Montreal-based singer A K U A discovered her love of singing at 10 years old, but it took a case of stalking to rattle the once-timid singer enough to actually pursue it.
“In my freshman year, I caught wind of a choir that was doing A cappella, gospel, and contemporary soul. I started seeing them perform around campus and I kept creeping their website,” A K U A says. “Finally, a friend was like, ‘You should audition for that.’ I was immediately like, ‘I’m not good enough. It won’t happen.’ I cried after the audition. It was so traumatic for me. But I made the group.”
Various backup singing gigs followed before A K U A was invited to join a Montreal cover band to work overseas at an affluent middle-Eastern hotel famous for accommodating the likes of Michael Jackson. The brief stint revealed a profound “conflict of values”—besides the insipid cover songs, the only women at the show each night were A K U A, her bandmate, three prostitutes, and a bartender.
“The money was really good, and we were treated like kings and queens,” she says. “But it was very superficial and temporary. I came back motivated to do music my way.”
When she returned to Canada she brought equipment and delved into production software, loop pedals, vocal effects, and songwriting, eventually teaming up with producers Andy Bauer (drummer for Twin Shadow) and Martin Rodriquez to work on her first EP, all the while traveling back and forth from Montreal to London, ON, to be with her father who eventually lost his battle with cancer last fall.
Her five-song EP One’s Company debuted in June, featuring electronic and analog musical components alongside AKUA’s hypnotic hybrid of soul, funk, and R&B. At NXNE in Toronto, she commanded the Hard Luck Bar stage. In July, after opening for Solange’s Montreal concert, Beyoncé’s baby sis was wowed and asked A K U A to join the tour as a backup singer for her North American leg.
The growing attention has required A K U A to keep moving and producing. “There’s a lot of stuff I perform that I’ve never recorded formally. People say, ‘Oh, I like that song. Where can I get it?’ and I’m like, ‘Nowhere.’ So recording is a priority now. I would also love to tour. Touring is where I find myself without a lot of attachments to people or places. I’m in the headspace where I feel it’s time to move with the music.”