What were you doing when you were 16? Probably learning to drive or discovering a band that at the time, “really got you.” For Alicia Atout, she was sitting in class after class jotting down lyrics – like most her age do. Only she took her love of music and started A Music Blog, Yea? Yup, at 16, and in the past four years she’s seen the highs and lows of it all, but has overcome to be one of the most variety-packed sites out there for music fans. Now we’ll learn more about her journey to the top, where she wants to go next and more!
Kendra: What was going on in your life back in 2012 that made you want to start AMBY?
Alicia Atout: Thanks for having me! At that time, I was in high school and would always write reviews and lyrics to pass the time in class. I would write about whichever artists I was listening to or which bands would help me get through the day. Long story short, my parents asked me “why don’t you start posting these things on a blog?”, so I took their advice, and in the summer of 2012 I posted my first piece. It’s funny to reflect back to when AMBY would only post one thing a day, was just me writing, and was simply a hobby. So much has changed.
Kendra: Did being a woman create any initial problems when you started it up, or was it smooth sailing?
Alicia: I never ran into any issues regarding my gender which I’m really thankful for. I started the website when I was sixteen, so I did run into some ageism unfortunately. It was really difficult at first asking people for stuff, then them finding out my age, and thinking I wasn’t competent to get the job done because of my age. There were some core people who believed in me and my work and I think that I definitely showed others that a teenager can kick ass in the music industry. Aside from that obstacle, the hardest part of being young was not being nineteen – after my interviews, bands would ask if I was going to their shows, and I’d have to say no because of the legal age limit law! It’s an amazing feeling to be twenty and now be able to say “yes” when asked that question.
Kendra: When you came up with the idea for the blog was an eclectic mix of genres always the game plan or did you kind of just let everything fall into place naturally?
Alicia: Great question. Everything really fell into place naturally for AMBY. When I first started, my main focus was on music from across the pond (indie, Brit-pop, alternative-rock). Then one day, about two years back, it hit me; why narrow myself down to certain genres or countries? I love so many different genres and artists from around the world, so I then started to post about whoever and whatever I enjoyed. I go by my AMBY mantra; if we like it, we post about it.
Kendra: What have the highs and lows been of being based up in Toronto?
Alicia: The highs are that Toronto has a great music scene, there are some amazing people in the industry based here, and I really love the venues we have in the city. The lows are that so many of the indie bands I adore don’t come through town and how many of my writers and photographers aren’t based here. I’d love to be able to spend time with those folks. I really feel close with my contributors and it would be great to have some face-time with those who aren’t based in Toronto.
Kendra: Is AMBY your day job or do you juggle your time between the site and something else?
Alicia: Between emailing, going out and interviewing, attending events, scheduling contributor requests, requesting shows and festivals, photographing concerts, handling all of our social media, editing, etc, AMBY has become my full-time job. I’ve run the site full-time for about two and a half years now.
Kendra: Your site is award winning, that’s awesome and congrats! What was it like to gain that sort of recognition?
Alicia: Thank you so much! It really means a lot to win awards and be on prestigious committees (Prism Prize, Polaris Music Prize, and there’s an exciting one coming up which I can’t announce yet – stay tuned, folks). A lot of time and hard work goes into running this website, so to win awards or have people reach out or to have inspired people means the world to me.
When I started AMBY, I was young and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for my career. All I knew was that I loved music and writing. Doing this now full-time and being able to combine the two and having some of the accolades we have… I’m not going to lie, the recognition is awesome.
Kendra: What do you hope to accomplish with the site in the future from this point on?
Alicia: My goal is to constantly improve and never become complacent.
Kendra: If you had to make a mixtape that best represents your mindset back when you were starting the site, what five songs would be on it for sure?
Alicia: Oh I love making mixtapes! I really have to think about this one. Okay, high school Alicia Atout was super into/influenced by the following:
Mystery Jets – “Someone Purer” – My biggest inspiration as a lyricist is MJ’s frontman, Blaine Harrison. If he didn’t inspire me to write lyrics, I probably wouldn’t have gone on to write reviews which led to the site.
The Enemy – “Gimme the Sign” – Shoutout to The Enemy frontman Tom Clarke, a man who really helped us out when I first started. We love you!
Bombay Bicycle Club – “Dust On The Ground” – Hands down one of my favourite bands. They were also the first band I ever interviewed on-camera.
Noah and the Whale – “Waiting For My Chance To Come” – I adore this group. This song always spoke to me and how you should take a chance on what you want.
A-ha – “October” – I listened to a ton of new wave back then (I still do) but this band is my favourite of that genre.