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Amber Ikeman Celebrates Independence, Open Spaces With ‘Rise'

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Amber Ikeman surprised her friends and family when she quit her day job at a Florida non-profit and moved to Montana. There, she honed her skills as a singer-songwriter and embraced the open, rural landscape.

"I think it was a surprise to a lot of people, especially to my family," she says. "My dad didn't want to tell my grandmother that I had left home and gone out on my own because he thought she would be so worried. Eventually, she asked her caregiver to Google me and she found out that I had gone out on this whole road trip by myself and gone to work in Yellowstone as a dishwasher. That was was one person in my life who was certainly surprised by this change."

Ikeman's latest album, Rise, is out now. She had been scheduled to perform at The Donut Whole in Wichita on Tuesday evening, but the show was canceled due to unforeseen circumstances. Here, some highlights of her interview with KMUW's Jedd Beaudoin: 

Jedd Beaudoin: You have this fantastic backstory. You did this thing that many people only dream about in terms of pursuing your musical passion.

Amber Ikeman: It was something I dreamed about doing for a really long time, but I was scared. Everybody kept telling me that it would be too hard. I went to school for music. I got a music degree. Then I went off and got a 9–5 job because I didn't want to struggle. Eventually, I learned that that wasn't fulfilling for me and that I still had that itch to go after music and that I hadn't really given it a shot.

You moved from Florida to Montana. What was it about Montana that was so important to you?

I think I dreamed about going West for a long time. It was something about being in the mountains and the wide open spaces. I think it was also about trying to escape. Montana seemed a little more untouched and a little more wild than a lot of the rest of the country.

I originally went out there to work in Yellowstone National Park. Which, again, was a very remote place and I think I was also drawn to the natural wonder of it, too. Maybe it was a sort of way to get in touch with nature and find myself in that environment.

When you made that move and when you got out there and were in these wide-open spaces, does that impact your art? Do you start writing different kinds of songs as the result of that?

Yeah, I did. I think that was really when I started to write a lot more. It certainly influenced my music over the last few years. I started writing stuff that was more folky and which had a little bit more of a Western feel as well. I wrote a little bit about my time there. On my first album, I had a few songs that were about different national parks or were inspired by different national parks that I had visited in my travels. It's definitely influenced my writing.

As you tour, do find yourself looking at other places that are not Montana or not the West and saying, ‘This could be a potential home?' Or do you feel that you're very much rooted in and that you feel like you always very much belonged?

That's a really good question. I've actually just started this new adventure. I left Montana. I moved out of my apartment and gave up my day job. I am now basically on the road fulltime for the next four months. I guess I'm technically homeless right now, by choice. But I think I have this part of me that really craves wandering and I have a very strong wanderlust. I think touring, for me, is not just about going out and connecting with audiences and sharing my music, although that's a huge part of it. I think there's a part of me that needs that freedom of the road, that sense of being able to go wherever I want and experiencing new places. Hopefully, eventually, I will have a new home base. I've been thinking about a few different ideas. It's kind of open-ended for me until I'm done with this tour. It's also a possibility that I might continue to tour fulltime for a while.


Jedd Beaudoin is the host of Strange Currency. Follow him on Twitter @JeddBeaudoin.

To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.