone.

Best Bluegrass Album
Alison Krauss won the 1990 award for I've Got That Old Feeling.

Best Reggae Album
Sandra "Puma" Jones shared the 1984 award (the first year it was presented) with the male members of Black Uhuru for Anthem.

Best World Music Album
Cesária Évora took the 2003 award for Voz D'Amor.

Best Spoken Word Album (Includes Poetry, Audio Books & Storytelling)
Diane Linkletter won the 1969 award for We Love You, Call Collect, a collaboration with her father, TV personality Art Linkletter. The award was posthumous: Diane Linkletter committed suicide on Oct. 4, 1969, at age 20. Eight years later, actress Julie Harris became the first woman to win on her own for The Belle Of Amherst.

Best Comedy Album
Jo Stafford shared the 1960 award with her husband Paul Weston for Best Comedy Performance (Musical) for their comically off-key Jonathan And Darlene Edwards In Paris, which they released under those alter-egos. Eleven years later, Lily Tomlin became the first woman to win on her own for This Is A Recording.

Best Musical Theater Album
Broadway legends Ethel Merman and Gwen Verdon tied for the 1959 award. Merman won for "Gypsy"; Verdon for "Redhead." Micki Grant was the first woman to win for writing or co-writing a score. She won for 1972's "Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope."

Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media
Marilyn Bergman shared the 1974 award for The Way We Were with her husband, Alan Bergman, and Marvin Hamlisch.

Best Song Written For Visual Media
Cynthia Weil shared the 1987 award (the first year it was presented) for "Somewhere Out There" (from An American Tail). Weil co-wrote the ballad with her husband, Barry Mann, and James Horner. Two years later, Carly Simon became the first woman to win on her own for "Let The River Run" (from Working Girl).

Best Instrumental Composition
The late Jean Hancock shared the 1996 award with her brother, Herbie Hancock, for "Manhattan (Island Of Lights And Love)." The award was posthumous: Jean Hancock died in a 1985 plane crash. Maria Schneider was the first woman to win on her own. She took the 2007 award for "Cerulean Skies."

Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)
Joni Mitchell shared the 1974 award with Tom Scott for arranging "Down To You," a track from her GRAMMY Hall Of Fame-inducted album, Court And Spark. Nan Schwartz was the first woman to win on her own. She took the 2008 award for arranging Natalie Cole's recording of the standard "Here's That Rainy Day."

Best Recording Package
Jann Haworth shared the 1967 award with Peter Blake as art directors on the Beatles' landmark Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Janet Perr was the first woman to win on her own. She took the 1984 award as art director on Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual.

Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package
Gail Zappa shared the 1995 award with her late husband, Frank Zappa, as art directors for his Civilization Phaze III. (Frank Zappa died in 1993.) Susan Archie was the first woman to win on her own. She took the 2002 award as art director of Screamin' And Hollerin' The Blues — The Worlds Of Charley Patton.

Best Album Notes
Thulani Davis shared the 1992 award as an album notes writer on Aretha Franklin's Queen Of Soul — The Atlantic Recordings. Her co-winners were Tom Dowd, Ahmet Ertegun, Arif Mardin, Dave Marsh, David Ritz, and Jerry Wexler.

Best Historical Album
Ethel Gabriel shared the 1982 award as a producer of The Tommy Dorsey/Frank Sinatra Sessions — Vols. 1, 2 & 3. Her co-winners were Alan Dell and Don Wardell.

Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical
Trina Shoemaker shared the 1998 award for engineering Sheryl Crow's The Globe Sessions. Her co-winners were Tchad Blake and Andy Wallace. Eleven years later, Imogen Heap became the first woman to win on her own for engineering her own album, Ellipse.

Best Surround Sound Album
Darcy Proper shared the 2006 award as the surround mastering engineer on Donald Fagen's Morph The Cat. Her co-winners were Fagen and Elliot Scheiner.

Best Engineered Album, Classical
Leslie Ann Jones and Brandie Lane shared the 2010 award for engineering Quincy Porter: Complete Viola Works by Eliesha Nelson and John McLaughlin Williams. Their co-winners were Kory Kruckenberg and David Sabee. (Note: In 1999 Jones became the first female Chair of The Recording Academy's Board of Trustees.)

Producer Of The Year, Classical
Joanna Nickrenz shared the 1983 award with Marc Aubort. Ten years later, Judith Sherman became the first woman to win on her own.

Best Opera Recording
Jeannine Altmeyer, Ortrun Wenkel and Gwyneth Jones shared the 1982 award for their work on "Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen." Their co-winners were conductor Pierre Boulez, Peter Hofmann, Manfred Jung and Heinz Zednick.

Best Choral Performance
Margaret Hillis shared the 1977 award as choral director of "Verdi: Requiem" by the Chicago Symphony Chorus. Her co-winner was conductor Georg Solti.

Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance
Anne-Sophie Mutter shared the 1999 award with Lambert Orkis for "Beethoven: The Violin Sonatas."

Best Classical Vocal Solo
Soprano Renata Tebaldi took the 1958 award (the first year of the GRAMMYs) for "Operatic Recital."

Best Contemporary Classical Composition
Joan Tower took the 2007 award for composing "Made In America," recorded by Leonard Slatkin and the Nashville Symphony.

Best Music Video/Best Music Film
Olivia Newton-John won the 1982 award for Video Of The Year for Olivia Physical, a 13-song video album. Today, that would fall into the Best Music Film category. Paula Abdul won the 1990 award for Best Music Video — Short Form for "Opposites Attract." Today, that would fall into the Best Music Video category.

And that's just half of the list. Come back tomorrow for part two, which will feature such stars as Judy Garland, Carole King, Madonna, Shakira, and Patti LaBelle.

(Paul Grein, a veteran music journalist and historian, writes regularly for Yahoo Music.)

Amber Mark On "Mixer," Her Upcoming Single "What If," Being Driven Around By Redman & More

Amber Mark 

Photo: Nate Hertweck/The Recording Academy

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Amber Mark On "Mixer," Her Upcoming Single "What If," Being Driven Around By Redman & More

"It's like my baby. I love that song. I've been working on it for two years now," the singer/songwriter told the Recording Academy about her next single

GRAMMYs/Jun 7, 2019 - 03:16 am

If you haven't yet listened to singer/songwriter and producer Amber Mark's "Mixer," stop and do so now. While you're at it, press play on "Love Me Right" too. 

The New York-based artist raised traveling the globe is showing her worldly musical inspirations through 3:33 am, greatly inspired by her mother's deathand 2018's Conexão EP. Her sound is a fresh mix of soul, bossa nova and R&B that she prodcues herself and the world needs to listen. 

When she's not creating her own stuff, she's collaborating with creatives like GRAMMY-winning songwriter, musician and producer  Andrew Wyatt, who won a golden gramophone at the 2019 GRAMMY Awards for Lady Gaga and Bradely Cooper's "Shallow." 

The Recording Academy caught up with Mark at Governors Ball in New York City to talk her next single "What If," what soul music means to her, the advice she has for aspiring music artists and more. 

It's your first time here. Tell me what your impression is of Governor's Ball.

This isn't my first time being here, but it's my first time performing, so it's been a whole new world for me. It's really exciting. We just finished performing and I'm still like high from it, from the adrenaline and stuff like that. It's been pretty amazing. We performed on the main stage and it was my first time having like back up dancers and stuff like that. We kind of did it big this time around and I really enjoyed it. I had a really good time. The audience really loved it and now I just got golf-carted here by Redman, so I'm having a really good time. 

That's amazing. It sounds surreal. It sounds like a dream that you have. 

It's very surreal. I don't feel like I'm actually doing this right now, at all. 

"Mixer" is everywhere now and you just released a visual for the acoustic version. Tell us about that song. What does it mean to you and why was it important for you to give it so much love? 

It's one of my favorite kind of dancey songs that I've put out ... I'd always put a lot of meaningful songs out and stuff like that and I really kind of just wanted to have fun, kind of like a jam ,vibe song out as a single. Andrew Wyatt approached me with it and said that he thought this song was perfect for me and that he kind of wrote it after he had seen me perform. And that inspired the whole lyrics behind it and stuff like that. I heard it immediately and was like yes, I'm so down, let's do it. And then one thing lead to another you know?

It's a tough act to follow... what's next for you, musically?

I was actually working on a visual for a new song that's coming out called, "What If." It's going to be out next week, it's really exciting. It's like my baby. I love that song. I've been working on it for two years now. So I'm glad it's finally out ... Or will be out. We were working on the visual for that, and I've just been rehearsing like non stop for this show. I've never like done choreographed dance before. So it was a lot of that. It just was a lot of me dancing and rehearsing with the band and visual shooting and all of that stuff.

You've had a huge year since we first saw you last year on tour. What for you personally and artistically has changed in the past year the most?

I think the performances have been like a huge change for me and just how I go about putting out music, I think understanding the flow of that more and my knowledge of production and stuff like that. I think I'm still pretty slow when it comes to that because I really like to take my time with lyrics and stuff like that. But, as far as just not being as nervous of being in the studio and not being as nervous about putting music out and what people will think about it, and all that stuff, really just kind of going from inside and what feels good to me, .I think I've really learned a lot from.

You're such a soulful artist - I'm curious what "soul" means to you. Not as a genre, but just as a term or a concept.

That's a good question... I think soul to me personally is more just expressing what is inside of you, what you're really feeling strongly. A lot of the time for me, personally, I've always had a hard time expressing myself because I wasn't really sure that what I was feeling was the right feeling, or I wasn't really sure what I was feeling at all. That's why I kind of turned to music. I think it's just really gaining understanding of what you feel inside and really just believing in that and being passionate about that, no matter what it is. It could be being a janitor, it doesn't matter. As long as you put soul into it.

Do you have any advice for anybody that's getting into this world? Maybe what you wish you knew? 

I think you should really follow your heart. I think that's really important because I think that's what people will really direct towards, is you being yourself. I think just put your music out there, don't feel like you need to go to a label and stuff like that. I just put my stuff out there after waiting years and years and realized that I don't need to rely on people. And that's when people started coming to me. So, I think that's the most important part, and just always believe in everything that you do.

Anything else you wanted to mention, or talk about that's coming up?

Redman is driving a golf cart, so if you're here, you probably won't know this because I don't know when this is coming out. But he's driving a golf cart here, and it's pretty insane. And I'm freaking out!

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The GRAMMYs' Trailblazing Women, Part Two

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

By Paul Grein

Judy Garland made history at the 4th GRAMMY Awards, becoming the first woman to win in one of the "big four" categories. She achieved the feat when her classic album Judy At Carnegie Hall won Album Of The Year for 1961.

In 1990 Garland's daughter, Liza Minnelli, became the first woman to receive a GRAMMY Legend Award.

In honor of Women's History Month, we're taking a look at the women who were the first to win in the current GRAMMY categories.

In part one, we looked at 26 categories, including Best Comedy Album, Best Music Video and Producer Of The Year, Classical. Today, we're going to look at the other 30 categories, including the "big four" awards, as well as The Recording Academy's Special Merit Awards.

Astrud Gilberto was the first woman to win Record Of The Year. She shared the 1964 award with Stan Getz for "The Girl From Ipanema." Carole King was the first woman to win in that category on her own. She took the 1971 award for "It's Too Late." King was also the first woman to win for Song Of The Year. She won that same year for writing "You've Got A Friend."

Bobbie Gentry was the first woman to win Best New Artist. She took the award for 1967, the year of her classic, "Ode To Billie Joe."

In 1967 Ella Fitzgerald became the first woman to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award. Another jazz legend, Billie Holiday, was the first woman to have a recording inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame. In 1976 voters saluted her 1941 classic "God Bless The Child."

In 1992 Christine M. Farnon, who was The Recording Academy's first full-time employee, became the first woman to receive a Trustees Award.

Let's conclude our look at the first women to win in every current category that has been in place for at least five years.

The fine print: The category names are as they appeared this year. In many cases, the wording has changed over the years. Except in categories that exclusively recognize behind-the-scenes contributions, the focus here is on the first female artists to win. Where the first woman to win shared the prize with a man, we also show the first woman to win on her own.

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
Keely Smith shared the 1958 award (the first year the GRAMMYs were presented) with her husband Louis Prima for "That Old Black Magic." The Pointer Sisters were the first all-female group or duo to win. They took the 1984 award for "Jump (For My Love)."

Best Pop Vocal Album
Bonnie Raitt won the 1994 award (the first year it was presented) for Longing In Their Hearts.

Best Dance Recording
Donna Summer shared the 1997 award (the first year it was presented) for "Carry On," a collaboration with Giorgio Moroder. The following year, Madonna became the first woman to win her own for "Ray Of Light." (Note: Gloria Gaynor won the 1979 award for Best Disco Recording for "I Will Survive.")

Best Dance/Electronica Album
Madonna won the 2006 award for Confessions On A Dance Floor.

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album
Natalie Cole took the 1991 award (the first year it was presented) for "Unforgettable." The single (the category was open to singles that year) featured her late father, Nat "King" Cole.

Best Rock Song
Alanis Morissette shared the 1995 award with Glen Ballard for "You Oughta Know." The following year, Tracy Chapman became the first woman to win on her own, for "Give Me One Reason."

Best Rock Album
Alanis Morissette won the 1995 award for Jagged Little Pill.

Best Alternative Music Album
Sinéad O'Connor won the 1990 award (the first year it was presented) for I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got.

Best Traditional R&B Performance
Patti LaBelle won the 1998 award (the first year it was presented) for Live! — One Night Only.

Best R&B Song
Betty Wright shared the 1975 award for co-writing her R&B hit "Where Is The Love" with Harry Wayne Casey, Willie Clarke and Richard Finch. Lauryn Hill was the first woman to win on her own. She took the 1998 award for writing her smash "Doo Wop (That Thing)."

Best R&B Album
The female trio TLC won the 1995 award for CrazySexyCool.

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
"Let Me Blow Ya Mind" by Eve featuring Gwen Stefani won the 2001 award (the first year it was presented).

Best Rap Song
Miri Ben Ari shared the 2004 award for co-writing Kanye West's "Jesus Walks" with West and Che Smith.

Best Rap Album
Lauryn Hill shared the 1996 award as a member of Fugees for their album The Score.

Best Country Duo/Group Performance
Verna Kimberly and Vera Kimberly of the Kimberlys shared the 1969 award (the first year it was presented) for "MacArthur Park," a collaboration with Waylon Jennings. Five years later, the Pointer Sisters became the first all-female group or duo to win for "Fairytale." (They were also the first all-female group or duo to win the equivalent pop award. What are the odds?)

Best Country Song
Debbie Hupp shared the 1979 award with Bob Morrison for co-writing Kenny Rogers' hit "You Decorated My Life." Two years later, Dolly Parton became the first woman to win on her own for "9 To 5."

Best Country Album
Mary Chapin Carpenter won the 1994 award for Stones In The Road.

Best New Age Album
Enya won the 1992 award for Shepherd Moons.

Best Jazz Vocal Album
Ella Fitzgerald won the 1976 award (the first year it was presented) for Fitzgerald And Pass…Again, on which she was accompanied by jazz guitarist Joe Pass.

Best Jazz Instrumental Album
This award has been presented every year since the inception of the GRAMMYs in 1958, but until this year, no female had won it. Terri Lyne Carrington broke the barrier in January with Money Jungle: Provocative In Blue.

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
Maria Schneider Orchestra took the 2004 award for Concert In The Garden.

Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance
Gladys Knight shared the 2004 award (the first year it was presented) with Ray Charles. They won for "Heaven Help Us All," a track from his album, Genius Loves Company. The following year, CeCe Winans became the first woman to win on her own for "Pray."

Best Gospel Song
Yolanda Adams shared the 2005 award (the first year it was presented) for "Be Blessed," which she co-wrote with Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and James Q. "Big Jim" Wright. Two years later, Karen Clark-Sheard of the Clark Sisters became the first woman to win on her own for "Blessed & Highly Favored."

Best Latin Pop Album
Lani Hall won the 1985 award for Es Facil Amar.

Best Latin Rock, Urban Or Alternative Album
Shakira won the 2005 award for Fijación Oral Vol. 1.

Best Tropical Latin Album
Celia Cruz shared the 1989 award with Ray Barretto for Ritmo En El Corazon. Three years later, Linda Ronstadt became the first woman to win on her own for Frenesi.

(Paul Grein, a veteran music journalist and historian, writes regularly for Yahoo Music.)