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Amerie mesmerizes music fans with her exotic appearance of Korean and African American mix and a delicate and pleasant voice. She grew up on military bases from Alaska to Germany, meanwhile gaining an appreciation of the classical arts from her Korean mother and of R&B music from her African American Miltary member father. She studied dance from an early age and performed in talent contests throughout her youth. After her high school graduation, her family finally settled down in Virginia, while she began to attend Georgetown University, from which she later graduated with a degree in English and Fine Arts. While living in Washington, D.C., she met producer Rich Harrison, who worked with such performers as Mary J. Blige, and began developing demos with him. They led to a deal with Rise Entertainment and, in turn, with Columbia Records. In the spring of 2002, Rise/Columbia released Amerie's debut single, "Why Don't We Fall in Love." By the time her first album, All I Have, appeared that July, the single had reached the Top 20 of the R&B/hip-hop charts and the Top 40 of the pop charts.
More fun facts about Amerie
Birthday: January 12, 1980
Birth Name: Amerie Rogers
Is signed to Columbia Records.
Her debut album, All I Have, went gold.
In 2003, Amerie won a Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul Or Rap New Artist.
Her father is Black and her mother is Korean-American.
Worked with: LL Cool J
January 26, 2005 New Single called "One Thing" should be playing in radios right now, and should be on mixtapes from each DJ's.
Amerie's "Why Don't We Fall In Love," is an enthralling blast from hip hop soul's past
Amerie Rogers knows the question's coming. "What's your background?" Chicago's Power 92 DJ Donnie "the Freakin' Puerto Rican" DeVoe asks the R&B singer on air. "You look sort of Oriental-ish." While promoting the shimmering debut single "Why Don't We Fall In Love," off her new album, All I Have, the 22-year-old daughter of a black dad and Korean mom takes the opportunity to spread a little enlightenment.
"Actually, 'Oriental' is for things; 'Asian' is for people," she says. The grouchy jock is taken aback, evidently unaccustomed to being corrected on his own show. But after glimpsing her wide, sweet grin, he cracks a smile.
"It's like having a forum," Amerie (rhymes with "Hey, Marie"), who was born in Fitchburg, Mass., says later of her newfound radio-friendly voice. "It gives you the opportunity to stand up and say something." Her cheerfulness also disarmed D.C.—based producer Rich Harrison, the cocreator of Mary J. Blige's "Beautiful Ones" and "In the Meantime." Harrison met Amerie two years ago in D.C., while she was pursuing an English degree at Georgetown University. They began work on All I Have, which is so artfully arranged it sounds like feng shui R&B. Their most remarkable collaboration, "Why Don't We Fall In Love," is an enthralling blast from hip hop soul's past, with vintage strings, funky horn squawks, and pillowy drums evoking staples like Blige's "Real Love."
Harrison thinks Amerie's bright outlook offers R&B listeners a much needed alternative. "Pain has been done, and it's been done really well," he says. "But I think it's time to show another side of urban women."
Amerie's up to the task—by the end of her on-air interview, she has won over DeVoe with her sunny charm. "I didn't know Koreans and black folks could make such beautiful babies," he says. Now he knows their offspring can make beautiful music, too.
Blessed with keen intelligence and stunning good looks, Amerie could have chosen any number of career paths. Yet from an early age, the 22-year-old R&B chanteuse knew what her future held. "It sounds like a cliché," she says, "but I always knew I was going to sing. I always knew that music was what I was going to do." You can hear that desire in Amerie's voice. It's a voice that's sweet, sassy, and sultry, with a hint of bad girl edge. Amerie's brand of soul is both infectious and intoxicating, and it's evident throughout All I Have, her sizzling Columbia debut.
Asked to describe All I Have, Amerie offers, "The music and the lyrics really put you into a zone. When (producer/songwriter) Rich Harrison and I began creating the record, we knew that fusing beautiful melodies with hard, hip-hop beats would move people. I think we've accomplished that."
The proof can be heard in Amerie's 12-inch single, "Why Don't We Fall In Love." Leaked to radio in the spring of 2002, "Why Don't We Fall in Love" exploded, creating a strong buzz and heavy anticipation for Amerie's album. It's no wonder why the public and the programmers responded so enthusiastically. Laced with a sultry undercurrent, fueled by an uplifting message about finding your soulmate and being in love with your dreams, meanwhile propelled by Amerie's rock steady vocals, "Why Don't We Fall In Love" is more than a hot track; it's the opening salvo from a singer who has elevated the stakes for hip-hop soul.
What's remarkable about Amerie's rise is how fast it's occurred. She and Rich (whose previous credits include Mary J. Blige) began laying down the foundation for the album just two years ago, and now All I Have is showing the world just how much Amerie has got to give. "It's been pretty amazing," she admits. "We really worked hard on those songs and just let our creativity go. I guess this is what happens when you're focused, have good people around you, and trust your heart and your instincts."
Amerie's mother is from Korea and her dad is an African-American from North Philly. Amerie was raised in a military family, so the family moved often; she lived on bases from Alaska to Germany. The traveling stopped when the family moved to Virginia, and Amerie to Washington DC, which she has called home for several years.
Through her mother, who is a painter, singer, and classical pianist, Amerie was exposed to the arts. Bolstered by those influences, Amerie began gravitating towards pop and R&B, getting into Madonna, Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton and Whitney Houston. Along with a healthy dose of divas and classical composers, Amerie dipped into her father's old soul collection. As she puts it, "My taste was pretty well-rounded."
With the love of music and the desire to perform driving her, Amerie started studying dance, and in the 3rd grade, began to enter talent shows, which she continued to do throughout high school. After high school graduation, Amerie's family moved from Alaska to the East Coast, and once she had settled into her new hometown, Amerie decided to take her dreams to the next level; she began looking for an opportunity to get into the music business. "Being in DC offered me more opportunities for singing and meeting other musicians," Amerie explains. Not only was she trying to break into the industry, but Amerie was also attending prestigious Georgetown University, where she graduated with a degree in English and Fine Arts.
Through a friend, Amerie was introduced to DC native Rich, whose production skills had already caught the ears of noted industry heavyweights Jeff Burroughs and Darryl Williams of Rise Entertainment and Edwin Holmes of EHM. Rich and Amerie got together, meeting for the first time in a McDonald's parking lot. "Not too glamorous, huh?" Amerie laughs. After Amerie heard Rich's tracks, and Rich heard her sing, the work began. Quickly she and Rich realized that they not only had common goals, but great creative chemistry as well. "We would just sit and brainstorm and it just flowed from there," she remembers. One song became two, two became three, and three grew to five, becoming a demo. Within months, that demo made its way to Columbia Records, where Amerie was immediately offered a deal. Soon, she was not only recording her own album, but also working on collaborations with labelmates Nas and Royce da 5' 9". "Writing on those songs, along with recording them, was a great experience for me," she says. "It really felt good to work with such respected artists."
From the moment Amerie entered the studio to record All I Have, she knew that she wanted to unleash a sound that was gritty, yet melodic. Pretty, yet tough. Something different, yet something familiar enough to entice listeners. Together, they married Rich's hard-edged beats and well-crafted melodies to Amerie's soaring vocals. You can hear the result in songs like the single, "Talkin' To Me." With its slinky steely guitars, an insistent groove, and Amerie's lilting vocal style, "Talkin' To Me" is a song that Amerie modestly describes as "'infectious.' It's about that chemistry you have with someone without even speaking." Then she adds, "There's a fresh feel to it; it's very cool and laid-back." The album offers smooth and jazzy love ballads like "Nothin' Like Loving You," while keeping the emotional level high with tracks like the edgy "I Just Died," which, as Amerie tells it, "is about a passion that is like no other."
Through all of this, Amerie makes sure to thank the One who made this all possible: "I wrote the outro, 'I'm Reminded,' as a thank-you to God for leading me to all of this. Through all the ups and downs and uncertainties, He was always in control. I was very passionate about my dreams, but I believe my parents' prayers really contributed to everything."
It's clear that passion is something that Amerie knows well. You can hear the passion and commitment to singing that has lead her to this point in her life and the making of this album. Now, she's getting the chance to live her dreams and bring her talent to the world. Ask Amerie what she wants fans to hear when they check out All I Have and her response is considered and thoughtful: "I'd like them to hear that this is real music. You can feel it. This music has substance, and in All I Have, you get a glimpse into Rich's life and mine as well.
Amerie: One on One
Soultrain.com: So Amerie, this is your first appearance on Soul Train. How does it feel?
Amerie: It feels really good to come to Soul Train. It's the first time I've ever been here, but it's definitely, definitely a dream come true. You know, to watch the Soul Train show on television as I was growing up, and then to finally be here, it makes everything seem unreal. But it's real!
ST.com: So tell us, what was the path you had to take to get your record deal?
Amerie: On the road to my record deal, I was met with some disappointment, of course, trying to get out there and do my best to let anyone hear me, anyone who could possibly help me, but it wasn't until I would say my fourth year of really, really working towards a career in music where things began to take off. I met Rich Harrison of Richcraft Incorporated - and that's my producer, he produced the whole album - and we worked together on a five-song demo and eventually I acquired a manager, Ed Holmes for EHM, who actually turns out to be my cousin. He was like, 'Well let me meet your parents and find out more about them and let them be more at ease with the whole business and everything.' And they were like, 'Yeah, such and such, and such and such,' and things were familiar so, he's actually my cuz, and we met together, as well as Rise Entertainment which is Jeff Burroughs and Darryl Williams, and we all pretty much went together with the five-song demo to Columbia Records where we were shopping the deal.
ST.com: Now, I know you call Washington, DC home, but you've been all over the place, right?
Amerie: I've lived all over the place. I've lived in Korea, in Germany, all over the states, like, Alaska, Texas, DC - which is my home now. I went to college in DC, so definitely that's a very, very special place to me.
ST.com: Now tell us about the time you got onstage in Alaska at the MC Lyte concert.
Amerie: At the MC Lyte concert... well actually, MC Lyte came, I should say, to start the story out with the New Year's. It was 1994... I think it was 1994, and MC Lyte came, and she just put on a show, and at the end she had an open call and she was letting everyone come onstage whether they wanted to rap, or sing, or dance or whatever, and the crowd was rough! They were a rough crowd 'cause they were throwing things, but I was jumping up and down, and I was like, 'I can sing, I can sing! Come on, come on!' Well, MC Lyte said, 'Pick her 'cause she looks like she could sing.' And the bodyguard found me and lifted me up and put me onto the stage, and I just grabbed the mic, turned around, and I just started singing. And I wasn't afraid until I stopped singing.
ST.com: Now I know you've worked very hard to get to this point, and it's all new and exciting. When you think back to the time when it was just a dream, is it like you thought it was gonna be, is it different, is it harder, is it easier?
Amerie: Well I can definitely say that so far with my career it's lived up to expectations. It's, I wouldn't say harder than what I thought it was going to be because I knew it was going to be a struggle. I mean, it's definitley a competitive area, but it's fun, and it's what I wanted to do - always. So, I think I would say it's more than what I thought it was going to be because I enjoy it more than I thought I would. I didn't think I would enjoy the traveling. I didn't think I'd love to perform because at the beginning, I had such tremendous stage fright that I dreaded every show and I was just like, 'Why, why can't I just stay in the studio and just do pictures and videos?' But it's great, and I actually love life on the road too.