Live Footage: Alice Phoebe Lou Performs “Only When I”

Acclaimed Cape Town-born, Berlin,-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and JOVM mainstay  Alice Phoebe Lou grew up in an intensely creative home: her parents were documentary filmmakers, who took a young Lou to piano lessons. As a teenager, the Cape Town-born, Berlin-based artist taught herself guitar.

When she was 16, she went on a life-altering trip to Paris to visit her aunt. Armed with an acoustic guitar, a young Lou met some of the city’s buskers and street performers, eventually learning poi dancing from some of them. After completing her studies, she returned to Europe, first settling in Amsterdam, where she made money as a poi dancer.

Some time later, she relocated to Berlin, where she quickly developed a reputation as a well-regarded busker — and for a fiercely punk rock-like DIY approach to her career. With the release of her self-released debut EP, the Cape Town-born, Berlin-based JOVM mainstay began to receive national and international attention that led to a number of performances at  TED events in London and Berlin during the following year.

2016’s Orbit was a critical success, leading to Lou earning a Best Female Artist nomination at that year’s German Critics’ Awards. Building upon a rapidly growing profile, she wound up playing at the 27th Annual Conference for the Professional Business Women of California — and she appeared on bills with Sixto RodriguezBoy & Bear, and Allen Stone. Lou need the year with three, sold-out multimedia events at the Berlin Planetarium. Those Berlin Planetarium shows were so popular and in such high demand that additional shows had to be added to her tour schedule in 2017.

In 2018, the live version of “She” amassed over four million views on YouTube, and was featured in Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story — before the studio version of the single had been recorded or released. She then spent the bulk of the year working on the material, which would eventually comprise her sophomore album, 2019’s Noah Georgeson-produced Paper Castles. According to Lou, the album was “about nostalgia, about growing into a woman, about the pain and beauty of the past, about feeling small and insignificant but finding that to be powerful and beautiful, about acknowledging that childhood is over but bringing some of it with you.”

The recently released Glow is the highly-anticipated follow-up to Paper Castles, and the album’s material may arguably be the most raw and personal her growing catalog. The material which finds Lou frequently delivering lyrics in a old school, jazzy croon paired with scuzzy guitars, sauntering and strutting bass grooves and mesmerizing piano sequences finds Lou being unafraid to be vulnerable and yearning while embracing songwriting as her truest, most honest form of expression. “I used to feel quite self-conscious about writing love songs,” the acclaimed JOVM mainstay says in press notes,” but now I like the idea that your music can be a friend to someone, and make them feel as though they’re being related to. This album simply poured out of my heart and my subconscious, and there was no stopping the lovestruck nature of them. Sometimes love, love lost and the ways in which these matters of the heart affect us, are the most relatable feelings in the world.”

Much like the rest of us, last year brought challenges both personally and as an artist for Lou. “I spent more time alone than I ever had,” she shares. “I shaved may head. Had an ego death. Fell in love. Had my heart broken. I was a raw little mess. And that was what I wrote about.”

And to celebrate the album’s release, the acclaimed singer/songwriter released a self-directed bit of live footage of her and her backing band performing the slow-burning and hushed “Only When I.” Nodding at Quiet Storm soul, the song, which is centered around Lou’s plaintive and ethereal crooning, twinkling keys, atmospheric synths and a strutting bass line is a heartbreaking and familiar admission of the lovesick and lonely — and full of desperate longing for companionship and that touch of someone you can’t get back.