interview + single premiere: andy allo talks new music, acting and going on tour!
By Sound Check
April 8, 2015
Singer-songwriter Andy Allo rose to fame as a member of Prince’s band. After the success of her 2012 album Superconductor, produced and co-written with the Purple One, Andy Allo set off on her own. Her new solo EP Hello drops April 14th, and we got to talk to her last month while she was shooting the new TV show Warrior in Toronto. Her newest single, “Northern Lights” is streaming exclusively on the new AFROPUNK mixtape #005: Midnight School.
By Nathan Leigh, AFROPUNK Contributor
Andy Allo’s single starts at 7’25
We haven’t spoken in a few years. It was right after Superconductor came out.
I think so. What have you been up to since then?
Once Superconductor came out, I ended up going on tour, and promoting that. And that was kind of my first step towards going on my own and promoting the record that Prince and I did together. At that point, I really went back to being solo, and ended up doing my first headlining tour in Europe, and that was incredible. 22 cities I think, across Europe, and it was just insane. And I did some other touring in the states. And then I started working on my next project and kind of getting into some other things that I’ve loved to do, which is acting.
What sort of acting do you do? Stage? Film?
Film and TV. So I just finished shooting a movie in January. And I’m currently shooting a television pilot for NBC. I’m in Toronto shooting right now.
Yeah. It’s my first main role on a TV show, so I’m really really excited about it.
Has acting always been something that was part of the plan for you?
I’ve always loved acting. I was acting on The Game. I don’t know if you know that show. I was on it before I joined Prince’s band. I was doing some acting. I’ve always kind of done both acting and music. People always asked me which do you love better, and I’ve always done both. Then when I got the opportunity to tour with Prince, that was kind of the moment that I decided I was going to focus more on music, and acting took a back seat. Once I finished touring Superconductor and got settled, I was really excited to challenge myself and jump back into the acting. Since then, things sort of took off, and I’m thrilled that I got the opportunity to work on this TV show.
Is there anything you can tell us about the show? Or is it still under wraps?
It’s called Warrior. It’s kind of a martial arts TV show based on this crime group, and the main character is trying to take down the crime group. My role in it, I’m the daughter of the boss, one of the bosses of the group.
So you’re more of a villain?
I’m more of a bad guy. [She cackles villanously] It’s really fun! So I’m learning martial arts, I’m learning how to fight. I’m gonna be kicking some butt on this show. It’s a challenge. It’s definitely something new. I’ve never done martial arts, or learned fighting or that kind of stuff, so it’s really cool.
There’s been a historical dearth of quality roles for women of color, particularly on TV. Do you feel like that’s starting to change?
If you look at shows like Empire, Blackish, or Jane the Virgin, there are so many successful shows that are on TV now that are very diverse, including shows like Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder which have female leads who are of color. And I feel like the state of TV right now is really exciting, because it shows that it doesn’t matter what race you are or gender, you can lead a show. And that’s kind of the cool thing about Warrior, is the lead of the show is a woman, and her character is very strong. The female characters on this show are very strong women and it’s a very diverse cast. So I think it’s only going to go up from here. Seeing how networks are really taking a chance on bringing in diverse talent and really mixing things up.
You look at the numbers that Empire’s doing now, where it’s not just one of the most successful shows on right now, but it’s one of the most successful shows in history.
Totally. Have you watched the finale yet?
No, not yet. Hopefully I’ll get caught up this weekend.
OK. I won’t ruin it for you then.
Thanks! [Laughs] So the EP is a big departure from Superconductor. Was that by design or just how it evolved?
I think I’ve always been growing. If you look at my first record, Unfresh, which was kind of more hip-hop / neo-soul kind of vibe, and then Superconductor was more funk. For me, each project, I want to always challenge myself and kind of keep learning about what kind of music I want to make. I’ve always loved rock and pop and that’s something that I always wanted to explore a little more. Everything kind of came together. I always want to give my fans something new to listen to. Like OK, you’ve heard me do funk, I want to give you something different. There’s so many sides to me personally and musically that I just don’t always wanna give you the same thing. I want to keep it mysterious. And let’s keep growing and evolving because as people we’re always doing that.
You’ve put out the one single so far. What’s been the reaction to the change of direction?
You know, I wasn’t sure what the response was gonna be, and once I put out the single “Tongue Tied,” it’s been overwhelmingly positive. Just people saying “this is it, this is you, this is your sound, this is what you’re supposed to be doing.” It was high-fives all the way.
How much direction are you giving it? Are you the Prince of the band where you’re controlling every single knob or is it more a collaborative process?
For the last two records I’ve worked on, it’s always been a collaborative process. For this project I mean it was my vision. I kind of steered the direction of going to a more rock and pop place. All the songs are very personal to me. They kind of speak to experiences that I’ve had since putting Superconductor out, and out and over the last three years of releasing that recording, all the things that I’ve learned from collaborating with Prince on Superconductor, I wanted to apply them to the next project and really spread my wings, and i feel like this is it.
What do you feel you learned from collaborating with Prince?
Well I learned.. Well, there’s a lot of things.
Oh I’m sure. I imagine you could give a master class after that.
Right! I think. Gosh. I mean. As a writer, for one, learning how to craft a song. I was a writer before. But watching him create a song, and seeing how he put lyrics together and the melodies and the different layers of instruments. It was boot camp. I learned a lot about producing a record and creating great songs and—I don’t know, I’m just really excited because this project. I really feel like I did it on my own. Coming up with the songs and the concept. It wasn’t so much about having a master with me. I learned from the master and I had a mentor on Superconductor and I was left to lead, and do it on my own which was really exciting.
Do you feel like with Superconductor you had something of a safety net with Prince, now it’s all you?
Right. That’s exactly it. There’s a comfort knowing that “hey, if this doesn’t work out, I’ve still got this person in my corner cheering me on and leading the way.” And now even though they’re still cheering me on, I’m leading the way. I’m leading my own way.
Do you feel liberated or unleashed?
I feel like I’m spreading my wings. I don’t feel like liberated would be the word. I wasn’t locked up or anything. But it’s a new chapter. Superconductor was a chapter. Unfresh was a chapter in my life and my musical life. And this is kind of a fresh start, and a new page. There are so many pages to be filled and that’s kind of the feeling.
Do you get to go home to Cameroon often? Have you gotten to perform there?
No! Not yet! I can’t wait. It’s been a really long time. I haven’t been back since I moved here to the States. I’m hoping I can go back either later this year or the beginning of next year with my dad.
Are you gonna play while you’re there or just see family and visit?
Oh I’m definitely gonna play. I have to. I’ve sent some of my music back there and I get messages from my family, and from people who live there and have heard my music. So that’s definitely something I want to do.
Do people there know who you are? Do you have a following back home?
I have a following. I don’t know how large of a scale it is. I know there’s a lot of Allos who know my music though. [laughs] So that’s a good start! I haven’t been back in so long that I’m not sure. I’m excited to see what that’s like.
What else do you want people to know about what you have coming up?
Well. I’m working on a tour. So I’ll be hitting the road in June. And I’ll probably be going back to Europe. And I’m working on a US tour later this year. We’re still working out the dates. But I will be in New York April 18th at Mercury Lounge. You’re in New York right?
Yeah, we’re in Brooklyn.
Nice! You better be there!
I’m pretty sure I will!
Awesome. I’m gonna be playing all the new songs with my band and we’re gonna rock out. It’s gonna be great.
Are you playing with the same band from Superconductor?
This is a new band. New guys.
Do they still play the old stuff?
Yeah. It’s cool, because I reworked a lot of the songs and created some new arrangements that are more in line with the direction that I want to go in. Like “People Pleaser” is a lot grittier now, “Yellow Gold” is a lot gritter. All those songs which had a more funk vibe have a much more rock feel to them. Which is super fun to play. I did a show in LA a few months ago where I played “People Pleaser” and “If I Was King” from Superconductor, but I played the new arrangements. And afterward just kind of meeting and talking to fans in the audience, they were like “whoa I didn’t know what the song was at first, but when you got to the chorus I loved it!” Which was awesome.
You should do a live record with some of the old stuff with the new band!
Yeah! That’s a great idea. Especially since they’re so different, it gives people a different perspective. And I feel like that’s my goal with the music I make; to give people a different perspective on me and my music and give them something different that they don’t expect.
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