To an outside observer, Amber Digby's career has an appearance of inevitability—after all, her father, mother, stepfather and uncles have all been professional musicians, notable for their own careers or for their contributions to the music of Loretta Lynn, Connie Smith, Faron Young, Ronnie Milsap, Hank Williams, Jr., the Osborne Brothers and many more. But though she frequented the wings of the Grand Ole Opry House and the sets of Hee Haw and Nashville Now as a child, singing "was just something I did," she says with a laugh. "My mom, my dad and my stepdad encouraged me to find my path and to be creative—not necessarily to sing."
Indeed, it wasn't until she was in her mid-teens and living in Oklahoma that Amber even began to sit in with her stepfather's band, much less think about music as a career—and even then, it wasn't an easy road. "I graduated from high school in Missouri and then I got sidetracked, detoured," she says with the frankness of someone who's been through what she calls rough times. "I made some bad choices, and really, the only good thing that came out of that five-year block was my son."
That turns out not to be quite true, because in the midst of that turmoil, Amber began visiting her mother and stepfather in their new home in the Texas hill country—and before long, she'd made her first album. "I started sitting in with artists like Jake Hooker and Justin Trevino," she recalls, and once I heard what all these guys were doing down there, I thought yeah, this is really different—and it's really good!"
With Trevino producing and playing on the album, her stepfather on pedal steel and Bobby Flores on fiddle, Music From The Honky Tonks served notice of a major new talent. After releasing the follow-up album Here Come The Teardrops Amber toured Europe, quit her day job, moved to the Houston area and, with the help of future husband Randy Lindley, had put together her own band to play the Texas dance hall and club circuits.
"That was really big," she recalls. "Because from the get-go, I wasn't doing standards; even when I was doing covers, I wanted to do covers that no one else was doing. And when you play with a thrown-together band, you can't do that. I learned that the hard way. But when Randy started the band for me, we started getting better right away—and the more we played, the better we got."
The hard work paid off with the next album, Passion, Pride, & What Might Have Been, which found Amber taking a producing credit for the first time, next to Lindley and Trevino. "My stepdad had always encouraged me and listened to my input," she recalls, "but it was definitely learn as you go—listening to the drum sounds, the bass, how loud the left hand on the piano was. And with every record, I got my hand in it more, because I was figuring out what I liked, and getting better at coming up with ideas about how to get it."
Before long, and with the encouragement of some highly-placed Nashville fans, Amber began making regular writing trips to Music City—one of which produced an unexpected result.
"I was at the Opry," Amber recalls, "just hanging out and watching backstage, and Vince Gill was there. I went over and said, 'Hey, I'm Amber Digby, I just wanted to meet you.' And before I could finish, he said, 'Oh my gosh, I love your stuff, I hear you all the time on satellite radio.' I couldn't believe it, it was almost surreal. But he invited me to write with him, and I did—and he wound up recording the song we wrote. And now he's singing a duet with me for my next album."
In addition to Vince, Amber has recorded with Mark Chesnutt and released a duets album with Trevino. She's also started touring outside of Texas. "We'd love to do more of that: more festivals, more fairs, and I would love someday to be able to play the Grand Ole Opry on a more regular basis," she adds. "As long as I'm making a living and I have a way for more people to know who I am and what's in my heart, I'm happy."
“As long as I’m making a living and I have a way for more people to know who I am and what’s in my heart, I’m happy.”
- AMBER DIGBY