Words by Rae Witte.
“People hear ‘I love you’ and think it’s gonna be a love song,” says Ama Lou about “Wired,” the last song on her self-produced debut EP, DDD. While it wouldn’t be ridiculous to assume such (with Lou soulfully opening “Wired” by singing “I love you more even when the sun is down”), she clarifies it’s about the things we hide from the world, particularly in relationships, due to the fear of not being accepted.
It’s this awareness of the world and security within herself that’s allowed the 20-year-old to live her truth of communicating precisely who she is and how she feels. First finding buzz from her 2016 song “TBC,” about police brutality, her self-produced EP DDD followed in 2018. She embarked on her first tour this year with fellow British singer-songwriter, Jorja Smith. This week, she releases “Bless Me” as a part of Creed 2 soundtrack.
While lounging at the NOMAD Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, I ask her what type of music she’s currently listening to. “I love silence. I’ll be in the studio all day. Is that boring? I love quiet. If I was not doing anything, I’d love to sit here and have no one speak to me.” In silence is where you’ll find Lou piecing together her thoughts. She even runs long distances in complete silence.
“I spent a lot of time by myself growing up. I spent a lot of time in my room watching films. I like a lot of alone, silence time.” Lou remembers wanting to be an actress as a kid, but always found herself rebelling against structure. “When I was 9 [or] 10, my mum sent us to this acting school in London over a school holiday. Afterwards, I said to my mum, ‘I don’t wanna be an actor anymore because people would tell me what do.’ I fucking hate being told what to do with my creativity.”
“I fucking hate being told what to do with my creativity.”
She saved the acting for when she’d put on shows at the foot of her mom’s bed, entertaining her with a catalog of funny impressions and made-up accents. And although the need to not be put into a box bled into other creative outlets, she continued to participate in the arts. “Me and my sister both did ballet growing up. My sister was so good at it, and I would just freestyle. We’d get to the shows and I would just freestyle. You could see my teachers faces [be] like, ‘what the fuck are you doing?’ I’d look at them like, ‘this is more fun. I would fuck up the whole show.'”
Lou also spent most of her childhood traveling with her parents and sister, Mahalia. These same travels are at the root of Lou’s love for new faces and places when touring. “Before my mum had us, she traveled immensely. She lived in loads of different countries; same with my dad. My parents knew that to teach your children about other places and how different and expansive the world is we had to go there. My parents would be like, ‘For Christmas, do you want presents or a massive French holiday like your friends or do you want to go somewhere else for once or twice a year?’ And, we would go to like…Thailand. We’d go to the side of the island that’s not a resort, and we’d stay in huts with the locals. From a young age, we had this perspective of how people live and not this image of people on the news. It was really cool.”
These experiences also formed a special bond between her and Mahalia, who is only 18 months her junior and shot the 13-minute visual for DDD. “Me and Mahalia have a cool relationship because we’re completely different. We’re total opposites. We never fought over clothes. She hates clothes. She’s not into it. I am. Anything she doesn’t have, I have. Anything I don’t have, she has. It’s like two perfect fits to a puzzle. We compliment each other because we’re so different.”
“We compliment each other because we’re so different.”
Now, Lou spends a lot of time living between London, where she grew up, and Los Angeles, Calif. Mahalia shot Lou’s self-directed DDD video, which stands for dawn, day, and dusk, in different desert locations in California. “I’d written the songs and I was thinking of all these vivid, visual images. I was thinking about film. Then, I was writing down all these scenes. I had notes of these random scenes and realized they kinda flowed into each other. I’d get other ideas and realized I like triptych. I like the sequences of things. The vision of dawn, day, and dusk came to me through that.”
“We hide aspects of ourselves that we don’t think are acceptable to people when it’s those [things that] make up yourself,” she says. True to the origins of “Wire,” Lou is dedicated to her truth because with that comes freedom, freedom to be herself and to create what she wants and how she wants. “Ninety-nine percent of the time I’ll tell you specifically what I want.”