Photo by Dana Trippe.

ambar lucid is fulfilling her pop star destiny

The 18-year-old musician shares 'Mar De Llanto,' her trippy new music video premiering exclusively on i-D today.

by Khalila Douze
20 September 2019, 3:00pm

Photo by Dana Trippe.

Ambar Lucid’s Instagram bio is a quote from The Alchemist that reads, “to realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation.” In person, the 18-year-old singer-songwriter’s reserved allure (she’s working on overcoming her shyness) pleasantly offsets the spiritual platitude. “I've always known that music was the number one thing that I wanted to do,” she says simply when probed about her decision to pursue a career in music, and fulfill her own destiny, before she’d even finished high school.

At home in Little Ferry, New Jersey, Ambar spent a lot of time alone, studying everything she could about music on YouTube and teaching herself to play the guitar while she fulfilled older sister babysitting duties. She learned to play the drums in band class and bonded with other music students who supported her onstage at local shows. In March, while still in high school, Ambar released a sonically rich debut. On Dreaming Lucid, smoky, soulful, heart-wrenching vocals effortlessly oscillate between English and Spanish, signaling her Dominican-Mexican heritage. Her unembellished, moody production situates her amongst a generation of bedroom pop auteurs like Clairo and Jay Som, or Cuco and Omar Apollo, both of whom she’s opened for on tour.

Today, Ambar lives in LA, where she’s relocated to hone in on her musical skill set and develop more self-assurance than ever. “The whole Dreaming Lucid era, that was me trying to figure out who I wanted to be as a creative and not really having much confidence,” she says. With a new song, “Mar De Llanto,” and its accompanying video, Ambar is already writing her next chapter.

What has life been like for you since you put out your debut EP, Dreaming Lucid, earlier this year?
There's just been a lot of momentum, which has been really cool. Prior to the EP coming out, things were kind of slow and a little bit quiet. But now I just constantly have things to do. Now that I'm at the point where I can bring my band with me for performances and stuff... That's literally my favorite part because I love doing shows, but doing them alone is just not the same as me doing it with my band.

When was the moment you realized music was your life?
I always had family members and teachers tell me, ‘Okay, that's great that's your hobby, but you need to think about your future.’ And I always just didn't really care. I was just like, "Whatever, like, this is my future." I think the moment that I really knew that I had the opportunity to make it my future was when my manager messaged me and we were talking about music, and [he] basically told me that it could literally be my job. I tried to explain that to my family, to my mom, and everyone. It took a lot of convincing, but I always pretty much knew. I always had a gut feeling that I would be fine, and that I just needed to keep doing what I was doing. Everybody thought that I was crazy for thinking that way. Because I didn't want to go to college. So, I had to deal with a lot of judgment and a lot of underestimation, but I just powered through it.

I knew that I had a bigger purpose. I knew that everything that I was doing was for a reason because I felt it. For example, when I wrote “A letter to my younger self,” I felt the magic in that song. I bawled my eyes out like crazy that night after I wrote it and I was like, "Am I crazy? What am I feeling right now?" Then I remembered I played it for one of my friends and she listened to it on her own and she called me and she was like, ‘I am bawling my eyes out right now.’ That's when I realized that I wasn't crazy. I was like, ‘Wait, what I'm feeling, the little magical thing that I feel when creating music, that's real.’ Other people could feel it too, and that's what kept motivating me.

Can you tell me about “Mar de Llanto”? What does the song mean to you?
“Mar de Llanto” is essentially me complaining about being sad all the time. I always find a way to be sad about anything and I cry a lot and [this] song is me expressing my constant emotions which are relieved at times with the assistance of marijuana. “Mar de llanto” translates to ‘sea of tears.’ The [video] concept is a reference to mid-90s animated music videos with a Latin/sea punk twist.

Photo by Motti.

You released a really touching documentary earlier this year, Llegaron Las Flores ( The Flowers Have Arrived ), where you invite viewers into the intimate experience of reconnecting with your father after many years following his deportation to Mexico . What drove you to make it?
I knew that I had to do something that was just as impactful as the song “Letter.” The video is absolutely beautiful and I love it, but I knew that I also had to do something visually that could impact people in a similar way. A part of me thought about it and I was like, ‘Okay, this could be a healing experience for myself.’ But I also knew that other people needed it just as much as I did. Experiencing it was just really strange. I was like, ‘How am I supposed to feel?’ I don't even know how to explain it. It was just a very emotional experience and it was really weird seeing my dad with a bunch of other people and it being filmed. At the end of the day, it was a really cool experience. It was 100% the end result [that] I wanted it to be. I'm happy that my experience is going to be able to show other people that they're not alone and show them that there's other people are experiencing the same thing. Also, for people that have and will never experience something like that, [it gives] some perspective on what it's like.

You’re a big fan of the singer Mon Laferte, who you opened for recently. Why does she inspire you?
She's literally my idol, she's my queen. I love her so, so much. I found her when I was 13, so like five years ago. I was looking for an artist—in my head I was like, ‘I need to find an artist I absolutely love, adore, am inspired by in every aspect.’ I feel like I just wanted the influence of someone creatively that I really connected to. I was searching for the one that I could just be inspired by. Then one day I was on Facebook and I saw one of my friends that lives in Mexico post about her. It was an acoustic video of her singing and I played it and I completely fell in love. Her voice was beautiful. Her lyrics are beautiful. Listening to her is what inspired me to really challenge myself vocally. This woman could literally sing and make the world explode because her voice was so beautiful.

She [inspires] me to be a badass woman because she's so badass and her art is beautiful. And she has a really amazing story. She's from Chile, but she's really popular in Mexico. In Chile, they didn't really believe in her. They didn't really fuck with her art and she left to pursue her art exactly the way that she wanted to, and I think that's really cool. I always want to portray that in what I do—not care what other people have to say, and always follow my intuition, especially with my art and creatively.

What are you looking forward to in the future?
I am looking forward to playing shows, traveling with my best friends, and improving my musical skills. That's my main focus right now. I got a new guitar. It's absolutely beautiful. Yesterday I was looking at it and I literally started hugging it. Fender sent it to me. I looked at it and I was like, ‘This is literally a reward for my hard work. I need to abuse the fuck out of this guitar.’

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