Getting candid with Ama Lou on the method behind the music
By Elisheba Akalawu
Describing herself as “extremely particular” Ama Lou feels no pressure from a demanding industry to conform to just one sound or style of music – she knows what she likes and what she doesn’t. The 21-year-old songstress, director and producer, hailing from North London, has captured the hearts, and ears of many due to this strong sense of self and capability to look beyond the hype; producing real music that speaks volumes to many. Her first single ‘TBC’, released back in 2016, is tinged with powerful lyrics echoing the Black Lives Matter movement and cemented Ama as an artist not afraid to speak out and stand up for what she believes in.
Over her career, she’s casually enhanced her repertoire to include the self-produced project ‘DDD’, while also garnering director credits for the corresponding visuals, as well as for ‘NORTHSIDE’ and the most recent single release ‘We Tried, We Tried’. The visuals for her rendition of the Hi-Tek classic were released a week ago and are highly creative; Ama stars as both “your new favourite sassy grandparents” Shirley and Bernie, who are dealing with the breakdown of their marriage. In true Ama fashion, she wanted to provide the unexpected, thus we get a visual that is filled with personality, and something refreshingly different to a narrative that is usually synonymous with tears and emotional heartbreak. Be sure to check it out at the end of this interview, I promise you’ll be crying good tears!
With her latest musical gift ‘Ama Who?’, a five-track EP which has evident signs of musical growth and maturity for the emerging artist, Ama has pushed boundaries and demands to let people know exactly what she’s about. It’s a blend of expert lyricism and smooth, soulful R&B beats, paired with messages of struggle, self-development and celebration.
I spoke with the bi-coastal superstar via phone (she splits her time between London and Los Angeles), who was living it up in Miami, all about her unique personality traits, the messages she offers listeners through her music and of course, the happiness that chocolate brings. Enjoy, and get in touch with us @nbga.mag to let us know what you think about the new EP!
The new project is titled ‘Ama Who?’, how would you describe yourself and your sound? Who is Ama Lou?
Ah, that’s not easy! I would probably have a different description of myself on any given day but mostly an eccentric recluse. I’m very straight to the point and particular but mostly it’s under a layer of calmness so that’s how I tend to appear. My sound is whatever the universe gives me at the point of creating a song. It changes and I just service my songs to whatever sounds they deserve and need. Boom, Bob’s your uncle.
DDD was the first project that you got to self-produce, what was it like having that much agency over your creativity?
I had support around creating that project, Che gave me the base – resources, time and knowledge. As a new producer it was amazing to have the freedom and tools to map out and execute what I was hearing in my head.
Which is your favourite track off the new project, and can you tell me a little bit about the process of writing/producing it?
Probably ‘This Town’. I produced that one out of my head and I put a story in the production – it has layers. Also, I got to work with Pino Palladino which as just…incredible.
What messages are you offering to listeners with this new project?
I kind of just write free-form. I don’t usually go on like a context or anything like that. It’s just what comes to me from the Universe. But I guess I like every song to have it’s own world and personality, just like my videos. So, I just wanted to show people what I could do, and all the different kinds of stuff that I like and that I hear to do with my music.
I’ve read in some of your other interviews that you like silence. What do those periods where you get to be alone and everything goes quiet do for you, and does it have an effect on your music?
You know what my mum always said that when I used to come home from school I would just lie on my bed quietly. Not with an iPad or anything, and I didn’t have a phone, I’d just lie on my bed. My mum would come up and I’d kind of jump up and be like “I’m alright!” because I didn’t want her to worry about me and she’d be like “yeah, I know you’re alright you’re just thinking” *laughs*. I have a lot going on in my brain all the time, and I need this space around me where I can just kind of push it out so that it’s not just all in my head. I have these thoughts around me that I can kind of see in the air, so it’s good to point them out and compartmentalise and stuff. So yeah that’s why I need the silence and I like being alone when I’m away.
That must really feed into your creative process.
Yeah, it does actually. When I’m writing it helps sometimes. Like, when I’m planning a new project I will work on a couple different songs at the same time and I have to be just completely by myself. I kind of jump from one idea to another so I’m like oh I have a reference to that idea, then like oh that’s actually a good idea too. So yeah it does have an influence and helps for creating and writing in general.
Do you have any mantras or affirmations to keep you grounded?
Yeah, I do! I think that I have quite interactive days and it gets easy to get caught up in a lot of things that I’m doing or what I’m doing next. If I ever feel down or complaining about something I just always have to take a moment to appreciate how lucky I am to even be able to think in the way that I do, and to have access to the knowledge inside my brain, or the kind of brain patterns that connect everything to make what I make, even when I’m not feeling well. I think about how grateful I am for literally the smallest things, and the smaller it is, is actually better and it makes me happier.
What was touring with Jorja Smith like for you?
Oh, it was great. It was quite a big tour and was my first tour I guess. I was really happy that it was done in such a nice environment, I hear a lot of horror stories from my friends about their first tours, and first supporting tours, but mine was actually great. It’s nice that I knew Jorja from before as well – we kind of preempted organising it when we were hanging out one time for me to go with her. I had a really nice team and had a great tour manager. Also, I love travelling, I kind of grew up driving around a lot and going on road trips. I would sit in the back row of this tiny little tour bus, just like a people carrier, and would just be in Montana or something in a snowstorm and just be like “this is actually the coolest thing ever” *chuckles* and of course, it would give me more time to think!
Will you do another one soon, if so which country do you really want to visit?
I will, the tour is coming! I’ll probably do a North American tour. I actually haven’t toured in the UK which is kind of weird, so I’ll do that as well.
Being at the beginning of “adulthood” how do you stay grounded in the industry?
I mean I feel like I’ve always known who I am, and I literally don’t give a fuck about anything. I’m very unimpressed by most things. I’m not really like a hypie person. I honestly just love working, and doing what I do. I’m not really concerned with what other people think about me. I also have a very grounded and honest family, as well as the people who surround me. They’re real and they speak exactly what they mean at all times – not really the ‘yes man’ type of people. So I’m sure if I ever did get into a space that was negative, I can’t really predict the future, they would snap me right back down to earth!
Have you lived in North London your whole life? How has that shaped you as a musician?
Yeah, pretty much. I spent a short time in Australia for a bit, but that doesn’t really count! Other than that, I’ve always lived in Hackney. I think growing up in London in general, especially after travelling loads and being in the US, it’s just a different way of growing up in terms of how you see the world. Don’t get me wrong London has it’s problems, but growing in up in Central London and Hackney it was a very free place to grow up. Like, you have friend groups that are made up of every ethnical background and every economical background. You feel like you can bounce around and do what you need to, there’s a lot of knowledge and possibility that you’re exposed to from the people around you and the cultures around you.
Has living in America opened up opportunities you may not have had if you were fully based in London?
So I’m bi-coastal between LA and London right now. I think it’s different for work, in terms of doing music and creating, it’s definitely a different mindset. It’s way less rigid when it comes to workflow. You can get a lot more work done in an LA day than you could in a London day. Especially working with other people; in terms of the flow of having to collaborate and work with other people, I would say is more free in LA- just because there’s not so much a 9 to 5 mindset. But London is London and it’s home!
What are you loving the most right now?
You know, I can tell you something really weird. There’s this chocolate right, and I’m like a pretty healthy eating person, but I don’t really eat breakfast. But I eat this chocolate every single morning and it just makes me so happy! It’s just like raw dark chocolate and I ate two squares of it this morning and I was just so happy, it was so great.