When singer-songwriter Novo Amor, real name Ali Lacey, plays at Gorilla in Manchester on October 16, it will kick-off a career-high 29-date tour.
With new album Birthplace out three days later, and commercial and critical acclaim steadily rising, it’s a good time to be him.
Describing his music as “alternative folk, broadly put,” the Welshman has been compared to regular Kanye West collaborator Bon Iver.
Amor’s music showcases stunning falsetto vocals and an uncanny ability to convert sensitive themes into melodic and uplifting music.
A full European and U.S. tour feels like a breakthrough moment in his career, and his apprehension is palpable.
“I get very nervous about this kind of stuff. It’s just like that feeling of being called up to the front of the class,” he told MM.
“In school and university, I was that person, to keep my mouth closed and avoid doing any kind of presentations.
“I don’t see myself as the kind of guy that’s going to whip out a guitar at a party and say, ‘here’s Wonderwall’.”
He needn’t be worried. Though more likely to find a peace of mind than cigarettes and alcohol, tens of millions of listens on Spotify alone show that his music resonates with a wider audience.
The 27-year-old hails from a tiny town in rural Wales, by his own admission there was “nothing there”. Though he now lives in Cardiff, the influence of rural living on his work remains.
The musician explained: “Maybe if I’d grown up in the city I would have leaned towards more electronic music and maybe I wouldn’t have spent as much time alone, really trying to hone something.
“Largely though I think the kind of quietness and nature of my music comes from time spent in upstate New York, which was really rural and inspired a lot of my first music.”
Quiet or not, Amor has been making waves with his video for Birthplace – the title track of his new album.
The video tackles the issue of plastic waste in the oceans and involves the lead character spending the first couple of minutes floating in a Blue Planet-esque marine wonderland. He is soon surrounded by bottles and carrier bags, before eventually being consumed by a 20-foot whale made entirely of rubbish.
Amor seems careful not to antagonise the wider public by seeming too preachy, yet he is clearly very passionate on the subject.
He revealed: “I think things are definitely moving in the right direction, and David Attenborough’s speech about plastic in the oceans motivated people to change and really brought it to attention.
“I mean, David Attenborough has more influence than the government on this sort of thing. If he’s saying that we need to do something about this then it’s a big deal in my eyes.
“He’s a naturalist and knows about this stuff, whereas Theresa May probably doesn’t, and that’s that.”
Amor’s social conscience is also on display in the video for Terraform, a gorgeous tune from Heiress, the EP he put together with his friend and regular collaborator Ed Tullett.
It follows a poor Indonesian sulphur miner on his daily routine, as he walks three hours into a volcano ridden with toxic fumes, before climbing out of the cliff hours later with 90kg of sulphur on his back.
Amor wasn’t on set for the original video, so he travelled to meet the man and his family after playing a show in Jakarta.
He told us: “When I went down in the mines I was with him, and he asked me to try and lift the load that he was carrying up the mountain.
“We all had a go if it and it was about 70kg, so not even the amount that he would usually lift. It was back-breaking work, horrific. You see these elderly little Indonesian guys climbing this rocky hillside with their sulphur.”
The visit clearly had an effect on Amor, and he donated the profits from his Jakarta show to the family and the local mining community.
Though a description of both videos rightly shows that he regularly tackles difficult issues, the new album overwhelmingly feels as though it was created from a positive place. In particular, new single Utican is one of Amor’s most upbeat releases to date.
“For me the album is quite experimental in terms of instrumentation – there’s a lot going on and every song is quite diverse,” he said.
“It’s celebratory for me compared to my old music.”
As for Manchester, the gig at Gorilla is a marker of the progress he has made since the last time he was in the city.
Amor reflected: “I played in the Castle Hotel to around 80 people. I had a great time last time, and it should be great again.”
After that he’ll take in dates across Europe, before heading state-side where he has a following comparable to home-shores.
He explained: “I’m really looking forward to it though actually doing some proper shows and 15 different cities on a tour bus, I guess this is the time of my life.”
*Novo Amor is playing at Gorilla on Tuesday, October 16. You can buy tickets HERE.