Sunday, 17 April 2011

A Me B (interview)

Like many 18 year old girls, Amy Burns wants to be a successful solo artist. However, what sets her apart from vast swathes of the population is that she isn’t trying to achieve her dreams by turning up to reality show auditions and assuming that “passion” and the fact it “means the world” is all it takes. Making the most of the opportunities the internet affords new talent, she’s doing things on her own terms. Not only a singer and rapper, she also produces all her own tracks.
So far, so good – you have to admire her industry. But not only that, Amy Burns (a.k.a. A Me B) makes utterly fantastic music. When not studying at college, she creates songs that touch on the cornerstones of pop, hip-hop, dubstep, dance and electronica. She’s just released a frighteningly accomplished mixtape called Get Me Out This Box, which is available for free on her website. A debut full-length album is set to follow later this year, but before she launches her assault on the world of music, she found time to have a chat over Skype.

“When I was 12, I remember playing a PlayStation 2 game called EJay Clubworld, which was just basically arranging loops. From then on, I really liked making music that way, and that’s how I got into producing.” It’s incredibly refreshing to hear someone so young talk about their love for the creation side of music, rather than just the vocals. Amy is exceptionally assured and confident, but without any hint of arrogance. She’s also remarkably patient too – Skype connectivity issues meant that our conversation was split into three parts. While she laughed off this inconvenience, I was panicking and apologising profusely.

One of the more striking things about Get Me Out This Box is the fluidity of the lyrics. A Me B makes ordinary life and everyday dramas compelling, and this could be as a result of her writing every day. “I write when I’m on a train, or people-watching, or on the college bus even. Sometimes, lyrics just come depending on what mood you’re in.” The title track is a fantastic duel tale, with A Me B concerned about having her music labelled while simultaneously being stuck within a stifling relationship. “I don’t want to be pigeonholed, so it’s showing how I can use my voice both singing and rapping over different beats.”

Music critics are too quick to try and categorise artists, and it seems I’m no different. After asking how she got into making hip-hop, A Me B replied by telling me her music isn’t straight-up hip-hop. After pushing for an answer on how she’d describe the music she makes, I got the response of “urban dance.” It’s probably a better description than any established genre name you’d care to throw at A Me B – the range of influences don’t lend themselves to one particular type of music. Her mixtape even samples both The xx and Ian Brown.

So, just how close is A Me B to mainstream success? Chances are you haven’t heard of her yet, but she’s signed to an indie label (Manchester’s Affinity Records), has a tour coming up and has already supported the hugely successful Tinchy Stryder. “It was amazing!” she exclaims excitedly. “It was at the O2 Academy in Liverpool and two years before, I’d watched Dizzee Rascal there. Then, I was performing on that same stage; it was just mad. When I went on stage, some girls who must have seen me before started singing one of my songs, and that boosted me right up. It’s one of the best gigs I’ve done so far; when I was getting the crowd involved with call and response they were giving it back. It was just great!”

In the last decade, any female UK rappers who have broken through have tended to be from London, but A Me B hails from Wigan in Lancashire. Thus, she sings and raps with a disarming broad northern brogue, which makes you realise how little of this kind of sound you hear in music. Also, the female rappers who have broken through have seemed to fade away all too quickly. Ms. Dynamite, Speech Debelle and Lady Sovereign have all failed to live up to their initial promise. I wondered if A Me B had a theory on why this may be, but my enquiries were met with a defence of the artists in question. “To be fair to Ms. Dynamite, she’s just come back,” she correctly pointed out. “She’s just done a track with Katy B [Lights On] which has done well.” Now that’s solidarity.

Completely self-taught, bright, ambitious and a pleasure to interview, the music industry needs more people like A Me B. She promises her forthcoming album will be “not like a lot of commercial music that’s out there at the moment” and is savvy enough to realise “you’ve got to be a bit different if you want to stand out.” If the album fulfils the promise shown on Get Me Out This Box, we could well be witnessing the making of a star.

A Me B’s mixtape, Get Me Out This Box, is available for free download now at

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