Article submitted to the Polaroid Originals Magazine by Stella Gelardi Malfilatre.
Young up-and-comer Alfreda spent the first ten years of her life in America before moving back to London, where she’s now focusing on her career in music. Alfreda describes herself as a storyteller who loves the magic and power of songwriting. She grew up writing film scripts for fun with her father, so for our photo shoot, she effortlessly played the role of a ghost in a Jardin à la Française. In our interview she shared her story with us, discussing how love, sadness, colors, and sound reveal her personal experiences.
Can you tell readers a little bit about yourself?
I was born in London but grew up in the US: first in Amherst, Massachusetts and then in NYC, in Manhattan. We moved to England when I was ten and I was really devastated about it. I actually think I got the American accent bullied out of me. I wasn’t that cool at school. I spent a lot of time at home trying to make films and plays. My dad and I would write scripts and then put on plays using my dolls or I’d put them on with friends. It was fabulous. But then I became a really obnoxious ignorant teenager and stopped doing so much of what I loved. I started doing things to make people like me. Things that made me an even more obnoxious ignorant teenager. Of course, I found a happy balance in the end, but I probably still do the latter.
How did you begin creating music? What stands out as your completed work up until now?
When I was a kid, I spent hours on Garageband exploring and recording stuff. I remember I made up an alter ego, which was me but with a deep voice effect. I would make these bizarre soundscapes and skits about their life. I don’t know how or why, but I must’ve made about eight or nine in total. I recorded all of it onto a couple of CDs and gave them to my parents. That was that. I’ll probably never be that committed to a project again. After that, I just tried to recreate Britney Spears tracks. I never showed anyone those. In fact, that might be the reason I sing through my nose. My singing teacher isn’t too happy with that.
Why is music magical for you?
It’s one of the best ways to tell a story, and that’s what got me interested in making music. It’s funny because music started as an escape for me. The more I write, the more self-analysis I do, which actually makes it quite intimidating. If I’m in a rut of insecurity or self-doubt, or heartbreak, or anything real like that, I can’t write. I’ll probably do some stupid things to get through it, like go out a lot, then hide for a bit, and then eventually I’ll come out the other end with a bunch of words and phrases I didn’t know I had in me. I can’t write a good song while I’m living in that state, because in that kind of state I’m not looking at the bigger picture. So I wouldn’t know how to conclude my story, because I don’t know how it ends yet. I hope that makes sense. I think the best genre for storytelling that we get to hear in the mainstream is with Hip Hop: with artists like Childish Gambino, Chance the Rapper, and Tyler the Creator. I think it’s the most exciting genre right now, if genre is still a thing. You can say and express so much through rap and spoken word. There’s quite a lot of unnecessary space in pop music. Breathing space. Space for production. I’ve been told I’m no good at that. Maybe that’s why it took me such a long time to figure out what music I wanted to make. I dabbled in pop rock, electronic, even techno. I still have no idea what kind of music I am making, or what I’m going to make. Production is, of course, important to me, but my main focus is the writing and the performance. We’ll see.
If you weren’t going to be a musician, what do you think your career would be?
Another competitive creative career choice, but definitely filmmaking. Directing, editing, writing. I can’t see myself happily doing anything else. I was making short films with friends all the time growing up, but when I started singing more, film became secondary. I’m going to try and sneakily do both at the same time by directing and producing my own music video soon. That way I’m tapping into all of it at once. I mean it’s great to want to do lots of things, but I really believe that nothing is achieved unless you focus on just one thing at a time. ADD means I’ve been terrible at that. Being out of school and not at university means a lot of sudden freedom, freedom you may have wanted for years while part of an institution. It’s great at first, but for me, it kinda became a prison of plan making and procrastination. And lazy perfectionism.
What do you like and appreciate about film photography – specifically Polaroid film?
With all digital photography, there is so much room for editing and second-guessing composition. But naturally with film photography, there has to be more thought put in, and I appreciate that more. I loved the more laid back, ad hoc atmosphere; it feels more me. Polaroid shots always come out so soft and dreamy, sometimes even unfocused, which is nice for me as no one can see how bad my skin is right now.
What do we have to look forward to with your music?
I have lots of big, scary dreams, but I’d just love to be on the road for years on end and wake up one day at 50 still wearing the same outfit I’m wearing now, still doing what I love. To focus on the present, I’ve actually just started my own label called a.motive, so my goal for that this year is to host a couple live music events under its name, which includes my own single launches with other similar artists playing too. I want to produce an album. I’m currently working on a batch of new songs that will either be part of an EP or they’ll just be released as singles. Ultimately, I just want to tell stories and connect with other people through them.
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