By Peter Cronin
Andy Allo Does It Her Way
From Morris Day to Vanity 6 to his “Purple Rain” co-star Appolonia, the legendary artist once again known as Prince has had his share of sidekicks and proteges over the years. Most faded quickly after their time in the Minnesota superstar’s spotlight. But don’t expect the same from the fiercely independent artist known as Andy Allo.
A native of the West African nation of Cameroon, Allo, a singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist with an already impressive resume, was in complete control before she ever had thoughts of a career.
“When I was 6 or 7 years old, we would have these parties where the whole neighborhood would come over and I would entertain,” Allo recalls. “We would play music and I’d do a choreographed routine. I was always the entertainer, the comedian, the dancer, the singer; I just loved entertaining.”
These days, under the auspices of her own company, Allo Evolution, she controls every aspect of her music and her rapidly rising career, handling everything from booking to wardrobe to album design. She’s currently booking her first West Coast Solo Acoustic Tour, reaching out personally to contacts, promoters and press. Allo will kick off an LA residency next month at Hotel Café before hitting the road for a 6-city mini-tour and then will embark on her first headlining tour across Europe for the rest of the year. Allo is currently featured as a performer in commercials for Wells Fargo, even delivering the vocals for the bank’s music. All along the way, she loves keeping fans updated, holding regular Facebook chats and occasionally surprising a lucky fan with a personal phone call.
Allo moved to the US in her early teens and settled with her piano-playing mom in Sacramento, California, where she joined the school choir and began to get serious about her blossoming musical gifts. From the outset, it was all about DIY. Recording her own songs at home, first on cassette and then digitally, her unique sound began to coalesce. Her self-produced, self-released 2009 debut album, UnFresh, caught the ear of Prince, who asked her to join his live touring band. Before too long, the pair began collaborating on songs and Allo’s sophomore album began to take shape.
“From the beginning of our collaboration it was natural and organic,” Allo says. “It was never forced. We just played and sang and had fun. That’s what music is supposed to feel like. It’s supposed to be fun.”
Fun, combined with a horn-driven truckload of funk, is front and center throughout Superconductor, Allo’s acclaimed sophomore CD. Released in November, 2012, the album shot to the top of Amazon’s r&b and soul charts. While Allo handled the bulk of the writing, composing and singing herself, guest artists including New Orleans phenom Trombone Shorty and James Brown’s sax man Maceo Parker add spice to the mix. The CD also boasts three songwriting collaborations with Prince, who is listed as Executive Producer.
Growing up in Africa, Allo was exposed to all kinds of music, from “local” artists like Miriam Makeba to Dolly Parton, whose records her mom would bring home from trips to America. But, in what could have been a nerve-wracking first encounter with the Purple One, Allo had an advantage.
“I didn’t grow up listening to Prince, so there wasn’t that feeling of nervousness or anxiety,” she says. “I knew he was an icon, and I had the utmost respect for him, but it wasn’t that fan craziness. It was two artists, one who has 30 years in the business and one who is just starting. It was like, ‘Okay, I can learn from this person.’”
Allo emerged from those sessions energized, inspired and very much in control. Onstage, she comes across with a relaxed confidence and a Prince-like grip on the proceedings, with band members listening, watching and responding to her every musical move.
“I like taking care of things, handling projects, and being a leader,” she says. “It helps to be independent because there’s more freedom and you’re making decisions that are in your best interest rather than expecting someone else to do that for you.”
For more information on Andy Allo, check out her website at www.alloevolution.com.