Moved from Military Bases to Center Stage, Earned Degree before Recording a Demo
Amerie (pronounced A-Marie) burst onto the music scene at the age of 22 with her chart-topping debut album All I Have. A dedicated singer and student of dance since childhood, she graduated from Georgetown University before launching herself into a music career. "It sounds like a cliché," she said in the biography on Amerie Online, her fan-run Web site, "but I always knew I was going to sing. I always knew that music was what I was going to do."
Moved from Military
Bases to Center Stage
Amerie Rogers was born January 12, 1980, in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, to a Korean mother and African-American father. Her father's military career meant that her early years were spent on the move, living on army bases all over the United States and Europe. Rather than leaving her feeling isolated, Amerie says that her childhood experiences have helped her adjust to life in the music business. "When you are constantly moving around," she told the World Asia Web site, "you learn how to deal with new people and new surroundings."
Her mother is a singer and classical pianist, and inspired in her daughter a love of music. Amerie also drew inspiration from her father's record collection, starting with the 1960s Motown soul hits that would eventually shape the sound of her own music. "The most influential artists in my life have been Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, and Mary J. Blige," Amerie said in an interview with The People's Urban Beat Web site. "During Thriller, Bad, and the Off The Wall period …Michael was my favorite."
Amerie began studying dance and entering talent competitions at a very young age. When she was 12 years old she attended a concert by female rapper MC Lyte and was invited onstage to sing. "They were a rough crowd 'cause they were throwing things, but I was jumping up and down," Amerie told an interviewer from Soul Train. "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!"
Earned Degree before
Recording a Demo
Amerie's family moved to Washington, D.C., after she graduated high school, and she began to think seriously about making a career in the entertainment business. While developing her vocal talents and working on songs, she also started taking classes at Georgetown University, eventually graduating with a degree in English and Fine Arts. "A lot of people are surprised that I graduated from a good university," she told Hip Online. "It makes me feel good to have the degree and I think life is all about options and I think you can get further if you have more options. I also think that college helped me grow a lot. I think college is a really important time."
Her big break in the music industry came when Amerie met Rich Harrison, a Grammy-winning songwriter and producer who had previously worked with hip-hop diva Mary J. Blige. "We met in McDonald's, but it was actually our predetermined meeting spot because we spoke on the phone," Amerie told the Australian Web site Groove On. "I knew he was a producer, but I didn't know this guy, so I really didn't wanna go to his house, and I didn't want him to know where I lived, just in case he was a weirdo or something, so I was like, 'Well, let's meet at McDonald's,' and we met at a popular McDonald's." The pair clicked immediately. Amerie later told MTV, "We're each other's musical soulmates." After their first meeting, Harrison produced Amerie's first demo tape.
When executives at Columbia Records heard the demo, they wasted no time signing Amerie to a contract. While recording her debut album All I Have, she also sang on tracks by other Columbia stars such as Nas and Royce da 5'9". Though music critics were lukewarm in their reviews of her first album, a great deal of radio play ahead of its release sent All I Have straight to number two on the R&B charts, and to number nine on the Top 200. Produced by Harrison, the album smacked strongly of Mary J. Blige. People Weekly wrote, "Although Amerie's vibrant vocals are strong throughout All I Have, she still needs to develop her own artistic voice." Nonetheless, the single "Why Don't We Fall in Love" earned Amerie a 2003 Soul Train award for best new artist.
Found Sudden Fame
and Furious Schedule
The album's success sent Amerie catapulting to fame. Her exotic beauty assured her extensive coverage in magazines and on television. Performing to sell-out arenas with hip-hop superstars like Nelly and Usher assured her a widespread audience. The sudden success took Amerie by surprise. "I find it weird to see myself on the cover of magazines," she told Hip Online. "I see myself as plain old Amerie and I'm wondering, 'What am I doing on there?'" She also found the workload disorienting. "You work so much where you feel like you are going through a time warp," she continued in her interview with Hip Online.
Despite a grueling schedule of performances, recording, and publicity appearances, Amerie found time to branch out into film work. She initially kept to singing, recording a couple of tracks for Honey and Maid in Manhattan. In 2004 she made the leap to acting when she landed a co-starring role opposite Katie Holmes in First Daughter, directed by actor Forrest Whittaker. "I want to do a lot of things," she told The Crusade Web site. "I really want to make my mark as an artist not only for singing, but also for writing songs for other artists. I've been writing songs since high school and I've been doing a lot of writing recently. For myself and also collaborations with other artists. I also want to write fiction. I fell in love with writing stories before I fell in love with singing." She flexed her writing muscles in 2003, co-writing and hosting a daily television for Black Entertainment Television (BET). The program, The Center, dealt with issues facing modern teens.
Amerie's second album, Touch, was due for release in the spring of 2005. The first single, "1 Thing," co-written by Amerie and Harrison, was featured on the soundtrack for the Will Smith film Hitch. The song garnered early praise. "What grabs you first is the monumental funk drum break that the track is built on," wrote a reviewer for the BBC. " … then Amerie lets loose with a song so 'up' and so full of life that I find it impossible to sit still whilst listening to it." True to her multi-talented nature, Amerie co-directed the video for the song. With the album's release, Amerie's life was set to do anything but slow down. Rather than be daunted, Amerie was thrilled. "I think I would say [my career is] more than what I thought it was going to be because I enjoy it more than I thought I would," she told Soul Train. "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."
All I Have, Rise/Columbia, 2002.
Touch, Sony Urban Music/Columbia, 2005.
People Weekly, August 19, 2002.
"A Little Time with Amerie," Hip Online, www.hiponline.com/artist/music/a/amerie/interview/100355.html (March 1, 2005).
"Amerie," The Crusade, http://thecrusade.net/people/cgi-bin/archives/00000033.shtml (March 1, 2005).
"Amerie," Groove On, www.grooveon.com.au/fea03.cfm?article=1283 (March 1, 2005).
"Amerie Growing Up But Keeping Her Clothes On, Thank You," MTV, www.mtv.com/news/articles/1496565/02032005/amerie.jhtml (March 1, 2005).
"Amerie, On the Rise," The People's Urban Beat, www.thepubreport.com/amerie.htm (March 1, 2005).
"Amerie, One Thing," BBC, www.bbc.co.uk/dna/collective/A3650267 (March 1, 2005).
Amerie Online, www.amerieonline.net.
"Backstage Interview with Amerie," Soul Train, www.soultrain.com/st3/amerie1026.html (March 1, 2005).
"Talkin' to Amerie," World Asia, www.worldasia.com/music/music/people/int_amerie (March 1, 2005).
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