By ANNA KROUPINA
Cameroon born singer/songwriter/musician/model Andy Allo has an infec- tious laugh, a great sense of humour, and an honest spirit. It’s no doubt this down-to-earth charm and genuineness that attract fans to her music, instantly converting them into Fro- natics. Her 2009 debut album “UnFresh” was in fact both fresh and refreshing, an original fusion of soul and hip hop that Andy released independently. She then went on to work with The Africa Channel, and it was through this television network that she met Prince. In 2011, she toured and wrote music with the seven-time Grammy Award winner. Not long after, Andy’s sophomore album “Superconductor” was re- leased on NPG records, oozing old school funk, soul and R&B. With Prince as the executive producer and three tracks co-written by him, the album hints at The Purple One, but Andy’s feel-good personality and in- dividual talent shine through on every song. Current- ly working on her new EP “Hello”, Andy is running a Pledge campaign to give Fronatics the opportunity to be part of the creation of this record, from voting on the album name to receiving exclusive behind-the- scenes videos, photos and blog posts. So far, Andy has shared her newest catchy single “Tongue Tied” and a sneak peak at another new song.
The Vocalist Magazine: How did you get into music?
Andy Allo: I think music has always been a part of my life. Ever since I was little, my mom played piano, so she started teaching my siblings and I how to play when I was around six or seven. That was my first in- troduction into music and into playing music. My fa- ther had a record collection, so we always had music around, or cassette tapes. My dad was a big Fleet- wood Mac fan and I started listening to their music. I was surrounded by all types of different music since I was a kid.
TVM: Is it something you always wanted to do?
AA: I think so. I mean, I loved performing, I loved en- tertaining. When my parents would throw parties, I was the kid who would jump up and dance and put on a show for everybody. I needed to entertain. That was my thing. So I was in plays and I was never afraid of being in front of people and having all eyes on me. I never got nervous. It’s like a second home.
TVM: Who were your inspirations growing up?
AA: I listened to so many different types [of mu- sic]. Bob Marley, The Temptations… My mom, when she would visit the States, she would buy records and different genres of music and bring them back to Cameroon, so she had a Dolly Parton record that she brought back once. And even African artists like Miriam Makeba, I grew up listening to. It really was a wide array. Michael Jackson. I mean, who didn’t listen to Michael Jackson when they were growing up? Yeah, so a lot of different types of music.
TVM: What was it like when you came to the US?
AA: I moved here because my mom wanted my sib- lings and I to finish our education here in the States. My siblings and I would come and visit my mom’s side of the family, so I was familiar with the US, but mov- ing here was a whole different thing, getting used to different customs and seeing new different things cul- turally. I always knew that this was kind of the land of opportunity and it was the story or the idea that once you came to the US, this was the place where any- thing was possible. And that’s kind of when it became really real, that I could become an artist or a musician for a living.
TVM: Have you ever been back to Cameroon?
AA: I haven’t been back since I moved. It’s been a few years and I can’t wait to go back. I would love to go and perform there. I’m thinking of going back next year with my dad.
TVM: Apart from music, you’ve also been in film and done some commercials. Has it taught you anything that you can apply to music?
AA: All the different ways of expression, or acting, or even modelling is expressive in certain ways has taught me to be able to collaborate with many differ- ent people because every job is different and you’re working with, most times, a brand new set of people and you have to learn how to take direction and, just being the person that is able to work easily with oth- ers. That’s something that I’ve taken and applied, definitely, in my music, because music is also very collaborative. Being able to listen to others and take constructive criticism is something that I apply across the board.
TVM: On the music side of things, how do you stay healthy when you’re touring?
AA: It’s a challenge sometimes, because I do meet- and-greets after almost every concert. I’ll talk to the fans and everyone in the audience. My voice will get tired because I’ve been singing and talking for a long time. I think that once I’m done with that, I drink a lot of water and tea with honey, and lemon is my best friend. Once I’m done with that, I just rest my voice. I’m really lucky because I have a fast recovery time. So as long as I’m able to get a decent night’s sleep by the next day, I’m back to top notch. I think that once I realize that my voice is getting tried, I cut down and say, ‘okay, I need to reel it in a little bit.’
TVM: Why do you enjoy doing the meet-and- greets at the end of your shows?
AA: For me, the connection to the audience is, if not the most important, it’s right up there. If it’s not num- ber one, it’s number two. Because they’re the reason why I’m able to do this. You make it possible for me to go on stage and perform and do what I love to do. Otherwise, I’d just be sitting in a room alone and you know, that’s only fun for a little bit. After a while, it’s nice to have something to share with so for me, doing the meet-and-greet is just continuing to strengthen that bond and build that connection. And I want to know! I want to know who my fans are, who’s buy- ing my music, who’s listening to it and I want to know their story of how we all came to be connected. I find that really fascinating.
TVM: Do you work with a vocal coach and what are your vocal warmups like?
AA: I don’t work with a vocal coach, but I have in the past. I’ve worked with one coach and she used the Speech Level Singing techniques which I really liked, but of course, I haven’t worked with a lot of vocal coaches. She was the only one and that was in 2009 when I was recording my first album be- cause I wanted to get my voice ready for recording. Since then, I would say that just being on the road and working with other professionals and people in the industry, like Prince, who have been around and have incredible voices, I’ve learned from them and they were kind of my vocal coaches, just listening and watching what they do and how they use their voice. As far as my warmup, I feel like I’m always warming up because I’m always singing. I sing in the shower, I sing when I wake up, I’m humming, I sing in the car, I’m singing every day, almost all day. It’s just fun and I don’t think of it as, ‘Oh, I’m warming up now’. I’m singing, which automatically will keep my voice warmed up. Now, if I haven’t sang a lot during the day and perhaps I have a show, then before the show, I’ll do a typical warmup, which is scales and humming and going up each half step of a key, then doing the scale again. That’s just something that has stuck with me from when I worked with the vocal coach.
TVM: How did the opportunity to perform with and collaborate with Prince come about? I watched an interview where you mentioned that it was through Craigslist…
AA: I wish that was true, but that didn’t happen. If that were true, it would have been so amazing be- cause the truth is so boring. Saying that I met him on Craigslist is so much more exciting than saying we just knew the same people, which is what hap- pened. I had worked with this television network called The Africa Channel. They had done a special on my first album, they were huge supporters of mine and loved my music. A year or so later, they started working with Prince on some of his stuff, so they reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, we’re work- ing with him now, but we think the two of you could really do something amazing together and we want to try to connect you two’. And they did, they made it happen, and that’s it.
TVM: You said you learned a lot from Prince. What did you take away from the experience?
AA: There was a lot. As an artist, a musician and a singer and songwriter, I learned how to challenge myself and just continue working on my craft to al- ways get better and never just get to the point where I say, ‘Alright, I’m good. I’ve done this and I don’t need to work on it anymore’. I learned that I need to continually challenge myself and always keep work- ing on becoming the best at what I do and the best that I can be. That’s one thing.
TVM: Where do you get inspiration for your lyrics?
AA: I get inspiration from everything. From life, from my experiences. A lot of times, it’s something that I experience and go through and other times, it’s things that people have shared with me, their stories. Sometimes, dreams. I’ll dream something that’s just crazy and amazing and I want to write about it. I don’t know when lyrics are going to come or when it’s going to hit me, I just kind of have to be open and ready for it and just accept it whenever the inspiration hits.
TVM: What would you like people to take away from your music?
AA: I would say that above all the good things to take away, like joy and happiness and those kinds of things, above that, I would say just being relatable. That when you listen to my music, you can relate to it and whatever you’re going through, there’s a song that kind of tells the story of what you’re going through.
TVM: I think I already know the answer to this once because you mentioned that you’re an entertainer and that you never got nervous will all eyes on you, but do you prefer performing live or recording in the studio?
AA: Oh, live! I love it. I love being on stage and I still get a few nerves here and there, but it’s more just the excitement of being in front of a new audience. I feed off the energy of the audience a lot, like I don’t know who’s out there or what the energy’s going to be like. The audience kind of makes the whole show.
TVM: With the new EP that you’re working on, you’ve said that you’re exploring a new music sound with it. Superconductor was very funky and fun. How is this one going to be different from your previous albums?
AA: It’s still going to be fun. I’d almost say that it’s more fun. It’s fresh. It’s my take on pop and rock, but there’s going to be a little more grit and music that is very true to some of the experiences I’ve had in the last year or two, so it’s kind of like the next chap- ter of my journey, musically and personally. I’m really excited about it. It’s forcing me to challenge myself, to try something new and I’m reworking a lot of my songs from Superconductor to be a little more rock and gritty. It’s a lot of fun.
TVM: Why did you decided to fund it through a Pledge campaign?
AA: Like I said before, it’s about connecting with my fans and my audience. I hadn’t done this before and when I heard about PledgeMusic and that it really involves your fans and your supporters, I immediately thought that it was something I wanted to do. This is a chance, really, for everyone involved to see what it takes to put a record together and the rewards and incentives that I’ve put up for the campaign continue to further my mission to be in a stronger relationship with my fans. There are cool things like coming to a rehearsal, or I’ll come to your home and do a concert, or we’ll do a Skype chat and concert online if you can’t travel to where I am or I can’t travel to you. So these incentives are things that make it cool for a fan experience and to get a window into what my life is like.
TVM: What inspired you to donate some of the pre- order money to Invisible Children?
AA: They had reached out to me and I have a strong tie with Africa, being from there, and I love children. I think it’s so important to take care of our children because they’re the ones coming after us. When [Invisible Chil- dren] reached out to me and I learned about the char- ity and what they’re doing. They’re working with children who are forced to become child soldiers in Central Af- rica and really working to put an end to it, but also res- cuing these children and rehabilitating them. These are two things that are important to me, Africa and children, so I automatically wanted to be a part of it. The Pledge campaign was just the perfect opportunity for both of us to come together. I wanted to use my music and use any notoriety I have to spread awareness to an issue that is happening now. What this charity is doing is so incredible. That’s what I ultimately want to do with my music and however far I get in my career – to continue to do things that bring about some sort of change in the world.
TVM: Is there a name for the EP yet?
AA: Yes! Oh wait, no! [laughs]. Well okay, there is because I did a survey through PledgeMusic. Everyone’s involved in almost every decision, so I did a survey on what to call the EP and it was between “Fighter” and “Hello”. So ev- eryone has voted and we haven’t announced it yet, but we’re very close. It’s been fun seeing people’s reactions and their feedback on different decisions. I posted up a snippet of a new song and the reception has been great, as well as my single that came out, Tongue Tied. I’m really excited about this opportunity.
TVM: What were some of the challenges you’ve encountered in releasing music independently?AA: I think that it’s gotten easier because of the In- ternet and being able to release your music to online stores like iTunes and Amazon whereas before, you had to be singed to a label to get your music out there on a such a wide platform. I’d say that the challenges come more from a financial aspect. If you’re doing it on your own, being able to afford all the things it takes to put a record out is kind of challenging. I’d say that radio has been very challenging as an independent artist just because that costs so much and when you’re with a la- bel, they absorb that cost and they have the connec- tion with the radio station. I wouldn’t say that getting noticed or getting people to talk about your music has been challenging because I’m the type of person who will reach out. The worst someone can say is ‘no’ and if you don’t do anything and if you don’t reach out to peo- ple, then it’s an automatic ‘no’ anyways, so why not take a chance and reach out to blogs and magazines who can possibly share your music and share what you’re doing with others? Chances are, they’ll say ‘yes’ if it’s any good, so that’s kind of what my motto in life is. Just going for it. Sometimes, putting yourself out there can be a challenge, but it’s so worth it when you get that ‘yes’. For me, I feel it’s been a slower journey. I know that I’ve accomplished quite a bit in a short amount of time, but as far as building my fan-base and getting my mu- sic out there, it hasn’t been a big bang, it’s been a slow burn, which I like and prefer because the connections I build with journalists and blogs and ultimately, with fans, is just much stronger.
TVM: Do you have any words of advice you might have for musicians trying to notoriety, you would still do it.
A.A: If everyone said ‘no’ to you, but you knew in your heart that it was real and there were enough people around you who were honest and who said you were good enough, that you stick with it. That’s the biggest test, is for you to stick with it no matter how many times someone says ‘no’. Just be honest with yourself, whether this is something that you really, really want. You have to want it and you have to be good and do it for the right reasons because I wasn’t making money from my music for a long time, but I knew with the few fans that I had and the few shows that I was trying to do here and there and the few songs that I had written at the time, I believed in what I was doing and I was in it because I loved it, and that’s why I continue to do it. It’s something that makes me happy and when I’m doing it, it makes others happy as well and when I see that, for me, that’s the rewards. The other stuff is just extra.