Ali John Meredith-Lacey, better known under the moniker Novo Amor, is a Welsh multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, sound designer and producer. His first album of originals, «Birthplace», immediately transports us to a world that could also be populated by Bon Iver or Sufjan Stevens. Opportunity to get to know this artist better in this interview and confirm that the beauty of his music is reflected equally in his reflections on himself and the world.
EM: Hello and thank you for accepting this interview. Unlike in other interviews, here in Portugal, you do not need to explain what “Novo Amor” means, but it would be interesting to see where you found the expression? Was it influenced by Portuguese/Brazilian or did you google translate?
Novo Amor: I think Portuguese is a beautiful language, though unfortunately I cannot speak it. The phrase “novo amor” represented why I started making this music. It’s a fairly clichéd story, but the gist of it is that I went through a breakup, which was becoming hard for me to deal with. Writing music became my “new love”, a way to explore the relationship; the good and the bad. The reason I chose Portuguese is because of how the words sounded, almost like a person’s name.
EM: Your interest in folk/singer songwriter was born in the Mid Wales or is the result of what you heard on your journey. Comparisons with Bon Iver (particularly vocal timbre) or Sufjan Stephens will be inevitable. You also went to an isolated hut to write the album? How is your creative process?
Novo Amor: My interest in folk music stems from a summer in rural New York, amongst the mountains and lakes. I started listening to a lot of folk artists while I was there. I came home and began to romanticise the time I spent as well as the music that was attached to it. It inspired the beginning of Novo Amor.
EM: You are not yet 30 years old, do you feel appeased by the past? This “Birthplace”, beyond the focus on the plastic theme in the oceans (title track), seems to be an album of interior acceptance. How do you see these two themes?
Novo Amor: I guess I feel appeased by the past. Nobody has asked me that before. My past is what inspired Novo Amor, and I’m thankful for it.
That’s right, the album for me feels like an outward expression of interior acceptance. It’s very much about accepting the past for what it is, looking back on those times and places that birthed Novo Amor with a fresh perspective. I feel that there is a lot of celebration in this album, a eradication of self-pity.
The plastic ocean theme was conceptualised for the ‘Birthplace’ music video. It’s not tied to the meaning of the song, but it’s something I care about deeply.
EM: The visual aspect of your videos always seems grandiose and bigger than the career you’ve already achieved. Was that a clear objective that you drew or were just the result of circumstances? Financially should also be complicated. How do you go beyond that?
Novo Amor: The visual and aesthetic elements of Novo Amor have always been important to me. I’m not someone who really enjoys being in front of a camera or people, so being able to divert the focus onto something like a music video has really helped me. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazingly talented film-makers with ambitious, original and exciting ideas that are too good for me to turn down. It can cost a lot, but I’m happy to spend money to facilitate video projects like this.
The ‘Terraform’ video gave me the opportunity to visit Kawah Ijen in Indonesia, something that I’d never have done otherwise. The ‘Birthplace’ video has given me a close insight into the plastic pollution problem and has made me feel closer to the topic than ever before.
EM: What names do you put on your “ideal festival”? (Alive or Not)
Novo Amor: Anna Meredith, Pinegrove, Jimi Hendrix, Queen.
EM: If you had to identify the 5 best albums ever, what was your choice? And why?
Novo Amor: It’s a tough question, but each of these albums seem to have sound-tracked important times of my life. JVM’s album was on repeat for most of my 2011 and 2012, at which time I was working a job I hated while writing what would become the first Novo Amor songs.
Valley Maker – When I Was A Child
Pinegrove – Cardinal
James Vincent McMorrow – Early In The Morning
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
EM: What are your plans for the next months? For when a concert in Portugal?
Novo Amor: I’m currently 10 days into 48 days of touring, then I’ll be back home for winter. I’m hoping to play in Portugal next year. I went to Lisbon last year, a beautiful city that I’d love to re-visit.
Thank you Alie for the interview and we wish you a lot of success!