Cameroon-born singer and songwriter Andy Allo is an artist who is truly paving her own path with a sound and vibe that is uniquely her own.
Andy released her first album, UnFresh in 2009 and two years later, joined Prince’s New Power Generation as a singer/guitarist and worked with the legend on her sophomore album, Superconductor. That album featured a funk/soul sound and made it to #4 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart.
In addition to her music career, Andy is an actress and will be seen in the anticipated sequel, Pitch Perfect 3, set to be released in theaters December 22nd, 2017.
What was your first memorable experience with music?
My first experience with music? I would have to go back to being five or six and having my mom teach me piano. My mother is an incredible pianist, and she really tried to teach me, but was quite stubborn and hated practicing, so I’m not nearly as good as I could be.
Speaking of your childhood, you grew up in Cameroon. Can you tell us about your upbringing in Bamenda? Paint us a picture.
Yes, I was born and raised in Bamenda, Cameroon. I’m the youngest of five, so our home was always filled with a lot of energy. My mom is an incredible cook, and she would make these delicious meals, which we would fight over because my older brothers would always take second helpings, and there wouldn’t be any left. Other than that, life in Bamenda was simple, and being a kid was all I had to worry about. I was a master at playing dodgeball (we called it Dodging). I miss Cameroon a lot.
Have you been back to Cameroon since you left at age 11? And, what do you miss most about Cameroonian culture?
Sadly I haven’t, but I’d love to. I think about going back a lot because I miss it. I still have friends from school and family there, so it’d be amazing to go back and see everyone. My dream is to go back and put on a music festival with various African artists and perform for a few days. That’d be amazing and so much fun. Just a giant musical party.
As to what I miss most…How can I pick? I’ll say the food…and the fashion. My childhood friend from Cameroon has his own fashion line, and I just love the use of different prints and colors, mixing them together, and there are such cool and interesting patterns to create something unique and stunning.
One more thing…the people.
“Growing up, there was such a feeling of community and family. Everyone took care of one another, and was there for one another. There’s a lot of love and kindness rooted in Cameroonian culture.”
So you went from avoiding piano practice at age six to singing alongside Prince. When did you decide you were going to pursue music as a career?
I was the kid who loved being the center of attention. I was always putting on shows and performances whenever there was an audience. I knew I wanted to entertain and perform since I was little, but I didn’t know it was possible to do as a career. It wasn’t until I moved to the U.S. from Cameroon that I felt it could be a reality. For me, the U.S stood for the land of opportunity. It was the place I believed that anything is possible.
How have you gone about developing your sound?
It’s interesting because I haven’t purposely tried to develop a sound. I just make music that I like and that sounds good to me. Each record I’ve released has its own identity, which excites me because it allows me to play with all the different types of music I grew up listening to. During my first album, UnFresh, I remember listening to Raphael Saadiq, Floetry, Lauryn Hill, and India Arie, so the sound is this mix of hip hop, neo soul and acoustic-ness. My second album was when I was working with Prince, and he exposed me to a lot of funk, and soul. My last two EPs have been expressions of music ranging from pop rock to singer-songwriter, and acoustic soul. I feel like I’ve created this musical space where I can play and have fun.
“There are many people and things that have shaped me over the years, but if I had to pick one, I’d say getting the chance to work with Prince has had a huge, if not the most, impact on my life and artistry.”
How did you begin working with Prince? How do you feel working with him impacted or altered your sound?
He and I met through a mutual connection, which was The Africa Channel. They invited me to one of his shows and said that they wanted to try to introduce us. I didn’t think I would meet him and was happy to go see such a legend perform, but they made it happen. We met that night, played music together and a few weeks later, he asked me to join the New Power Generation.
Prince and I would listen to….well, Prince. Just kidding, we listened to great songwriters like Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, which shaped my songwriting. Being around him, playing and writing with him changed how I tell stories in my songs and how I think about my craft. He challenged me to be better in every way, and that continues to motivate me today.
What was the first acting role you booked?
My first acting role, I believe, was a monkey in the play, “The Wiz”, at my high school (laughs). I’ve been acting in this a while, but I’d say my first professional acting job was acting on The Game. It was my first TV audition in Los Angeles, and I booked it. I loved every minute of being on set. It was such a fun show to be on.
How do you balance an acting career with your music career? How does each fit into your life’s passion?
Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out how to balance it all. It’s hard! I love doing both, but they take turns of being my main focus. Actually it works out pretty well because when music slows down, the acting picks up, and when acting slows down, the music picks up. I just go with the flow.
I’m a creative through and through, and music and acting are outlets for that creativity. What has been really cool is to do projects that combine both the music and acting.
Speaking of projects that combine them both, tell us about your role in the musical comedy Pitch Perfect 3. What was it like filming with a primarily female cast? How did that differ from your other acting experiences?
I still can’t believe I’m a part of Pitch Perfect 3! It’s such a dream come true getting to act in this movie alongside such hilarious and incredible women. My character is in the rival band to the Bellas and it’s so fun to play “the bad guy.” I love it! It was such a supportive set and environment. All of the women who had been in the previous films and our amazing director, Trish Sie, welcomed me with such kindness and excitement. I think the beauty of being on an all-female set is our cycles all synced up by the end. I’m kidding. That didn’t happen. (laughs)
One of the things that’s so exciting for me about this movie is that it brings together the two things that I love, which is being a singer-musician and an actor. It was so much fun on set because we would have these impromptu jam sessions.
You recently were in Abuja, Nigeria. Can you tell us about that trip and what it was like being back in Africa, so close to home?
I love Abuja! I loved every minute of my trip. It had been 15 years since I had been in Africa, and being there felt like I was home. I got the wonderful opportunity to be a part of the U.S. Embassy’s Art Envoy Program, where they bring artists from the states to different parts of the world. It’s a musical and cultural exchange, so I got to meet and play with some Nigerian artists and also teach a master class to local up and coming artists. It was so inspirational and fulfilling.
I also ate so much good food. I brought my sister with me, and we stuffed ourselves with food that we don’t really get to eat in the U.S. on a daily basis. We had jollof rice, akara beans, stew, koki beans, and egusi. There was a lot of food that reminded us of Cameroon. I mean, it was food heaven, and I didn’t want to leave. I’ve kept in touch with some of the artists I met during the trip, and I look forward to going back.
What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?
I’m working on a Christmas EP that’s coming out at the end of November. It’s got a more R&B vibe to it, which I’m really excited to share. Other than that, I can’t wait for Pitch Perfect 3 to come out December 22nd.