Ama Lou is a 22-year-old singer-songwriter from North London. After releasing her debut single TBC at the age of only 18, she actively produced music and became quickly known in the British music scene while performing as an opening act for Jorja Smith’s tour in 2017. As her reputation spread across the ocean, a prominent rapper in the hip-hop world, Drake, mentioned her as one of the singers he respects. Extraordinary vocals, a powerful message and a smooth flow are regarded as synonyms for the singer, but she has yet another significant talent: directing. Her directing skills can be seen in a 13-minute music video for her 2018 EP, DDD, which consisted of a trilogy of songs, and for which she seamlessly arranged the entire work. The inspiration for the music video comes from a crime film, or road movie, from the 80’s. The story follows a character, who is busily working as a member of an LA criminal organisation, and takes place over three different times of the day; dawn, day and dusk. Ama took charge of everything by herself, from playing the main character to directing the film and arranging the music. “I think I should manage most of a project and my work alone, otherwise, I can’t sort out the ideas in my head nor adjust the finer details. I believe that by organising my thoughts and ideas on my own, I can better express my ideas in my own words to the people I respect, as well as to many of my fans. My mind is busy with many different thoughts, so I sometimes need to keep calm in a quiet place. When I am sitting in a quiet place or in silence, or if a room is quiet enough, I can release energy and avoid being disturbed by the crowd or by the loud noise of cars. When all sounds have been dispersed and it becomes quiet, like at a lake, a screaming voice can be projected straight forward. I love such a silence where nothing will echo. Silence is a good cleanser for creation. I think the reason we seem to avoid it is because when it’s silent, we have to face thoughts that we don’t want to face, and we have to see a truth that we don’t want to see. But seeing truths and facing my thoughts is my work style. It’s necessary to live. Organising my thoughts is very important and allows me to express myself purely and authentically”.
Her workplace and studio are where she spends her alone time. The backdrop of a board with colour-coded Post-it Notes stuck on it is eye-catching. This colour-coding approach is strongly related to her process during composition. “Colour is an important element to every activity, including composition. Because I see music with colours, I try to think of how to turn colours into something musically. When I feel like I want to compose a song, or when I can write a song, or when I fall in love with beats that somebody showed me, I suddenly see a colour. To visualise and organise this, I use different coloured pens and Post-it Notes. A pack of pens doesn’t contain all the colours I want to express, so I use a pen with the closest colour I see in my head, and write down a song title before I put it on a board and see how I feel. I organise them on the board by colour. I select colours depending on the project, and I even use different fonts to match how I feel, when writing down song titles. How to adjust the colours, which colours to wear, and which colours to look for when shooting are the most important parts of my creation. ”
As a creator who attracts attention from all around the world, Ama has a busy schedule every day. While managing many tasks by herself, setting a routine is the key to producing quality work. “I think, when creating something, especially when I am producing an album or project, it is important to set a routine.”
Even if I am obsessed with finding a drum sample for 3 hours, I will stop the process at 7 o’clock since that’s the time I’d decided to go for a walk at, or it’s the time I’d decided to have a meal. Having a routine will stop me from what I’m doing and make me organise my thoughts, so it is very helpful for my work process. Otherwise, my head becomes a complete mess.” About 3 years ago, she moved her work and home to LA. The characteristics of LA, such as the climate and the mood of the city, are good sources of inspiration to her. “In LA, many people work in the music industry, including people I would like to work with. After visiting several times, I found that LA had what I was looking for, such as a good tempo and practicality, and I decided to ‘move here’. I’m very an outdoor person, so nature has an important role in not only my work but also my daily life. Under the sun, I enjoy sunbathing, looking after a friend’s horse, or randomly jumping into the ocean… I sometimes get stuck looking for creative ideas, but when that happens, I just stop for a moment and leave myself to nature. That’s the best way. And by doing so, an idea will come up by its own accord.”
Ama is self-styling her own outfit for the cover artwork of her single and EP, and the music video which she will create. From a fashion perspective, she has a distinctive look. From a London style, with a North Face vest over a hoodie, to a stylish, yet modern style, with a characteristic colour combination, her wide range of styling choices are captivating. Her extraordinary fashion sense has already been recognised internationally, American Vogue having written a feature article about Ama Lou. “As I told you earlier, colour is also an important element for me in fashion. I know everything about my wardrobe; from the place and method of manufacturing to the materials. My mother taught me that I should care and be particular about what I wear. She used to teach fashion history and fashion design. She often took me and my sister to fabric shops, and taught us about fabrics and fashion there, so my fashion perspective is strongly influenced by my mother.” Looking at her fashion styling, other than the colour and fabric coordination, gold accessories appear to be a key feature. “I have Guyanese roots. In Guyana, we have a tradition where people give jewellery as a present, and inherit it within the family. As gold jewellery is part of Guyanese culture, my jewellery is all from Guyana. Guyanese gold is yellow, rich and gorgeous, and is very special to me. It can always bring me back to my origins.”
Never forget your origins, look into yourself when you feel stuck. At the core of her work style, she has a comprehensive view of herself. Through facing herself, she discovers “colours” which create her work. What colours will she show us in the future? I cannot wait to see her become an international star, known by all.
“I use a Japanese pen and love it so much. Pentel’s Sign Pen is the perfect one for me as it’s a mix of both a brush and a marker. It comes in so many colours as well, so it’s easy to find a colour that’s close to the one I picture. As for notebooks, I always use one from Rollbahn. If I take notes on my Smartphone, notifications get in the way of my concentration, so I try to keep memos in a notebook instead. I often use it when I write down lyrics that come to me, and turn them into a song. A notebook is not always the starting point of the process, but it’s a tool that I want to keep at hand. I also use Pantone’s Colour Palette because I tend to look for colours that I feel intuitively. But ultimately, a board is everything to me. It reflects what’s inside of my head, as is. Organising a board means organising my head, so it’s very important. For my production process, I don’t need anything but a board, a desk, a chair, and pens.”
|Photo Pavielle Garcia||Interview Mikuto Murayama||Text Shohei Kawamura
Translation Fumie Tsuji