In our two big entertainment industries – film and music – young women often tend to act like the majority of fans and superior men want to them act, because they are afraid of failing and not making it to the top. Understandable in many ways, but when you always pretend to be somebody else just to please people you’re easily loosing yourself. Luckily there are a few exceptions that maintain their own way and stand to themselves. One of them is the talented South African singer and songwriter Alice Phoebe Lou. Starting as a street artist at the top street performance spot in Berlin, the ‘Warschauer Brücke’, she slowly drew more and more attention to herself until she was able to release her debut record Orbit in 2016. Although she had the opportunity to release it via a commercial label, she decided to stay independent, stick to her roots and not to do what other people expected her to do. We already told you a bit of her story in our last feature with her two years ago. Since then things have changed again for the charismatic girl.
Alice toured a while with her former musical partner Matteo, but at some point that didn’t feel right anymore:
‘We’ve been playing a lot of live shows and I was not having so much fun towards the end. There was something weighting down on me. As soon as I changed my situation with who I was playing I was getting more confident in myself -especially since the beginning of this year. We have a new band and we’re having fun and not taking ourselves too seriously. It’s really quick to start to feel this pressure to take things super seriously but it takes all the fun out of what you do.’
Getting more confidence also helped the young woman not to care so much about other opinions. She doesn’t care about making mistakes or to be perfect, as she told us. The most important thing to her is enjoying herself, because ‘I know now that when I’m enjoying myself the audience is enjoying themselves’. And that is totally right –in the case there is an artist on stage that feels uncomfortable and has no fun doing what he’s doing, the audience instantly feels the same.
‘I’ve started learning the balance of how much I can give’
But there are some more lessons that Alice Phoebe Lou learned in the past two years since we last spoke:
‘I was just opening myself too much to other people. But I’ve started learning the balance of how much I can give. And being able to say no to people is the most important lesson that I learned. Just to be sure of myself and do what’s right for me and not always worry about everybody else.’
Alice Phoebe Lou moved to Berlin when she was 19, after having visited various different schools in South Africa. For most of the years she attended the famous Waldorf school with its alternative concept that also shaped the musicians personality:
‘I didn’t realize how much it affected me until years later. For me the typical schooling system is very closed in and quite conservative. Especially in South Africa, in a lot of schools there is this kind of old colonial feel and quite a religious emphasis. These kinds of things that really impact you. And also just this emphasis on career. You choose only one thing and that’s what you do. Waldorf taught me that we are multifaceted, we have lots of things that we can do and we should do.’
But not only Alice’s former school time was quite alternative, also her lifestyle today has some kind of alternative vibe: playing on the streets, staying independent, wearing hippie-like clothes, putting a nude photo on Instagram…
‘I was lucky enough to grow up with pretty urban minded parents. The one thing that I have given myself as a gift is to not project onto my future what I want for myself in that time. Because I know how much I change all the time. I live my life in a way that leaves things open to the person that I will become: to let that person decide for herself what will happen. I think very often we’re told to have these big plans and to know exactly where we want to be in five years. And for me, I have intentions, I have ideas, but I don’t have a specific way of wanting to go forward because I want to be able to change. The most important aspect of having an alternative life for me is giving yourself room to change and evolve. And if in two years I want a completely different life I can give it to myself.’
‘I really appreciate being alive right now’
This year, the 1960ies were on everyone’s lips because the famous revolutionary years happened 50 years ago. So regarding Alice’s alternative and free lifestyle, does she maybe sometimes wish to have witnessed this famous era?
‘A lot of people that have an alternative life like me romanticize different times. And say: I’m a hippie; I should have been born in the 60s. But if we look at where women’s rights were at that time, where gay rights were, were the freedoms were, it’s not the time that I would like to live in. There is an ideal romantic version of this which is nice to get inspiration from. But I think that I’m living in the most interesting time to be alive. Because there are these kinds of possibilities of especially being a woman – I mean we still got a long way to go, but I feel like I’m able to really express myself on topics about feminism and these kind of things which I wouldn’t have been able to do 20,40 or 50 years ago. I really appreciate being alive right now.’
Freedom and equal rights seem to be an important topic to the young girl in general. A few months back she recorded the song She for the movie Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story. A movie which is about Hedy Lamarr, a famous actress who only got the world’s attention because of her look and not her other true recognizable ability: she was an inventor who developed the original technology on which todays Bluetooth and wireless communication is based on.
‘It’s one of those characters in history that really did not get the recognition that they deserve. And because of being a woman – being a strong, sometimes confused, sometimes addicted to drugs and whatever woman – they were devalued and put to the side even though they achieved so much and did so many amazing things. It’s the perfect feminist story. I mean she was a feminist before feminism even existed. The emphasis they were trying to do with this documentary is amazing, because there is actually less and less woman going – especially in the US – into the fields of science, engineering, all of these things.
And if we think about the future of the world it’s not going to be a balanced if only 10 percent of the inventions and all these things that shape our world – science and technology are shaping our world more than anything else at the moment –are only invented by men. It’s very important to tell everyone that they can do everything, because we need to be able to know and not to figure it out later, after we’ve lived our lives and realize that we could have been doing something that we really loved, but we thought that we could never do that because our gender.’
‘Because of being a woman they were devalued and put to the side’
Alice Phoebe Lou living in Berlin since 5 years, a colorful city with all kind of shapes. Having moved to the German capital straight from Cape Town, a dark and violent place, had a great impact on the songwriter.
‘In Cape Town there is a lot of violent crime and potential of violent crime all the time: it’s a paranoia that you grow up with. So the main thing was being able to feel safe. I mean I don’t actually blame people who are criminals in South Africa: the apartheid situation and the difference between rich, poor and black is still so bad that I almost understand why people are criminals. But being a young woman as an individual it’s exhausting to not have the freedom to walk around alone at night. Being able to do this is in Berlin is what really shaped me and gave more a lot more confidence and more freedom. There are also so many things about Berlin that are amazing artistically. You have a community there that helps and uplifts each other rather than having a competitive music scene. I quickly got this community feeling which I never had before. And my first home is Berlin. The one that I made myself. Not the one that my parents made.’
‘My first home is Berlin’
It seems like Alice really found the right place and right people to be surrounded with during the last two years in Berlin. But she didn’t only use the time for finding herself, she also created new music, which will be released as an album at the end of this year. She and her band recorded the new pieces with producer Noah Georgson, who is known for working with Joanna Newsom and Devendra Banhart. They chose a beautiful studio in California right next to the ocean – the perfect location to create free music, without ‘any competition or bullshit’, just ‘love and support.’ Creating something, that is ‘not perfect but feels alive’. And again, the album will be released independently, without any big record company behind.
Alice admits, that it is very scary for her, because the album is a bigger production than her debut and she needs to put all her money into it, although she sometimes doesn’t know where it’s coming from. But still, even though the young woman could choose an easier way with money from a big record company, she sticks to her roots, makes her own thing and stays independent. And that’s exactly what makes her this authentic and special. So stay tuned, there is definitely something great coming from this talented musician in the next few months!