Amber Phillips on Her Style Evolution and Love for Music

Name: Amber Phillips

Major: Anthropology

Hometown: Pelham, New York

Year: Junior

Where to hear her music:

Courtesy: Amber Phillips


Relaxing on her couch while playing with her energetic new puppy named Butter, Amber Phillips sports a gray tank top and denim shorts, perfectly embodying the casual style seen everywhere these days while still managing to make it completely her own. She describes her style as “a mixture of everything” from sporty to grungy to afro-centric, illustrating the fluidity of fashion and how it externalizes various components of each individual’s personality. She talks about the relationship between fashion and music in the sense that they are both forms of self-expression. “I use my music as a way to get out what’s inside me, and even with clothes I use that as a way to show how I’m feeling today or how I feel about myself and about everything.”

We chat more about her style and how it has evolved over time as she has grown as a person and where she finds inspiration for her style. “Looking back on old pictures from middle school…I made some really bad decisions. I used to wear ties to school. I would wear a polo with a tie and bright colored pants and fat DC sneakers. It was so bad.” And while middle school is typically remembered with remorse, she mentions how much her style has evolved over the last few years as well. “Even freshman year, I see things I don’t think I would ever wear now. It’s definitely changed and it’s still changing all the time.” Like many college students, she looks to social media for style inspiration, particularly Pinterest, Tumblr, and now even Twitter. Most of her clothes have been acquired from thrift stores like Goodwill, which allows her to spend minimal money on unique items. To her, like music, style is a form of self-expression. “I don’t even think it’s on purpose all the time. It just happens, you know? You like something different than what the person next to you likes, and it develops that way.”

When asked about her interest in music, she mentions her childhood, and how she knew even then that music was something she wanted to pursue. She laughs, “I wanted to be Hannah Montana. My mom used to say, 'you can be the next black country singer.'" While her musical genre may have changed, her passion withstands time. Her band “Faking Jazz” consists of herself and friend Nic Kielbasa, who began making music with her during their freshman year of college. “It’s weird because we’ve always made music with each other, but it’s changed. Freshman year we made a lot of acoustic stuff.” Now, she describes their music as “a bit of everything,” including electronic and R&B. Although Amber has always been drawn to music, it wasn’t until sophomore year that she and Nic “really started getting focused on music and thinking that we could actually be something…we’ve grown so much. It’s not the same as it was before.” Faking Jazz had their debut show in April 2016 and continues to play shows in the area.

Courtesy: Amber Phillips


While producing new music on a regular basis may not be easy, Amber doesn’t need to look far to find inspiration. “I don’t know if this sounds cliché but I get [inspiration] from everything. I get it from watching TV shows. Somebody will say a line and I’ll think, 'that sounds like a cool lyrics,' and I write it down. Or I’ll see somebody doing something and I think 'that’s funny, that would be an interesting lyric.'” In addition to finding inspiration in her daily life, she looks to other artists to inspire her. “I listen to a lot more music than I used to. These days I listen to a lot of funky music, music that makes me want to dance and be happy.” Some of the specific artists she mentions include Frank Ocean, Erykah Badu, Solange and Kanye West. She quickly chooses Hiatus Koyote as her all-time favorite band. “It was the first band that I felt connected to and not in a way that was like ‘oh my gosh everyone in that band is so cute.' It was more of, 'damn, this music makes me feel something, about myself and about everything.’"

Amber breaks down her songwriting process by explaining that it isn’t necessarily formulaic or straightforward. “When I’m making a new beat, for my own solo stuff, I just open my computer and I’ll pick an instrument [based on] whatever I’m feeling. I think, 'do I want to start with drums or keys or do I have a lyric that I have in my mind?' It just changes, it depends on the day. I write songs differently every day.” 

Her plans for the future are still pending, but she knows music will be a part of the picture. “In a perfect world I would be in the West somewhere, making music all the time, getting paid to make music and living off of that. But I don’t really care where, as long as I’m doing that.”

Although many college students feel they are too preoccupied with courses and jobs to consider setting aside time for creativity, Amber is not one of them. “I think that there’s just a lot of time in the day, you know? And so instead of using your free time to be on your phone or watch TV, use that time to do something. And that doesn’t even necessarily mean to make something, but just going outside is very inspiring to me. Or just hanging out with friends and doing things where you’re not just sucked into a screen. That’s the best way.”