AMA Reveals She's A Homebody With A 'PIXELHEART' [Exclusive Interview]
AMA follows up her acclaimed debut EP ‘SCREENLUV’ with new project ‘PIXELHEART’ out now, on Dirty Hit. Enlisting production from both sides of the Atlantic, the lead single ‘Hour We On’ was produced by Brooklyn based Jim E-Stack, the EP opens up with the crescendo of ‘Bright’ produced by rising London producer and previous collaborator Daniel Hylton Nuamah, whilst the 2-Step groove of ‘Rush’ was produced by West Coast-based producer Santell. The EP creatively is driven by AMA herself with photographic assistance from Places + Faces founder Ciesay.
AMA explains what inspired the EP “’PIXELHEART’ looks at love from a Gen Z perspective; "from longing to find someone to share all the love you have, to not letting the constant overwhelming nature and fast pace of life distract you from the things that you love and the things that are most important to you. From the freeing feeling you have when you’re in control of where you get your joy and not having to crave validation from things like guys or Instagram to the rush of emotions that you have once you are at the start of a new relationship. The ‘PIXELHEART’ EP really just captures a lot of the emotions I have felt throughout my teens, the ups and downs going on in my pixelated heart."
For our exclusive sit down and shoot with AMA we decided to use the last song on her project 'Homebody' as the creative spark for our shoot, creatively directed by our Editor In Chief Derrick Odafi and photographed by a budding film photographer Timi Marcel. we speak to AMA in a comfortable environment about her constant rise over the last year and details pertaining to her projects SCREENLUV and of course PIXELHEART, a short but informative project about AMA's self-assurance and confidence in her unconventional sound.
Creative Direction Derrick Odafi
Photography Timi Marcel
Photography Assistant Gillian Murray / B Joux Chima
Hair/Make Up Blessing Kambanga
Visual Director Azeez Bello
Congratulations on your first projects released last year. The title of the project is very unique, what is your definition of the word SCREENLUV?
At first, I didn’t really know what I was going to call the EP, then it just came to me. I just felt like it summed up the whole period of when I was making the EP and where I’m at in life, constantly on screens, on my phone. It’s just a weird dynamic with the technology that I have. You need it to communicate with everyone that you love but it’s toxic at the same time [laughs]
What do you feel like are the benefits of technology in various types of relationships?
I think a big benefit is the ease of communication and planning, you’re able to talk to anyone that you love at any time, anywhere in the world. You can connect with people that you have never met before and established new relationships, whether that be friendships or creative wise. There might be a new producer that you find online and they’ve heard your music, then you can form a connection.
How would you say SCREENLUV has been a part of your life personally?
I would just say it sums up my life [Laughs] Not so much now though. I try to be on my phone less but I’m on my laptop more [laughs]. Just constantly on a device, I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing, as long as you’re using your time productively.
Your tracks are often buoyant, relatable and feel good - an inspiration for a get-up and go mentality. This notion is something that you reference quite a bit in your lyrics. What do you do to work towards the best version of you?
I’d definitely say that I’m working towards becoming the best version of myself, and when writing music, I’m trying to empower myself and whoever else is listening. You need that motivation sometimes, especially when there’s so much negativity out there. I think it’s good to just put some fresh positive energy into the world.
Your music is also very metaphorical, and some messages can cover various situations, is that something that you think about?
Thank you, I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily something that I think about, but I write from my personal experiences, how I’m feeling and what I’m going through and I think a lot of people go through the same thing.
"I’d definitely say that I’m working towards becoming the best version of myself, and when writing music, I’m trying to empower myself and whoever else is listening."
Since the release of your first single Monochrome, we feel like you have grown a lot, how have you evolved as an artist during that time?
Monochrome really marked the beginning as it was the first official song that I had put out. When I made Monochrome, it felt like it should be my first step. Before that, I had made songs, worked with producers and hopped on beats but, I don’t know, Monochrome was the first that felt like it was mine. I think it’s because that was the first song that was a full-on collaboration between me and the producer. From then till now, I’m just learning more about production and what I like…shifting and trying new things out that sound different. On SCREENLUV there were a lot of pitched down vocals and chopped up stuff that wasn’t on Monochrome, just finding new things that I like. It doesn’t necessarily even come from what I’m making, it could be from what I’m listening to at the time or what’s inspiring me.
Makes a lot of sense, Monochrome was a big introduction from a new artist, was that impact very important to you?
Yeah! I think you’ve got to do everything with your chest, so if I’m coming into the music game, I’ve got to do it with my chest. It has to be a song that I believe in, a message that I feel is true to myself, you’ve got to be true.
Throughout your musical career so far, it seems like your tracks, even though they retain a sense of mellowness, have gotten harder, in a more lively, upbeat direction - is this a conscious decision?
Yes, it was a conscious thing to make the music more fun, I want to be able to have fun, especially as I’m dipping my toes into live performances. I want to be able to have fun on stage, not standing still - bored [laughs]. It was a conscious decision to make feel-good music and bring the tempo up to make people want to have fun and dance.
What song on this project do you think would be the most fun to perform?
Umm, good question. Probably either Rush or Hour We On, just because they’re up-tempo, the lyrics are fun. I feel like they are just very ‘me’ tracks and I really love the production on them as well.
"With PIXELHEART, the new EP, I feel like it’s a continuation of the message from SCREENLUV. Hour We On is all about being in the moment and sometimes with our devices etc. we forget to be in the moment, even sometimes when you’re out"
‘The Hour We On’ has an interesting concept, what inspired that?
With PIXELHEART, the new EP, I feel like it’s a continuation of the message from SCREENLUV. Hour We On is all about being in the moment and sometimes with our devices etc. we forget to be in the moment, even sometimes when you’re out, you just see people on their phones at events, I’ve been in the maddest place and seen someone with their EarPods in [laughs] – in the club or something like that. You’ve got to enjoy the moment and bond with the people that you’re around because besides that, what’s the point.
On that song, you speak on the idea of running out of time. What would you say to people within music or creatives in general that feel like they are running out of time?
You’re not. I feel like that all the time, I feel like I should be doing more. I don’t know, I feel like there’s not enough time, I feel like I’m slacking. There is a constant pressure that you need to be doing bits, I think the key to not being in that headspace is just to focus on yourself. Really keep your eyes on what you're doing and keep focused on you.
Basically, stay away from SCREENLUV.
[laughs]. Things will happen when they are supposed to, you can’t be in control of everything. Some things might happen instantly, and some things might happen slowly, but you just have to trust the process and put in the work.
What is an example of this in your life so far?
This Isn’t necessarily an example but when I first started making music at 15 and I found out how old the artists that I loved were, I would be like “damn”, not to say that they were old, they would be like 25/26 but I thought they were only a couple years older than me. It really takes time for people to get to the level that they are at, you only see what’s out there – you don’t see the struggle or the process.
The creative process takes time, speaking of - what is it like working with an established producer such as Jim E-Stack?
He’s a really cool guy, we had a cool session. We only had one session and The Hour We On is the only song we made, hopefully, we can work on some more stuff. I think being established and having credits to your name looks great, but it all comes down to talent, passion and where your heart is at. Producers I have worked with that might not have all the credits, we created some of the sickest songs. I think it’s all about where your heart is and how passionate you are about the work that you’re doing. That being said – Jim E-Stack is hard
How did the name for your latest project PIXELHEART come about?
It’s in reference to a Pixelated Heart, The effects of SCREENLUV. My heart just feels pixelated [laughs]. Just processing things sometimes, I feel like I’m a robot.
We love the song 'Signal' on the project, has there ever not had signal when you really need it?
[Laughs] All the time! Even when I was here earlier, I sent out a text and there was no signal, I was like oh my gosh. Underground between stations – when you’re making plans or trying to meet someone, it’s a bit of a mess. Signal is very much necessary.
It sure is. How important is that song to you?
That’s probably one of my favorite songs on the EP, just because the message for it really resonates. Obviously all of the messages resonate with me but that one, I feel like it’s very empowering – Not having to rely on say – Likes for your joy or guys/girls for your joy, being able to stand firm for who you are and elevate above all the bullshit.
The song creates a space of being in your own world,
Yes, because otherwise, some people are just going to ruin your energy. You have to keep your signal away [laughs]
"The message for it really resonates. Obviously all of the messages resonate with me but that one, I feel like it’s very Empowering – Not having to rely on say – Likes for your joy or guys/girls for your joy"
Our shoot today is loosely inspired by your song Homebody, would you describe yourself as a homebody?
Definitely! I love being social, I love talking and interacting with people, meeting new people, spending time with my friends but I love to retreat. Once I’m in my cave – I’m in my fave and It’s hard to get me out, I struggle with going out even though I love the benefits of going out and being with the people that I love. Sometimes you just have to push yourself, I’m definitely a homebody.
What is it that makes staying in more interesting to you?
Umm, I wouldn’t even say that there is anything more interesting because when people ask me what I’m doing for the rest of the day – I’m just going home, that’s not interesting but I think there’s a beauty in being comfortable spending time on your own and not having to be surrounded by people or feeling like you need to meet people’s demands and stuff like that. What better place than inside?
The opposite of that is keeping your friends around you, which you also do - what do they think about PIXELHEART?
They’ve heard bits and bobs; they really like it. I made the majority of this EP last February/March in LA, one of my friends was out there with me. Every time I would show him the tracks once I had made them and I was getting the approvals and notes.
So, do they give you most of the approval you may seek?
Umm, yeah. I put out SCREENLUV and one of my friends was like “This track should have had way more harmonies! What were you doing?” [Laughs] But we move – you can’t win every one.
Outside of the music itself, another important part of what you do is your visual presentations, who are some of the people that are important in that process?
In terms of artwork, I came up with the ideas. I just got inspired by some stuff I saw online. My friend Ceisay shot all of the pictures and this artist called Save My Mind did all of the graphic imagery, they look sick. Basically, I just wanted a pixelated photographic image. We tried a few things such as chopping it up and rearranging sections of the photos. [Save My mind] created loads of different options and I’m happy with the final product.
What is it like being signed to Dirty Hit, a label that works with such a variety of different artists?
It’s cool, I mean, I kind of just found myself there which is a really amazing thing. The person who was managing me before I was signed moved companies to Dirty Hit and they really liked me and I really liked them, they kind of just let me do my own thing which is all you really want from the people that your working with, to believe in your vision and trust you enough to let you do your thing and support all that you need to do. I’m grateful for that.
So, what are your plans for the year as far as videos or live shows etc?
So, my manager bought me a little camcorder, so I want to put together a DIY style video for a future project. Just moments with me and my friends, out and about, capturing that raw energy. Lots more music I’m working on that I can hopefully put out shortly after this EP. I just want to stay consistent with dropping quickly because I make music quickly. Like I said I finished the majority of PIXELHEART last March, there is no need to sit on it for that long. You can expect a lot more music.
Amazing, any collaborations maybe?
Definitely, I got sent an instrumental from a producer/artist that I’m writing to. I definitely want to be hopping on more tracks, get people on some of my tracks if the song calls for it. You can expect some more collaborations.
I finished the majority of PIXELHEART last March, there is no need to sit on it for that long. You can expect a lot more music.
What would be a dream collaboration for you?
I think a dream, dream, dream collaboration would be Childish Gambino. Just because of that Because The Internet album, it just speaks to me differently. Now that I think of it, even the titled SCREENLUV, PIXELHEART, Because The Internet – I don’t know, Childish Gambino is just a genius really, he would be someone I would love to work with.
Kelela, she’s like me favourite person in R&B, KAYTRANADA – like I said, that feel-good music that everybody wants to dance to, he’s the top guy for that. Those would be some dream collabs.
Our platform speaks on various forms of creativity, what discipline outside of music do you see yourself gravitating to?
Ouu, that’s a very good question. Maybe film…even though I don’t watch that many films. I’ve started watching more films, but I get really immersed into films when I watch them. It gets a bit intense sometimes because my mind is fully in the movie. I start balling my eyes out if something emotional happens, If it’s scary- there are some times when I’ll just pace up and down my living room, stressed by the movie, so probably film.
You’ve grown a lot in just a few months, what’s been the most exciting part of the journey so far?
Probably just meeting new people and working on music. Music is what makes me the most happy -when I’m in a session and I get a sick idea or the producer I’m working with does something fire. I think every good some that I make is an achievement and a special moment to me.
The feeling that I get from that means more than any article etc. Opportunities are cool and I love that…Probably just getting sent shit from Nike is a highlight for me [Laughs] because I love Nike. Getting featured in Vogue or in Print on Elle, that was cool – but there’s something about that feeling of when you’re actually creating, for example after a shoot when you have that one shot that’s miles above the rest, That feeling inside.
Last question, what do you want your fans to take away from this new project?
Umm, I want then to take away that sense of self-belief, from Signal for example, that self-acceptance. I want them to take away that it’s good to just be in the present, enjoy the time that you have and be with the people that you love. I just want them to take away vibes! [laughs] and for all of the individual songs to resonate with them because each song has its own specific message, even though they’re not ‘preachy’ or anything like that – they definitely have meaning to them.
Thank you so much AMA, and best of luck this year