Young pop star A*M*E greets The Hunger team like old friends when she arrives for her cover shoot. This is the second time she has been to Rankin’s studio, and she’s very excited. “A*M*E is usually always late, but this morning she was half an hour early to meet me,” her manager tells us. She’s so positive, pleasant and petite that you want to put her in your pocket – her aura, in some ways, is reminiscent of a young Kylie Minogue.
A*M*E, who moved from Sierra Leone to South London when she was eight, started her DIY fanzine with friends at the age of 16: the same year she wrote and recorded her first single “City Lights” with music producer and childhood friend MNEK.
The following year was her breakthrough as she went on to tour with Jessie J, JLS, Rizzle Kicks and Cover Drive, while simultaneously releasing a host of viral videos including “Ride or Die” and “Find a Boy”, the latter of which she co-wrote with Emeli Sandé. She also had a number one hit in South Korea. Her unashamed lyrics and candy-coloured videos benefit from the wisdom of youth.
You made the Top 15 of the BBC sound of 2013 poll. How does that feel?
A*M*E: Incredible. It was totally unexpected. To be in it alongside the likes of Angel Haze and The Weeknd is just an amazing feeling, so I’m grateful. On the day the sound poll was released Twitter went crazy.
You’re only 18, how did you get into music at such a young age?
It was through my dad. He used to be in a band in Sierra Leone with his brothers. I went to his first headline tour, and that was the moment
I thought, “Wow, this is incredible.” I wanted to be the person everyone was cheering for. When
I moved to London, I had opportunities like joining a choir, doing regional youth festivals, and using a friend’s in-house studio as well as my school’s studio. I jumped at every opportunity.
We’ve also interviewed MNEK for this issue. How did you two meet?
MNEK and I met through a mutual friend. We went in to the studio completely off the cuff, and that kick-started the whole process. We’ve been working together for ages.
Who are your music idols from the past?
I’m in love with the 90s; Janet Jackson is my main idol. But I also love the 60s, and in terms of vocals Minnie Riperton is my second idol; her songwriting completely blows me away. All the greats – Donna Summer, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross – really inspire me, too.
Is there anyone you admire at the moment?
I’ve admired Beyoncé for a long time, because she’s an all-rounder, and she’s incredible at what she does. I think she’s one of the best of her generation.
Who are your favourite K-pop artists?
It’s always going to be Big Bang. I salute them, and I love them. I have loved them since 2006 when I first discovered K-pop, so they’re always going to be the number one for me. I also love Girls’ Generation, Epik High, Super Junior, 2NE1 and Tablo, to name a few.
What do you think about the growing number of successful female artists?
There has been a lot of female power bursting onto the charts. I say, “Girl power! Let’s do it girls. Let’s get all the number ones. Let’s get all the best shows!” I’m definitely down for female empowerment!
Read more of this interview in issue 4.