Singer. Musician. Songwriter. Actress. Model. TV host. It's hard to keep track of everything Andy Allo is up to at any given time. The multi-talented, Cameroonian-born Allo has made her mark in a number of different ways since moving to the U.S. at the age of eleven. Chances are you've seen her in a number of different national advertising campaigns she has been featured in and she has appeared on a few television programs including Attack Of The Show. But Allo is best known as a musician. She self released her 2009 debut album UnFresh then caught the attention of music legend Prince who added her to his touring band New Power Generation in 2011.
Allo toured with Prince, providing vocals and guitar, during both his Welcome 2 America Euro Tour and Welcome 2 Canada Tour during 2011. Her time in Prince's circle also produced her second full length album, 2012's fantastic Superconductor. Essentially a collaboration with the music icon, don't get Superconductor confused with many of Prince's associated projects of the past where he performed and wrote practically everything, then handed over the finished album to the artist to add vocals to. Allo wrote six of the album's nine tracks, and co-wrote the other three with Prince. As is to be expected with Prince, the two worked on other material during Allo's time with the NPG, some of which remains unreleased, while a couple tracks wound up on Prince's 2014 album Art Official Age.
This year Allo returned with her first new music since exiting the Prince universe and going back to the independent route, the PledgeMusic funded EP Hello. The five tracks on Hello mark an unsurprising change in direction from some of the funkier leanings of Superconductor. Single "Tongue Tied" is pure, catchy pop music, "Into The Wild" is a convincing rocker, while "Fighter" is an empowering anthem. "Don't Ever Say" is also not to be missed, an acoustic based ballad that is the closest fit here to some of the more stripped down material on Superconductor.
Despite her always busy schedule, Andy graciously took the time to answer some questions for Now It's On about the new EP, her future plans, where the music industry is heading and, yes, there is a Prince related question or two.
Now It's On: First I'd like to ask about your new EP, Hello. What made you decide to put out an EP instead of another full-length at this time?
Andy Allo: I would have loved to put out a full-length album this year, but I wanted to get these new songs and this new sound out to my fans as soon as I could. I love the idea of putting together five great songs rather than trying to throw together ten with some that maybe aren’t as strong.
NIO: Do you anticipate your next music release to be your third full length album?
AA: I hope so! I’ve already started working on it, but I’ve been thinking of doing another EP which would allow me release something sooner.
NIO: There is a pretty obvious progression in your sound on this EP from your last release Superconductor. Hello is much more pop oriented, is this just an extension of the various styles of music you like and are influenced by? Or is this a conscious effort to separate yourself from some of the funk leanings of that last album? I've seen clips of recent live performances as well where you've re-arranged some of the funkier Superconductor tracks into more of a rock sound. Is this more of the sound that you're most comfortable with?
AA: It’s definitely the former. I love all sorts of music and wanted to convey that with Hello. I’ve always loved pop and rock, and this was a chance for me to challenge myself, express a different side and also put to use everything I had learned from working with Prince. It’s been so much fun rearranging the songs from Superconductor and I love how they have translated so well to more of a rock sound. It’s exciting for me to experiment with a song you’re used to hearing one way and even more exciting to then share it with the audience.
NIO: One song I saw you perform on one of your StageIt appearances was "Time Heals All Wounds". I know a number of people who really dug that song as well, any reason why that didn't make it onto the new EP and are there any plans to release it on a future project?
AA: Ahh, I love that song. It might make it on the next project. Because the song is so special to me, I want to make sure when I do release it, that it’s perfect. There’s a number of songs I have, “Time Heals All Wounds” being one of them, that when the time is right, they will officially be released.
NIO: I'm always interested in getting the perspective of musicians and artists on the current state of the music industry, especially those who are out here doing things independently of the major label system. So a couple questions on that subject. First, what are your thoughts on streaming services like Spotify, Tidal and the new Apple Music? I know they expose music to a lot of people, but the artist seems to gain very little financial reward for their music. Do you feel these types of services are necessary or do you think there has to be a better way that puts more money in the artist's pockets?
AA: Recently, Taylor Swift wrote an open letter to Apple about their Apple Music streaming service being unfair to artists and they responded positively. I was so happy to have someone like Taylor Swift stand up to them. However, the unfortunate thing is if I or any independent artists did the same thing, it would be like a tree falling in the jungle. The truth is when you’re independent, any avenue to get your music to more people is good. You can’t afford to be picky because you’re just limiting your own exposure and reach. Do I wish streaming services paid more to the artist? Of course! But so many have discovered me from playlists on Spotify who have then come to my concerts and ended up becoming loyal fans. So maybe I don’t make a lot of money from streaming sites, but I continue to gain new fans everyday. So to me, it’s worth it.
NIO: Then there are the sites like Bandcamp, Noisetrade and PledgeMusic which I know you used for Hello. Those sites seem to be not only more artist friendly, but offer the artist a much closer interaction with their fans. Do you think going forward, those types of services represent a more fair arrangement for independent musicians?
AA: I think we’ll see a lot more independent and signed musicians turning to PledgeMusic and similar services for releases. It’s a much more involved experience for both musicians and fans and I think that it really captures the indie DIY spirit.
NIO: Now that Hello is out in the world, how was your experience with PledgeMusic? Is it something you would consider using again when releasing your next project? Any downsides or did it go smoothly? I know I have heard from a number of fans that loved the personal touch of things like hand made bracelets and the exclusive mugs that were offered, was that as much fun for you to be a part of as it was for the fans who were able to purchase such unique items directly from you?
AA: I might use it again! It was a really good experience, and I think the PledgeMusic system allows you to be exposed to more people who might not have heard of you. It’s a lot different than just putting a Kickstarter on your Facebook and sharing it with the same fans over and over. I had a blast coming up with fun updates and rewards and I thought of what would make me excited if a musician I loved did their own campaign. It involved a lot of work and planning but in the end made the experience that much more personal.
NIO: You were featured rather prominently on Prince's Art Official Age album that came out last year. As is often the case with Prince projects, the credits are a little sketchy. I'm assuming you were involved with the writing of tracks like "Time" and "This Is What It Feels Like". Any insight you can provide into your input on those songs? Both carry over themes from your track "When Stars Collide" on Superconductor. Were they ever considered for a different project initially? It almost seems like they would have made a nice little remix EP of songs based around "This Is What It Feels Like".
AA: Prince and I wrote those songs around the same time as Superconductor. The way we wrote was seamless. If there was a line or verse needed, one of us would write it or chime in to add something different. “Time” and “This Is What It Feels Like” were always meant for a separate project even though “What Is Feels Like” is a continuation of “When Stars Collide”. It was a very inspiring time and there were a lot of great songs written and music recorded. I’m happy these songs got to be released and heard by the fans.
NIO: Speaking of Superconductor and being an independent musician, it is no secret there have been many Prince associated albums over the years that for one reason or another never saw the light of day. Tamar, Rosie Gaines, Margie Cox and Bonnie Raitt are just a few of the female artists that either recorded material or had complete albums ready that were never released. I remember at the time, Superconductor went through a couple delays in release dates and seemed headed for another when you took control of the project and self released it. This doesn't often happen in the Prince world. I'm curious, do you own the album? Say you wanted to re-release it as a "special edition" with bonus tracks or remixes, do you own the rights to the album that would allow you to do such a thing?
AA: We worked on it as two artists coming together so we both share it equally. Eventually, I’d like to release the rearranged versions of some of the songs and something I would like to do in the future is release Superconductor on vinyl. Hello is my first album available on vinyl so I can’t wait to do that with my other records.
NIO: Your career obviously involves more than music, with acting also in your repertoire. Which is your favorite or is it too hard to choose?
AA: It’s definitely too hard to choose. Music is very personal, but with acting I love embodying a character. Both acting and music allow me to tell a story, and it’s a dream come true to be able to do both.
NIO: Speaking of acting, you were cast in the new NBC pilot 'Warrior'. Any insight on your role and when we might see this air?
AA: Working on ‘Warrior’ was such an incredible experience. My character was a martial arts fighter and just an overall cool bad chick. I learned how to fight and did some stunts. Unfortunately, ‘Warrior’ didn’t get picked up, but I had a great time working on it! I’m looking forward to being a part of some more television and film projects.
NIO: With such a positive attitude and outlook, more projects will surely come your way. Thanks again Andy for taking the time to respond. All the best with Hello and everything else you have going on!