Amerie Is Passionate About Reading. So She Started a Book Club.
The Grammy-nominated multi-hyphenate and new mom shares her love of reading through social media
At the turn of the millennium, a fresh, soulful, and versatile talent, Amerie set the music scene on fire — her debut single “Why Don’t We Fall in Love” quickly climbed the Billboard charts and became one of the hottest breakout songs of the early 2000s. On her second album, Touch, the standout, self-written single “1 Thing,” garnered critical acclaim in addition to its digital download snagging certified gold in ringtone releases. With its backdrop of go-go beats and sampling of the funk record, “Oh, Calcutta!” the singer-songwriter soon found herself a unique and sought-after talent in the industry.
In recent years, it might seem like the singer-songwriter faded from the limelight, but with subsequent studio albums and EPs, Amerie has also been very busy delving into other lifelong passions. She became a New York Times bestselling author (Because You Love to Hate Me), anthology contributor (A Phoenix Must Burn), and launched a popular YouTube lifestyle channel. In 2011, Amerie married Sony Music executive, LG Nicholson, and welcomed a son, River, in 2018. Last year, she launched Amerie’s Book Club — an interactive social media experience that illuminates how books can “capture our struggles, resilience, and eternal hopes.”
ZORA sat down with Amerie to discuss her book club, adjusting to life as a new-ish mom, what songs are in heavy rotation on her personal playlist, and merging all her life’s passions.
ZORA: You are the poster child for multi-passionate creatives. How did all of your interests come to be?
Amerie: I’ve always loved to sing and I also had such an intense love of the written word. I devoured books in grade school and even formed a writing club with a dear friend. It was a collaborative space where we created a graphic novel comic book series. As I got older and began focusing more on music, the love of reading and writing was there but I didn’t make it a priority — that was until I was on tour with Usher and Nas and someone sent a care package which included books. I couldn’t put the books down. I’ve been playing around the book club idea for quite some time, but when my YouTube channel took off, I wanted to create a space just for books.
How have all the events of 2020 impacted your creativity and motivation for continuing the book club?
Writing happens almost daily because if I’m not writing, I don’t feel like myself. But, I’ve had to pivot with music. I began recording when the pandemic first started and then I stopped because I realized that I was just trying to hold myself together a lot like everybody and I needed more time to process. But, oddly enough, this year has brought me even closer to a passion I’ve had since early childhood — reading. And since many people have been home and online, I’ve been able to connect with amazing authors and readers around the world.
“It’s not an exact science, but day-by-day, second-by-second there’s constant tinkering to figure out how music, motherhood, writing, reading, producing, wife-ing, and friending can all fit together.”
What have you learned about yourself as an artist from being a parent?
Motherhood is difficult because it’s a constant juggling act. Even before labor and delivery, I told my agent that I’d be moving along as planned. “No, I’m taking my computer,” I insisted. “Nothing changes in the schedule.” As self-proclaimed workaholics, my husband and I now understood that having a child changes the dynamic. I am still deeply in love with all of my passions — including being a mom — and the thing about loving what you do is that you can never stop thinking about it. Right now, my husband is downstairs with our son, and I’m here just missing my baby. It’s not an exact science, but day-by-day, second-by-second there’s constant tinkering to figure out how music, motherhood, writing, reading, producing, wife-ing, and friending can all fit together.
What are your favorite things to read?
My top three are science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction. Mostly adult literature, but my ultimate favorite are books at the intersection where historical or contemporary fiction meets a little touch of fantastical or speculative elements. My bookshelves are divided by adult literary graphic novels, nonfiction, epic novels, history, science, short stories, classics, and two levels devoted to heavy science fiction, and fantasy.
What’s on your playlist right now?
To keep our spirits calm, I’ve been listening to a lot of Mozart-esque classical. However, I’ve also been listening to a lot of indie folk music. Perhaps he has already been on a lot of people’s radars, but one of the artists that was not on my playlist until now is Leon Bridges. He has such an old, soulful voice which reminds me of the music from the Sam Cooke era. I also appreciate Rosie Carney’s alternative folk.
What are you afraid of?
As a parent, I’m afraid of everything! But seriously, what I think makes me most afraid is when a person is unable to fulfill their potential. It is also why I feel so angry and so sad when it comes to lives that are cut short, especially when it comes to the looting of Black people in this country. There is so much loss of potential. I think about all the kids, all the geniuses, and opportunities lost.
Do you have any plans to expand the book club in the future to other genres and age ranges?
For now, the book club is for adults. However, there is an amazing YA novel in verse that I am thinking about introducing. I also love middle grade, but perhaps those titles will simply be recommendations because I’d really like to stick to adult literary works for now. In the near future, I’m excited about exploring more speculative and fantasy adult fiction as well.
Any new music in the pipeline?
I’m actually gearing up now to restart the new project that was shelved. As this year winds down, I’m going back into the studio with a different mindset. I can do better because I’m channeling hope and joy this time around.
What are you not sorry for?
I mean, I guess I could say that I’m unapologetic about being a woman who speaks her mind. And one who has never been willing to play someone else’s games. There’s all the -isms and some pretty unrealistic expectations that artists deal with — especially in publishing and the music industry. Not to mention unreasonable expectations placed on parents these days. No matter the circumstance or role — mom, wife, singer, songwriter, author, producer, or editor — I am forever committed to being myself. I’m not sorry for being Amerie.
Amerie’s Book Club’s current selection is Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. Have a question you’d love to ask the author during the end-of-month Instagram Live chat? Submit it through the book club’s official website.