Home Arts & Life How Friendship, Folk and Call Me by Your Name Come Together in amaka.’s New Song

How Friendship, Folk and Call Me by Your Name Come Together in amaka.’s New Song

Her song “won’t make it” is now available for streaming

by Julia Lawrence
A woman in a small white hat with a white t-shirt holds a water bottle while smiling at the camera.
Amaka’s new song, “won’t make it” will be released on March 22. (Provided by amaka. taken by Katharine Ikegwuonu)

Music has surrounded Amaka Queenette Azubuike, artistically known as amaka., since she was a young child. Although she’s currently working full-time as a nurse after graduating from the University of Ottawa in 2022, amaka. is still pursuing singing as an alt-R&B artist and is set to release her EP this May.

With the release of her new single, amaka. has put together a short music film called, “how’s your head?” that pulls together other songs from the EP and is set to screen on May 2 alongside musical performances by the artist and guests.

In conversation with On The Record, amaka. shares stories about “won’t make it,” her favourite single from the EP, which dropped today. The 24-year-old also discusses her relationship with music, promoting herself as an independent artist, and her musical process.

Where did the idea for “won’t make it” come from?

It was summer 2021, and I was watching Call Me By Your Name, romanticizing everything. I was in my childhood bedroom. I was home a lot and was playing these two chords over and over. “If your love passes through me, I won’t make it. If your love passes through me, I won’t make it,” was on a loop in my head, and that chorus came first.

It was so seamless and organic. It was my favourite process ever. I was in my room crying my eyes out because I thought I was on to something special here.

What emotions did you want to portray through this song?

Love in my life. The first verse is about what people mean to us, how those feelings make my chest hurt and how much I adore you. The song encaptured that feeling.

The second verse is about friendships, ones that have been there for years. It has clips of us laughing and incorporating it into a different take of love, love that cracks your chest open.

How did you decide to add in the sounds of laughter?

There’s an interlude moment after the second chorus, first verse, it’s an instrumental moment, a magical moment. I wanted to throw in some memories and paint the picture.

What do you hope people take away from listening to your song?

The first words of this song are “feeling so ordinary…something special.” It’s supposed to be that we all feel these things, love for my people and love for your people are cut from the same place.

It’s ordinary, it’s special and can connect everyone, we are one of the same. We’re all going through it and feeling the feelings. I want to make people feel true yearning. I want them to feel that desperate. With human beings, there’s always that desperation and longing. I want people to tap into that yearning feeling.

For yourself, what does the song mean?

To me, it means when I’m out in the world, or I’m working, and things aren’t going the way I like it’s easy to feel hopeless, it’s easy to think things aren’t going to work. I can pick a thousand things I’m doing wrong, and then I see my dad, my little nephew and my friends, and I’m reminded that that’s what I’m here for.

How would you describe the genre of this song?

It’s more folksy than things I’ve done. It’s still soul, but it’s in the folk world. A lot of acoustic guitar and electric mix types.

That’s what came naturally this time, listening to the Call Me By Your Name soundtrack.

Can you share more about your EP and film screening of “how’s your head?”

The full EP will be out after the listening party, randomly I wanted it out before my 25th birthday.

The film is something I’ve been working on for a while, and most of the songs are part of the film. It’s a visual representation of the world built from the songs, friends, family and the EP. It will be very fun and casual. I’ve been working on this for years.

How does “won’t make it” fit into the film you will release in May?

It’s the heart of the whole film. The film poster comes from the video of this song…[it’s] the summary of the film.

What are your personal feelings about the song?

I still love this song as much as I did when I started it. I had originally written it on guitar, and then in 2022-23, I got it recorded. Justice Der helped me produce it. It was such a fun process to see it. It was a great example of one person’s idea and having another person come in and build on it. It taught me that making a song doesn’t need to be difficult. It can be simple.

I get anxious about letting people into my music space, and it was a great space to grow. Justice is an amazing guitarist to work with. I’m excited for this to be in the world. I’ve held on to this project for a long time. I’ve had it in my heart for a long time.

What were the musical sounds you heard growing up?

I grew up in Nigeria, so a lot of the music was my parents playing their gospel music in the mornings. Being at church a lot, there was always music playing. I don’t remember church to be something where you sat down and listened to someone talk. In my memories, it’s always music. Growing up, I did all the choirs, jazz bands and different bands in school. I was always making sounds, making noise.

I went back to Nigeria not too long ago, and (when) I stepped off the plane…I could hear people humming to themselves. Here in Canada, if you’re on the bus and someone is humming, you’re not sitting beside that person. But there, they were so happy because they just got off the plane and they were rejoicing. 

Nursing is a very different path than music, where did that come from?

It’s so opposite. In my bones, it’s fulfilling, but I don’t feel like I’m walking in my purpose. It was me being practical. It was me being a child of immigrants…this is me trying not to scare them.

As a musician, you’re going to need something to get you started. You need money to make the projects that you want to make. You need something, and nursing was my thing.

What has been your experience marketing yourself on social media?

I’ve focused a lot on marketing and making playlists, and how…to brand myself for the past two years, and it’s been depressing. It’s been unsuccessful, and it makes me hate music.

Now, I am going to use social media the way I would like to see it. The things that I think are interesting, maybe behind the scenes of how to make a song are not interesting to anybody, but it’s the idea that has been on my mind for a year. I’m trying to do the social media thing and pray that it works, but at this point, I see it as a maintenance thing of who I am and what I am doing.

I’m going to use social media to connect to places and connect with the people who already follow me and then try to use it to find a new audience.

How do you pitch yourself as an artist to end up on Spotify playlists?

It’s every element of embarrassment. It’s unfortunately necessary, especially when you’re independent. I’m a micromanager for sure, so it helps me feel proactive about the output of things. The act of pitching is scouring the internet for people’s contact (information), asking for favours, asking for friends who have a contact and then just keeping it concise, “This is who I am, this is the song link.” You pray that they receive it well and that the song touches something in their brain.

It’s a very humbling experience. You send 20 to 30 emails, and maybe four to five reach out.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

This article may have been created with the use of AI software such as Google Docs, Grammarly, and/or Otter.ai for transcription.

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