Andy Allo started her musical journey singing and playing guitar at open mikes at Fox and Goose in Sacramento. She worked her way up to shows at Harlow’s and was eventually discovered in Los Angeles by Prince himself, who invited her to join his band.
Allo’s second album, “Superconductor,” features big soul/funk sounds, lots of instruments and production, you can hear Prince’s influence. The album made it to No. 4 on the Billboard Heatseekers Chart. Her recent release, “One Step Closer,” is stripped down and closer to her open-mike roots – a move her friend and mentor encouraged her to take, but she admits she wasn’t ready to hear it at the time.
She just wrapped up filming scenes in “Pitch Perfect 3,” which is due in theaters in December. She’s currently touring in support of her new EP and will release a full length album later this year. Her tour takes her to Grass Valley on Friday, May 8.
We caught up with the very busy artist on the road between Minneapolis and Cincinnati. She discussed lessons she learned from working with Prince, her quest to discover and develop her true voice, and how growing up in Sacramento helped build her confidence musically.
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Q. “One Step” is an acoustic singer/songwriter style, instead of the funk/soul you might be known for. Why the departure?
A. I’ve always played the guitar and sang; that’s my foundation. I wanted to create a collection of songs built around how I write. This was really fun and kind of an experiment because I created the EP in two weeks.
Q. Do you feel like these songs are more vulnerable that what you’ve done in the past? It’s stripped down, it’s just you, did you feel that vulnerability?
A. Absolutely vulnerable. This particular EP, I didn’t have a lot of production to hide behind. It was a little scary. Because of the time (limit) I put on it, I couldn’t allow myself to overthink things.
Q. What was Prince like as a mentor?
A. He was just really giving, especially with advice, sometimes you don’t really want to hear it, but you were gonna get it. Now those are the things I think of. I wish I had written down more of what he shared.
Q. Prince was such an influence on you, and now you’re doing all this great stuff. Do you ever get sad that he’s not seeing this?
A. Oh yeah, I was crying in my tour bus the other day. It is sad, because I feel like all this cool stuff is happening for me, and something he really loved was me playing acoustically and singing. “When you do that, that’s you.” When he would say that, I wasn’t ready to hear it then. It was one of those moments, when it was like “I don’t want to hear this right now. I want my big band. I want the horns. We’re doing funk right now.”
When I first met him, I was playing guitar and singing. That’s how he knew me. Through our journey together, I learned about big bands and playing with horns and how to arrange lots of instruments. He was always that constant reminder, “Play guitar and sing. It’s beautiful when you do that.” That’s one of those memories I was reminded of after losing him. I wasn’t ready when he said it. Then I thought, “I need to just go back to beginning.”
Q. How are you feeling about “Pitch Perfect 3”?
A. I’m not biased at all, but I feel like this one’s going to be great.
Q. Have you done a lot of a capella?
A. No … no, not at all. (The character) I play is in the rival group, and I don’t think I can give much away, I’ll just say that there are some extra elements in this movie that people aren’t expecting. It’s not what you’ve come to see from the “Pitch Perfect” movies.
Q. How have your Sacramento roots influenced your music and your career?
A. Can I just say, this is just so exciting, to be interviewed by The Sacramento Bee? This is a newspaper I grew up reading, my mom still gets the Sac Bee. This is just one of those moments as an artist where you go, “Woah.” I’m really honored and really excited about this, because Sacramento was a launching pad; it was where it all began. That’s where I built my confidence as a guitar player and singer songwriter.