You may not have heard of Andy Allo. But you’ve definitely seen her pretty face and funky afro on such ads as the U.S Post Office, BlackPeopleMeet.com and Toyota. The sista can sell cars and stamps. But what she definitely has me sold on is her music. Allo makes an impressive musical debut with her album UnFresh. Her sweet and soulful voice is candy to the ears. Allo shares her stories of life and love through a passionate blend of hip hop, neo-soul and alternative. Or as she likes to call it, alter-hip-soul. Only 22, the Cameroonian-born model and actress now has singer, songwriter and executive producer to her long list of talents. Allo financed the independent project on her own when she was 21. And don’t think her album sounds like something recorded in her mama’s garage. Nope. Nothing but studio-quality sounds on UnFresh. Allo’s album was born in the same studio where Tony! Toni! Tone! created some of their hits.
I met up with Allo at a Starbucks in Hollywood. She greeted me with a bright smile and halo of hair. Her model frame was working a fitted black leather jacket and sparkly scarf. Allo is new to LA. She moved to Sacramento, Calif from Cameroon nine years ago. Her mother is a white American and her father, whom she’s named after, is a black African. FYI Allo means hello in French. It’s fitting for her bubbly personality. But when it’s time to talk business, she gets serious. Allo and I chatted up about Cameroon, caring for a sick parent in high school and her career.
Cocoa Fly: You’re from Cameroon but I don’t hear an accent.
Andy Allo: When I moved here I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be like everyone else because I was different. So I learned the [American] accent. I picked up the accent my peers were using.
Do you miss Cameroon?
I do. I miss my friends because I didn’t want to move out here. I was in school. I would have gotten to experience life there a little more.
Why did you move?
My mom had fallen ill.
What was her illness?
She had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Being around someone sick, you know, you have to take care of things and be there for them and go to school. And I had a part time job. I learned to be responsible.
Where did you work?
I worked at a concession stand at a bowling alley. I worked at Wienerschnitzel. That only lasted a week. I worked at Stylez, an urban clothing store. And I worked at Sports Chalet. Then I worked for Farmer’s Life Insurance .That was one of the first jobs I had. I was 14 and I worked at home and I called people. I had my little call sheet and I said, “Hi, I’m calling from Farmer’s Insurance.” Then I talked super fast before they hung up. This one lady called the cops on me. (laughter)
Yeah. And I also worked in a doctor’s office. It was my uncle’s office, he’s a cardiologist. I did paper work. Then I worked at Rally’s. This is all in high school. I’m a hustler.
Yes you are. Are your parents still together?
No. My dad still lives in Cameroon. But all my brothers and sisters are out here.
I love food. What are some good Cameroon dishes?
Fried plantains are the love of my life. Authentic Cameroonian food which is awesome is corn chaff, which is basically beans, corn, palm oil, onions, veggies and awesomeness. And another dish is called koki. It’s like a tamale and they wrap it up in leaves and then bake it. I don’t know how they make it but it’s so good.
(Laugh) What do your parents do for a living?
My dad is an ecologist. He’s traveled all over the world. He’s very academic and used to run the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) branch in Cameroon. My mom used to teach in Cameroon- -English and standard classes.
Do your parents have a musical background?
Mom plays piano. She taught my brothers and sisters, all of us, piano. My dad can sing. He’s a good singer. He never pursued it. He’s more of the academic kind of guy. But my mom is very artistic. She can draw, she can write and play piano amazing.
Oh that’s where you get your talent. How did you get into music?
Ever since I was little I wrote poetry. I wrote songs. I used to sing with my sister and we would work on harmonies. I would always sing the high part and she would always sing the low. I would never let her sing the high part because I always wanted it. Then when I moved [to Sacramento] that’s when I really immersed myself into it. I got into choir in middle school and that’s the first time I realized that, “Wow. I can actually sing. I’m not too bad at this.’
I love your album. What song really reflects you?
I think it would be “I Want Love.” It’s sort of an autobiographical song because the first verse is talking about how I’m named after my father and how I learned how to never quit. And basically ‘I’m on it like a bonnet. My words flow like a Shakespearean sonnet.’
Girl, I loved that line!
That is my quote! ‘I’m on it like a bonnet.’ The second verse is about my mom and how she influenced me. I want love, I want life I want whatever’s out there that life has to offer.
How challenging is it to be an independent artist?
As an independent artist it’s quite challenging. I funded and invested everything into this album. No one helped me financially.
At times I wanted to give up. I hated this album. I was so done. Something I talk about in my song “Fly Away, ” is I had gone to a point where I ran out of money. We weren’t even half-way done with this thing. What am I going to do? So I went to all of these banks and I [begged], “Please, please give me a loan.” I’m 21. No one’s gonna give me a loan (laughter)! And so I kept getting denied. It was a really frustrating time for me. But it really helped me grow. I learned a lot about being strong and pushing through despite whatever else.
Oh you’re crying. That must have been really hard for you.
It’s been a crazy project and crazy year for me.
That’s amazing. You produced your own album at 21 when a lot of kids that age are worried about getting an iPhone.
(Laugh) What do you want to see for your music career and dreams?
My goal was to sell 100,000 albums. I’m still working on 1,000 right now. I want to perform on a late show like Kimmel, Conan or David Letterman.
My next release will be a free download. The third one I’m looking forward to, is going to be an African [album] and that’s when I’m going to shave my head. (Laughs)
Really? I’m surprised because the ‘fro is your thing.
The hair is a big part of me. It’s become a strong part of myself. So I wonder how would it be if I didn’t have the afro.
Shaving your head would give you a very African style.
It kind of goes back to my roots.
You’re right. India Arie cut her hair.
Yeah and so did Erykah Badu.
What about acting?
I’d love to get into comedy. I think I’m slightly funny. And definitely drama. My goal is to be on a TV show like “Entourage” or “True Blood.” I’d want to be a vampire and bite somebody.
A vampire with an afro. A ‘Fropire
Ooo I love it. I’m going to write that down somewhere.
You’ve accomplished so much at your age. You managed to do most of this from Sacramento. This is not an easy industry. How did you do it and not live in LA?
It’s been hard work. It’s about determination and being responsible and being mature. I know this is something I want to do and I take it very seriously. I think that’s why I’ve been able to accomplish what I have is because when I know something that I want I go for it. And I put in everything that I can and I just really focus.
Check for Andy Allo's album on iTunes or listen to a few songs here.