She’s at the studio when we arrive, waiting patiently in the make-up chair, un-self-conscious as she bobs her head gently in time to the music on her iPod. Her name is Amber Davis, recording star, and we at PLAYBOY were 15 minutes late. In a business rife with divas (literal and figurative), prima donnas and showboaters with egos to spare, we braced ourselves for the worst. It’s somewhat of a surprise to be greeted with a disarmingly genuine smile and warm greeting on the Sunday morning of the shoot.
“Are you awake?” she asks innocently, referring to this writer’s coffee tumbler and generous eye bags.
With her easy laugh putting everyone infinitely more at ease, we start the interview.
To the average person, being onstage in a Japanese theme park to perform American pop tunes while cartoon characters dance along would sound like something out of a very strange dream. For Amber Davis, before breaking into the Philippine music scene, it was just another day at the office. As part of the popular Enwhy show at Universal Studios Japan, she and a band held their own onstage four times a day while the likes of Shrek, Fiona, Bert and Ernie danced for the crowd.
Performing to tourists in all kinds of weather is a far cry from where Ms. Davis now finds herself: a MYX VJ with two hit albums to her name and, more specifically, posing for the cover of PLAYBOY.
Amber Davis was born in Mesa, Arizona, to a Filipino mother and American father. The fifth of eight children, Amber first came to the Philippines on a family vacation, before moving here when she was five years old.
“I was exposed to a different culture than I was used to in the States. Going to see my cousins and everything, getting into the things they would get into, simple things like playing outside; my mom’s from Bulacan, so province games are a lot different form Metro Manila games. We would take paso, broken clay pots, and use them as chalk, stuff like that. When I was younger and living here, I didn’t really care for TV a whole lot, everything going on outside was so interesting to me. I would climb trees with my cousins, and even the neighbor’s roof, but my mom didn’t know!”
“My older brother sings very well. My sister sings, my younger brothers sing, and they’re always doing something in the entertainment side of things. They’ve just actually opened a studio in California, Studio 661, it’s a dance and music school, I just came from there, and was able to meet the students. My dad, I think he thinks he is (musically inclined), but he comes from a musical family, and his mom is a very good singer, a classical singer. My mom, of course, is the Filipino one, and every Filipino sings!”
Amber’s first performance experience, however, was hardly what one would call an auspicious debut. “I was about 6, and it was here, in Bulacan, and I sang, ‘The Greatest Love Of All”, and in the middle of it, I stopped, and ran off and started stage crying. I just didn’t like people staring at me, it just freaked me out!”
After attending grade school in the Philippines, Amber and her family moved back to the United States, eventually settling in California, where she completed her high school education. Staying true to her musical heritage, and getting over her childhood stage fright, Amber took part in school productions of Bye-Bye Birdie and Grease. In college, Amber worked at a daycare center and as a waitress to pay her bills before signing a recording contract with Portland Trailblazers forward Dale Davis’ World Ain’t Right Entertainment in 2004.
“I was with them for about a year. I got to meet R. Kelly, and I recorded two singles, I believe, for a movie they released, called Playa’s Ball, an indie film. And that was that. I was going to renew, but when I got the offer to go to Japan, I thought, hey, that sounds good! So unfortunately, I was in Japan when they released the film, but I think it worked out!”
During her year in Japan, Amber’s childhood experiences moving back and forth between the US and the Philippines came in handy, as she adjusted to life as an expat. “I definitely had to adapt! In the States, or even here (in the Philippines), you know, they don’t really call it tardiness until after a fifteen minute grace period. I learned little things like that. So every once in a while, I will be late on accident, but because of having lived there, I try to be on time.”
After completing her stint in Japan, Amber, along with producer-friend Marcus JR, decided to try her luck in the Philippines, which had always considered home. “I’ve always wanted to come back, I grew up here! When I left, actually, I was afraid to go back to the States, because I grew up here, and I was afraid of fitting in. So, I always planned on coming back here, because to me, this was home, this was where my friends were; people I consider family and everything. It’s always been my goal.”
Debuting on the Philippine music scene in 2006 with the album, Feel Good Music, Amber Davis took the industry by storm with her hit single, Manila. Performing double duty on her second album as singer-songwriter, Amber would go on to win the 2007 Awit Award for Best New Female Recording Artist, and was named RX 93.1’s Artist of the Year, while her 2nd single Back Into You was named OPM song of the year. With a third album on the way and her latest hit is the mainstream dance craze-turned-ABS-CBN-jingle, the omnipresent Kembot.
Amber laughs as she tells PLAYBOY, “I didn’t expect it to be everywhere! I wrote it for an ABS-CBN project, they didn’t say what, and it was fun, a lot different from what people know me for, and it was a cool thing to be able to crossover, as opposed to just being an artist. When the song got really big, I had to learn the dance!”
With her days of stage fright and dancing cartoon characters behind her, Amber has her sights set on expanding her fan base while honing her songwriting. “My next record is supposed to come out in October, and this is a different kind of album for me. Mostly, a lot of people, when they hear my previous albums, they think they’re international albums, so for my next one, I want to make something that people here can relate to.”