AMA is still getting used to life as a recording artist with a record deal (with Dirty Hit). “It’s crazy for me to think that right now I’m sipping tea with you in this bougie-ass hotel and there’s tons of people out there listening to my music this second,” she says, breathlessly, in a plush London suite. “It’s like, why are you doing that?”
They’re probably doing that because the 19-year-old Londoner’s debut EP ‘Screenluv’ is damn good. Released last month, it’s a shimmering fusion of glittering R&B production, huge pop hooks and bombastic electronic breakdowns. Some cuts sound like they could fit on a Normani or Kali Uchis record, whilst others are infused with elements of Charli XCX’s leftfield future-pop. At the core all of them are buoyant, lively tunes that’ll get you up and dancing.
“I’ve been making it [‘Screenluv’] with the intent of being able to have fun on stage,” AMA explains. Sonically, her debut project is a leap from when AMA first started making music and uploading it to SoundCloud aged 14. Back then, the tunes were far more chilled: “I remember when I was doing live shows with my SoundCloud music, it was so mellow, and so calm that I was bored on stage… I realised this isn’t the type of music that I want to be making if I want to be performing.”
AMA still has a ton of these old demos saved into her iPhone, and sometimes finds herself scrolling through them. “I get surprised by the stuff that’s actually there because I forget it exists. And some of it isn’t too bad. Maybe I’ll just give it a little revamp and put it out in the future.”
There are other demos, however, that are harder to listen to: “When I put ‘Monochrome’ [a single AMA released last year] out I listened to the initial demo. And I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, my voice has got like a million times better’. I just sounded terrible on the demo! I was actually laughing at my voice!”
‘Monochrome’ was one of a handful of earlier songs that didn’t make the final ‘Screenluv’ track listing. “Initially I wanted it on there… but things keep on shifting, and then you grow as an artist,” AMA explains, adding: “and then it’s like, ‘Actually that old song I did want to put on, I’m better than that now, why would I want to put that in the project?'”
“With streaming there’s really no rules to releasing anymore,” says AMA. Even before the release of ‘Screenluv’ AMA had plans for an another EP, as well as “a longer project, probably coming out next year.”
AMA grew up in a musical household. Her elder sister, an engineer, produces music (including some of AMA’s old works) for fun, her dad taught her how to play the Kora (a type of West African harp) and her mum would play “gospel and Christian music” in the house.
She was seven when she first started to try and write her own tunes, filling a ring binder with ideas for song lyrics. “I remember getting a sheet of paper and writing a list saying ‘things to write songs about’, writing like ‘love’, ‘friendship’, stuff like that.” These future classics may not have materialised, but at age 11, AMA wrote her first song at a kids activity club run at the gym her mum worked at: “I wrote it over the Lauryn Hill ‘Doo-Wop (That Thing)’ beat and it was song about how when people lie to me, I get annoyed”.
After years of studying and creating music on the side AMA signed to Dirty Hit shortly after she finished college in mid-2018. She had initially considered releasing her music through a distribution company, but in the end it was the family feel of Dirty Hit that made her decide it was the right choice, “It’s so warm and inviting in the office,” she says. “Every time I go there is such a family vibe!”
Since then, AMA’s been on a steady upward trajectory – one of her stand-alone singles, ‘Slip’, recently reached one million streams. “My mum got me a little caterpillar cake to celebrate,” she tells us. But despite the huge milestone she chooses not to dwell on the number: “I really appreciate all the stuff that’s going on but I also don’t think is that good to just like fixate on numbers. Because, ultimately that’s not why I’m making music.”
Instead of numbers AMA’s aims for the future are more tangible. They include getting more into writing for other people (“I definitely want to get into the world of writing – I’d love to one day write for Beyoncé,”), doing more live shows and continuing to write music that makes people feel good.
With more live shows on the way (including a date at NME’s Girls to the Front series tonight) and new music planned, that’s two out of three boxes ticked off already. Your move, Beyoncé.