Amber Nicholson
Far Away Dreaming

Speaking from her home in the tiny town of Fulshear, Texas (outside of Houston), singer-songwriter Amber Nicholson is content playing solo at various area restaurants while teaching music from her private studio.

“I’m pretty happy in my local bubble,” Nicholson says. “If I can start playing more original shows with a band, that’s something I look forward to.”

Nicholson’s debut EP, Far Away Dreaming, came out in February and has already received a good number of kudos. And deservingly so. The EP contains five songs that demonstrate a staggering range of styles and influences. Everything from Norah Jones to Gram Parsons to Lee Dorsey can be heard in such songs as “Heart to Stone,” “My Silence” and “That I Believe.”

“I was honest on these songs — it’s pretty clear I went through some heartbreak,” Nicholson says. “That’s something many people can relate to.”

Nicholson started playing piano at age 5 and got her degree in music from the University of North Texas. Around that time, she formed the band Relick, a rather popular Dallas area indie rock outfit. Relick released one EP that garnered significant praise, but personal issues brought about the end of Relick, and Nicolson moved back home.

“I was married to the guitar player, but we’re divorced now,” Nicholson explains. “That’s a good thing. I had some life changes that brought me back to where my family was. And I like it down in this area.”

Once comfortably back home, Nicholson ditched any connection to indie/alternative music and got back to what she grew up listening to: jazz and blues. “I’m still figuring out what type of sound I want,” Nicholson says, “but blues is kind of my defining genre.”

Part of the new EP’s charm is exactly that figuring-out process. “Heart of Stone” is pure soul, combining Aretha Franklin with the rootsy ache of Alison Krauss. “I get a lot of comparisons to Krauss,” Nicholson says, “which is flattering.”

Other songs on the EP offer even more varied influences. “Far Far Far” wouldn’t sound out of place on a Randy Newman album, while “My Silence” has a sophisticated Bill Withers vibe. “I like to change around what I do,” Nicholson explains, citing “My Silence’ as her favorite song on the EP. “I like the electric sound I got on that, and I like the lyrics.”

Nicholson plays regularly in the Houston area, appearing in just about any place that allows live music. Like most musicians wanting to pay the bills, she does a lot of cover songs. Usually, she tries to stick with what she knows and loves, but once in a while, a request will come in for a song she’s not too fond of. “I won’t play it,” Nicholson says. “I just tell whoever requests it that I don’t know it.”

Although the EP features a full band, Nicholson currently plays many solo shows. “I just bring my keyboard and sing,” Nicholson says. “It’s nice that in the Katy area, there are so many restaurants that feature live music.”

And sing she does. Probably the most dynamic feature of the EP is Nicholson’s sultry and commanding vocals. Each song presents dynamics that mirror the emotions of the lyrics. It’s a heady combination for someone so early in her career. Nicholson aspires for a larger audience —  she certainly has the talent to find one.

“I just want to do what I’m doing on a bigger scale,” Nicholson says.

Photos courtesy Amber Nicholson (