Photo: Schyler O’Neal/GRAMMY Museum
The Real Marsha Ambrosius: Soul Seeker, Mother & Matchmaker
Masha Ambrosius exudes realness from the moment she walks into the Clive Davis Theatre at the GRAMMY Museum in downtown Los Angeles. As an artist known for her authenticity, this genuineness has always followed her, but now, not only is she an eight-time GRAMMY nominee, she's a mother. And her art and life have intertwined so inextricably that her latest album and her two-year-old daughter share a name: Nyla.
"This is my life now," she says, laughing, referring to the fanny-pack baby bag she's removing from around her waist before sitting down for the interview. "Everyone’s like, ‘What’s changed for you?' This."
The album Nyla ushered in a new phase of the multi-talented music maker's career. Boasting an impressive resume filled with dream-come-true moments like writing and vocal producing Michael Jackson's "Butterflies" and working with Alicia Keys, Kanye West and Dr. Dre, a successful career with poetic neo-soul duo Floetry, and now three albums into an explorative solo career, Ambrosius' resume continues to expand. But as she moves further away from where she started in Liverpool, England, here are a few ways how she's moving closer to herself, closer to her real.
— MARSHA AMBROSIUS © (@MarshaAmbrosius) August 31, 2018
"I find soul in anything"
Nyla showcases a dizzying list of musical influences, including, according to her, everything from Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye to Queen and Duran Duran. The album also covers a lot of historical ground, from the intoxicating modern soundscapes of "Bottle Fulla Liquor" to throwback soul on "Today," which came naturally for Ambrosius.
"Anything in three-four [time] just sounds like the right thing to," she says of "Today." "It floods out of you because it's a natural element of soul that is in the body. It's instilled in me."
Ambrosius also talks about the need for soul in our world, and how an open mind can manifest that soul through music.
"It's feeling. Especially currently, with the social climate, we music that just makes you feel," she says, dismissing labels of her new album as simply R&B, pop or hip-hop. "Everyone's like, 'we need good soul!' I'm like, 'what's soul, ultimately?' I find soul in anything."
"I feel like I’ve been a mother forever"
As an artist who emotes, literally, for a living, becoming a mother has put Ambrosius in direct touch with the way music affects her daughter.
"Music is the soundtrack, and my daughter’s already grasping what songs evoke certain emotions," she says. "She'll know what a sad song is, and she'll know when it's time to get up and dance, or she knows when it's time to just chill. Having her learn emotions through music is a beautiful way to instill it."
This intrinsic connection between music and motherhood extends to her connection with Nyla.
"I can hear my daughter down the hallway right now. I think there's a spidey-sense or a radar that stays with you," Ambrosius says. "It feels like even though she’s two [years-old], I’ve been a mother forever."
"I just want everyone to be in love"
Looking for a love connection? Just grab a ticket from Ambrosius’ next show.
"I'm all for opportunity, and music does that," she says. "During my tour right now, I encourage the audiences to raise their hands... [I ask] who came here single? Who would come to a Marsha Ambrosius concert single to hear 'Your Hands,' 'Say Yes,'… 'Freak In Me'… absolutely a bundle of sexual joy, and not wanna [say to someone] 'hey, can I take your number? Can I take you out on a date?' So I'm like, 'Look around the room. There it is. I've presented you an opportunity.'"
Ambrosius speaks from experience, as she met her husband on tour. He was a roadie for the Floetry reunion tour, and she seized the moment. Not only is she passing along the opportunity as matchmaker, she feels a deeper connection to her lyrics now, having lived real love first hand.
"I feel corny, because I'm like… 'I just want everyone to be in love like I'm in love.' And now that I've found what [being in love] actually is, it's way more incredible than I could have attempted to word in any song," she explains, "because I was lending from what I thought it was until it happened to me, and now it's the most amazingly terrifyingly gratifying experience I've ever had."
"You can get rich so easily and get broke twice as fast"
After our one-on-one interview, Ambrosius speaks with a large group of high school students at the GRAMMY Museum, providing valuable insight on her career and life in general. Her parting advice for the group is as encouraging as it was cautionary, letting the young people in attendance know they should not be pursue becoming lesser versions of their heroes, but the best version of themselves—and it doesn't happen alone.
"You can get rich so easily and get broke twice as fast. To be wealthy is a whole other animal," Ambrosius says, later adding wisely, "Find your tribe and stick to it."