When that first love ends, the heart reels for ages. It feels as if your life changes instantly. Pictures must be ripped up and deleted, memories must be repressed, and we must re-learn how to live as ourselves without our person to define against. There’s a loneliness that sets it. Too, there’s magic—a time of great rebuilding comes when the first love crumbles. Ask anyone—like Amare Symoné, Brooklyn’s latest emerging R&B singer—and they’ll tell you they found themselves after the incredible mess of heartbreak.
Seeking wisdom from the mess is the soul of Amare’s forthcoming Agape Acoustics EP, releasing March 25. She invokes the forms of spoken word interludes and stripped-down music performances to showcase a classic story with a modern flair. Lead single “Pictures” is a quiet showstopper, the belle of the EP. Amare’s voice lilts and twists just so, coiling around the plucking instrumentation. Her writing is wonderfully modern and wounded, “I don’t want to forget us,” she laments on the final notes of “Pictures.”
“Identities change, and that’s what Agape Acoustics is about,” Amare tells me. “It’s about letting go of an identity that has been so essential to the way I moved throughout the world for a long time: a girlfriend. When you get out of a relationship, you realize the dream you had with that person dies, and so does that identity, and that person you once were. You are no longer a girlfriend; you are now Amare Symoné. You realize a piece of you dies, but as soon as it dies, another piece of you is reborn.”
The real meat of Agape Acoustics comes by way of the interludes. We watch as Amare Symoné, 22, looks for lifelines on wax, sure, but it’s the way we listen as Amare listens when she’s told, “You’re a good thing” that stays with us. Immediately, we’re brought back to late nights and early mornings on the phone with our mothers and our friends, being told we deserved better—being told the best is yet to come.
“My mom’s advice, across the EP,” Amare begins, “[was] exactly what I needed to hear.” And as far as the music goes, for Amare, the best is already here. Her vocals are pristine and evocative, and her arrangements complement her well. Agape Acoustics inverts the EP form to the point of bringing us closer to Amare Symoné, something I, for one, am grateful for.
Our conversation, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: When did music first come into your life?
Amare Symoné: I’ve been around music my whole life. My mom would host rap battles, and my dad would DJ at them! I’ve always consciously identified with music. I would often wake up the whole house singing songs. I would go to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and my mom would push me on stage while she was hosting for the night, and that’s when I realized, “Oh! I can sing. People actually enjoy hearing me!”
When did you realize you had to make music?
I always wanted to sing; my whole life, I knew it was for me. I like to think my mom somehow knew I was gonna be a singer. When she [was] pregnant with me, she listened to a lot of Nina Simone, and therefore gave me my middle name to honor her. When I heard Frank Ocean’s nostalgia, ULTRA., I was like, “I could actually write and make songs.” I knew there was a spot for me. Also, listening to Solange, I realized I could be a singer and [not] have to sing over a certain type of production or only talk about a certain kind of thing.
The new EP, Agape Acoustics, is an exciting format: two stripped-down songs, and a load of meditations on love. Why flip the form of a project in that way?
The EP is personal for me. I went through a four-year relationship and recently got out of it in August. I had a lot of questions that needed to be answered, and I was looking to find closure. A lot of times, when we are looking for closure, we ask other people, but everything you need is already within you. All the tools you need, you already have them. The closure you seek is already within you. You don’t have to reach out to your toxic-ass ex to find closure for things that happened and things you struggled to heal from. That healing has to happen from you. That’s why I structured the EP how I did.
I find the way you build the EP brings me closer to you and your world. Was that the intention?
Yes! The way my music has been and my art, sometimes it’s been far away. I think the way social media pressures artists and people, period… Social media used to be personal with friends. Now, it’s such a business-oriented thing. Everybody’s trying to be an influencer and get their followers up. Everybody’s trying to put on this face to be bigger than they actually are. Then there’s me. If you know me in real life, you have my number! Social media makes people think they know you.
I’ve just been trying to be more vulnerable because I like to speak my truth and live within my truth, especially as a Black queer woman. I’m particular about what I’m sharing, but I'm hiding from nobody. I’m gonna speak my truth and live in it, but it takes time to determine whether people are worthy or ready for the truth you got to give.
When did you become comfortable enough in your identities to share your truth?
We have so many identities as people. We’re all always learning and evolving. I was just talking to my friends about this today, and my mom. Like, “Oh, mom! Hahaha, you got a gay daughter.” And my mom’s like, “For real, if that’s how you feel, just let me know. I receive that.” We’re all trying to figure things out, and sometimes we put it in forms of jokes [instead of] saying it straight out. It’s a journey. I’m 22, I’m still figuring out so much about myself and [to] be able to say, “This is who I am, this is how I feel,” that’s what life is about. You have to live and learn and grow. There [are] so many identities you don’t even know you have yet, or that you will have. I’m still growing, and I try to take it one day at a time to live within those identities.
Identities change, and that’s what Agape Acoustics is about. It’s about letting go of an identity that has been so essential to the way I moved throughout the world for a long time: a girlfriend. When you get out of a relationship, you realize the dream you had with that person dies, and so does that identity, and that person you once were. You are no longer a girlfriend; you are now Amare Symoné. A piece of you dies, but as soon as it dies, another piece of you is reborn.
I’ve found that after having your heart broken, you really do step into the light of the person you were always meant to be.
That’s a good way to put it. The thing is, “Agape” is the Greek word for the highest form of love. How do you keep that love and not break once your heart is broken? How do you love eternally and still be able to move on?
I love all the ways you seek out wisdom on this EP. How do you seek to learn in your daily life?
I remember to listen and set boundaries within my relationships. I’m a person who either learns from experience or observation. Growing up in Brooklyn, or New York, period, you learn to be aware. My parents are from Oakland and Buffalo—if you’re not aware, you could die. I make sure to be observant, and that’s how I’m able to prepare myself.
My mom’s advice, across the EP… She’s a poet, but she’s always a writer. So the way she speaks to me can be poetic. The advice she gave was what I needed to hear: “You gotta keep it pushing, you gotta heal.” Her conversations across the EP… That’s the shit you need [to be told] when going through a breakup. I need to hear: “You need to choose joy over this heartbreak.” The coddling never works for me. So, Agape Acoustics is also about that tough love.
Besides yourself, who did you make Agape Acoustics for?
I’m dropping the EP during Women’s History Month because typically as women, we over-apologize. We are often told to bend and twist ourselves to the point where we don’t recognize ourselves anymore. So I made this EP for women, and everyone going through heartbreak, but specifically, women who have been taught to be everyone’s everything at all times. It’s a gentle reminder heartbreak happens, but this is how you fight through it. This is how you rise.