Meet Alice Phoebe Lou


The dream. The career. The duality.

alice phoebe lou

Your story feels like a daydream. You left for another country and used music as a source of engagement with strangers and the streets as a platform to earn money in exchange for sharing your authentic self. Look where you are now. Tell us how it feels.

It feels incredible and satisfying to look around me and see all the shows and opportunities I am experiencing, as well as the friends I am employing and essentially the business I am creating on my own terms. It’s a lot of hard work that is paying off and it definitely feels dreamy and I’m very grateful.

It must have been quite challenging in the beginning to really refine the art of being a street musician. Can you let us in on the hustle, the ambition and the driving force that made you keep going everyday? Do buskers compete for certain spots or is there a mutual respect and value with your peers?

It definitely has been a hustle! It started with a simple curiosity, as I was intrigued by this lifestyle of being able to travel and simply perform and share your skills on the streets to strangers as you go and to be able to live from this. I thought it was an incredible and empowering concept and a perfect way to start my gap year and keep things going. I had no idea at the time that this would be my career, nor the places it would take me. When I started out, I was fire dancing. I mainly did this in Amsterdam, on a big touristic square, every evening for about an hour. It was so challenging and kind of scary, as the Amsterdam busking scene is really cut throat and there are a lot of older performers who have been doing it for years and are often supporting some kind of addiction and are really territorial and difficult to deal with. Also, Amsterdam is full of wasted tourists and the reaction was often positive, but also I had to deal with people sexually objectifying me, throwing food at me, etc. It sounds tough, and it was. I was 18! But it helped me grow a thick skin and know myself and my limits and know how deal with people. Now that I’ve learned the ropes and I have a good sound system and a lot of support, it’s a lot easier, but it comes with its challenges which I embrace.

The route you have chosen is independent and often off par from the conventional. Why do you think this was your calling? A huge chunk of the year is spent playing on the streets of Berlin. How do you maintain that stamina and drive to physically show up everyday?

Berlin taught me so much about what it means to be an artist and to be uncompromising in the way that you create and the reasons for doing so. Being surrounded by this wholesome artistic community, especially the street music community, from a young age really shaped the way that I make music and my ideals and how I structure my career in order for it to be individualised to my goals and ideas, rather than a prescribed formula. I feel strong and proud of my independence and I have a different way of viewing success than what one believes growing up; when someone tells me that they wish me success in the future, I tell them thank you, but I feel successful right now. I am traveling with my music, employing my friends and running my own business. That is success to me. Playing on the streets is one of my biggest passions and it actually energises me. I like the feeling of waking up, packing my heavy gear on a trolley and carrying it across town. I feel empowered. I also try to eat healthy and look after myself, which helps!

Your persona is carefree, uninhibited and evokes a sense of freedom and innocence most people crave. Can you give us your own definition of freedom and how you incorporate it into your personal and professional life?

Freedom for me is making my passion my career and not having to answer to anyone or be pushed and pulled in directions that others want from you. It’s being in the driving seat. Visualising concepts and ideas, and then making it happen. Working hard and having it pay off. Being able to have a personal crisis or problem and then being able to fuck off to South America for a few weeks without having to answer to anyone! I have structured my business in a way that makes sense to me and makes sure that I am in charge. Everything else follows.

You and Matteo seem to have this symbiotic chemistry and beautiful idiosyncrasies, both on and off your stage of choice. How’d you meet, how has the relationship evolved since then and when did you decide he would be a great partner to make music with?

We met on the street when another band was playing at the spot I usually play. We were romantically interested in each other at first, but that quickly turned into a brotherly / sisterly relationship and eventually a professional one. He has taught me so much about music and it was clear from the moment we played a song together that this would be a lasting relationship.

Your debut album ‘Orbit’ has a more advanced sound to your earlier work. Ranging in moods from melancholy to magic, tell us about the recording process, who was involved and how spending so much time in a studio differs to playing on the streets.

Orbit was a huge learning experience and had a lot of ups and downs and was quite DIY. We all came into it, not really knowing what it meant to record a proper album and all the ins and outs of the process. But we came away with a beautiful piece of work, and so much knowledge and experience which will definitely make the next album process even more magic. I am going to be starting the recording of my next album in April, and I feel so ready!

TedxBerlin. Can you share that story: do you believe the platform has assisted getting your name out there on a global scale. How did you attract that opportunity into your life?

Like so many incredible opportunities in the last few years, it came into my life because someone saw me playing on the streets and felt I’d be good for the job! The overwhelming response to the video was totally unexpected and I was really happy that it pushed my following and reach higher. It’s been a few years since then, I’ve definitely gotten more confident and have changed a lot since then. But it was a great kick start!

You now have two home bases: Berlin and Cape Town. Tell us about the differences in the audience and mood in each city.

So actually, I’ve been more based out of my suitcase in the last year than anything else 😉 but yes, those are my main bases at the moment. They are definitely different, but also have a very similar energy, at least in my personal experience. Because in both cities I have such an incredible community of friends and artists and constantly have collaborations and projects on the go. The difference is that Berlin is a massive city, where the music scene has had a lot longer to develop so there are concerts and parties constantly and so many things to dig your fingers into. In Cape Town, you just have to dig a little deeper to find the gold, but it is there!

When you’re touring South Africa, your name pops up on collaborative live sessions with local musicians. Is it important to you to contribute and share with the home base collective of musicians you connect to here?

Absolutely. It’s so so important to me, not only because there are great musicians here that I am honoured to work with and learn from, but also because it’s so much fun and I feel like I have a lot to learn from the huge amount of talent here.

Anything on the horizon you’re looking forward to this year?

My new album! I have some big surprises in terms of who I’ll be working with. Also a lot of festivals in places I’ve never been like Bulgaria, Slovenia and maybe even Iceland!

Watch Alice Phoebe Lou perform ‘She’ live and view the dates for her upcoming South African tour below


South African tour

Date: Thursday, 2 February 2016

Venue: Cape Town Central Methodist Church

Address: Longmarket Street and Burg Street, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8000

Time: 19h00

Line Up: Alice Phoebe Lou & Olmo (Germany)

Entrance: R150

Tickets | Facebook


Date: Friday, 3 February 2016

Venue: Cape Town Central Methodist Church

Address: Longmarket Street and Burg Street, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8000

Time: 19h00

Line Up: Alice Phoebe Lou & Olmo (Germany)

Entrance: R150

Tickets | Facebook


Date: Sunday, 5 February 2016

Venue: The Goodluck Bar

Address: 1 Fox Street, Johannesburg, 2048

Time: 16h00 – 21h00

Line-Up: Alice Phoebe Lou,  Bongeziwe Mabandla, Kajama

Entrance: R120

Tickets | Facebook


About Author

Content junkie | Self-assured | Dance floor devotee | Empathetic | Lone wolf | “If you only read the things that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking."