There's a trend among the next generation of young UK musicians—they're unafraid to represent pop on an underground level. A prime example is teenaged London-based singer A*M*E. The Sierra Leone-born vocalist recently caught the attention of Take That's Gary Barlow with her quirky, '90s-influenced style and sound; Barlow eventually signed her to his Universal imprint, Future Music. After working on tracks with MNEK (The Saturdays, Misha B) and Naughty Boy (Emeli Sande, Chipmunk), A*M*E has won over pop critics in her home country and is surely set to do the same Stateside...
HOMETOWN: Sierra Leone, Africa; now based in London
BEGINNINGS: I was born in Sierra Leone and lived there until I was eight years old. My dad was in a band with his brothers, so I would listen to them practicing before gigs and be in awe. As I grew up, I realised that didn't want to be in the audience anymore—I wanted to be the one on the stage! My dad and his brothers influenced me a lot growing up. Outside of the family, though, artists like Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, and Bob Marley were my main inspirations. Westlife, too. [laughs]
ON SIGNING WITH GARY BARLOW'S FUTURE MUSIC LABEL: I was scouted at a school talent show that I was performing in, which is where I met my manager. Once that happened, I got into the studio and worked my butt off to make a demo CD and organized to have some pictures taken with a small plastic cow. Luckily, a few labels liked what they heard and saw, so after meeting a few of them, I just felt that Gary's felt like home and the deal was done!
IS THERE ROOM IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY FOR A*M*E?: I'm loving the explosion in the UK music scene at the moment. I think UK music is really expanding around the world, and I'm very proud to be part of that expansion. I definitely think there is space for me—if not, I'll just have to create space. [laughs] In all seriousness, though, I don't think any other 17-year-old kid from London is doing what I do right now, so there definitely a gap for A*M*E.
BLACK POP: Pop was never something that I was ashamed of. I've grown up listening to and loving pop music, but I do agree that more singers—not just necessarily black singers—are really into pop more these days. That said, pop is short for "popular," and it's such a broad genre that there's room for a wide variety of artists.
FASHION: I'm a massive fan of heels, so Christian Louboutin, Giuseppe Zanotti, and Jeffery Campbell are a few of my favourite heel designers. On the clothing side, I love KTZ—who have styled me for most big appearances or events I've performed at. I'm a High Street lover as well, so I'm really into clothes from Topshop and River Island. I like taking bits and pieces from different shops and working them into to my own style.
THE FUTURE: World domination. [laughs] Just kidding! I'm doing a few support tours across the summer with JLS, The Wanted, and a few other big names, and hopefully my first headline tour very soon. I'll also have my first official single release later on in the year, and there's also an album on the way. I'd love to work with Big Bang, who are a Korean pop band, and also Janet Jackson. Top of my list of producers who I haven't had a chance to work with yet would be RedOne, Jimmy Jam, and Terry Lewis—that would be amazing because I love, love, love their work. Just watch this space!
FOR MORE ON A*M*E, VISIT HER WEBSITE
By Joseph 'JP' Patterson
A version of this appeared over at Interview Magazine: H E R E