Released earlier this month, Novo Amor’s new sophomore solo album has given folks some solace this year in the form of textures and colours. We are equally enthralled by it. Every song is a gem.

In fact, since its release barely a fortnight ago, ‘Birdcage’ – the fifth song (with no prior release before) has had over 717k streams on Spotify to date. Indeed, its ambient ocean-like swells is noteworthy enough to soothe the soul.

Known for his ethereal vocals and songs like ‘Birthplace’, ‘State Lines’, ‘Carry You’, and ‘Anchor’, Novo Amor (aka Ali Lacey) has continued to reach our hearts and souls with his moving soundscapes.

You may even have heard his songs in films and television series. Equally moving ones too, such as ‘Five Feet Apart’.

This new album Cannot Be, Whatsoever presents itself as a journey of sorts for its listener.

There is this saying in an episode of the science fiction series Doctor Who, that I will always remember. It goes like this:

“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant.” 

Listening to Novo Amor’s newest album, I am reminded of this very phrase.

Indeed, there is something magical about the album and its introspective depth that goes beyond just soothing our ears with its sonically iridescent melodies and colours.

It heals our soul and speaks to it, through its moments and experiences. It is cathartic. More so during these strange times of “isolation”. As humans, we are drawn to it – because we relate to it. The emotions of nostalgia, of pain, of sadness, of happiness, of memories, and of love.

Also read: REVIEW: A light at the end of the tunnel with Novo Amor

From the first moments of the positively glowing and heart-bursting ‘Opaline’, we are taken on a journey through the eyes, heart and “memories” of Welsh singer-songwriter Ali Lacey. We embrace the poignancy of ‘I Feel Better’, bask in the nostalgia of ‘Halloween’, jam out loud (resigned, yet without a care in the world) to ‘No Plans’, sway in the ocean-like swells of the ambient ‘Birdcage’, cry to the memories of ‘If We’re Being Honest’, and feel hope for a new tomorrow in ‘Guest Book’.

Of all the albums released by music artists and bands this year, this has been the most meaningful one.

Says Lacey,

“If ‘Birthplace’ is the countryside, then ‘Cannot Be, Whatsoever’ is the city.”

For us, it feels like home.

Like a hug.

We asked Ali to tell us a little more about his new album and the special moments behind it.

AL365: Hi Ali, Vanessa from here AsiaLive365. Thanks so much for taking the time to have this interview with us. We love your newly released album Cannot Be, Whatsoever so much. It really does feel like a unique palate of different moments, feelings and experiences listening to each song. It has been a sonically wonderful journey as well! What has it been like for you, now that the album is out there in the world?

Ali: Thanks, Vanessa. Lovely to be speaking to you again.

It’s been strange; releasing an album in the current state of the world and music industry. I should be touring extensively right now, with Asia being a big part of that. I’m super-grateful for all the positive responses to the album though. It seems to hit home for so many people and it’s always wild for me to get to see the impact that my music has on those who experience it.

AL365: You mentioned that the album is “another period of your life that has been captured in waveforms.” We are indeed enraptured by the changeover of emotions and the moments captured. Out of all the moments during the conceptualisation of the album, which do you still remember as the most pivotal one for you?

Ali: It’s weird… you work on an album for so long every day, and when it finally starts to sound how you want, it feels almost like it happened subconsciously. You almost don’t remember the specific days and moments that went into getting a piece of music over the fence. 

I’d say there were two pivotal moments though. The first being writing the piano and chorus to ‘I Feel Better’. This was the first song that was written for the album and gave me some partial vision of where I wanted to take my new music. The second was on Halloween last year, writing ‘Halloween’. The track felt like the opposite end of the spectrum to where I was expecting the album to go, but I think the difference between these two songs is where the rest of the album lies; in the gap between these two very different-sounding tracks.

AL365: Do you have a favourite song or most personal song out of the new album?

Ali: I’d say Halloween is the most personal. I write so much stuff with my friend Ed Tullett these days, sending ideas back and forth, adding to each other’s ideas until we have something we’re both happy with. It’s how a lot of the album was conceptualised. ‘Halloween’ was the first song that I’d written in a traditional sense in a long time, written in one evening, just sat on my own with my guitar.

AL365: We absolutely adore the climatic build in ‘Opaline’, as well as the poignant honesty in the lyrics for ‘I Feel Better’. They’re subtle yet really exudes those deep undertones of emotions. We understand that ‘Opaline’ was chosen as the opening song “because it’s hopeful, in a way”. What was this song inspired by and who played those fantastic riffs in ‘I Feel Better’?

Ali: ‘Opaline’ started as an inaudible vocal mumble and piano idea that Ed wrote. I fell in love with the idea and started working on it, writing the lyrics and recording all the parts. Lyrically I’d say it’s inspired by the idea of rejuvenation, starting afresh, and finally feeling like yourself. This is why I chose it to be the first song on the record. It felt appropriate. I played the riffs in ‘I Feel Better’, and everything on that song was recorded by me. It’s the first song that I’ve ever put a guitar solo in. Maybe the last too.

AL365: Speaking of riffs, ‘No Plans’ is such a banger! I had no idea that a Novo Amor song could sound like that. I am really digging the alternative rock, rock sounds – which are such bliss to the ears! We understand that this song is “a perfect representation of the collaboration of melodies and song styles of Ed Tullett and yourself.” Tell us more about this.

Ali: Thanks! It’s a sound that I like to explore subtly, but I think my voice definitely lends itself better to softer music. And you’re right: this song is a perfect representation of the collaboration between Ed and me. Ed wrote the verse guitar part and vocal melody. I wrote the dropped out interlude that builds into the 2nd verse and everything from the bridge onwards. I’ve also got Ed playing guitar and doing some vocals on this song.

AL365: Favourite song from Pinegrove?

Ali: Probably “Aphasia”, but I love “Skylight”, “Darkness”, and “Easy Enough”.

AL365: Cannot Be, Whatsoever was conceptualised at a time where if not for COVID, you would have been touring to Asia. Do you welcome the pause in touring?

Ali: Sitting here in November 2020 and looking back at what my year was meant to be like is quite saddening. I’ve been very bored this year. I like to travel and accomplish things. Touring the ‘Birthplace’ album was almost like a way of putting the record behind me, giving me closure to move onto something else. I played about seventy shows around that album and by the time we hit the final show it felt like a big moment, a real accomplishment for me and my touring friends to be proud of. I’m worried that I’m not going to get that from this album. It’s a shame, but I’m okay with it.

AL365: What do you miss most about touring or live shows in general?

Ali: Being in different places. Feeling real motion in your life and meeting new people. I can see that more than ever now, as I spend my 10 millionth day in this house. I miss trying my best at something. I don’t think being at home all the time is that good for me, especially when I’m uninspired.

AL365: What can we expect at your live show here in Singapore and the rest of Asia *fingers crossed”, once the travel restrictions are lifted?

Ali: Depending on the lockdowns, Singapore might be one of the first shows I’ll have played in two years. It’s a scary thought. Expect excitement and nerves. Expect lots of the new record. Expect lots of old music too.

AL365: Now that the album is out, what’s next in the pipeline for Novo Amor?

Ali: I’m currently using this time to move house and build a new studio whilst trying to plan a route back to a touring life. The idea of making new music hasn’t been very appetising.

AL365: Is there anything you like to say to your fans out there?

Ali: Thank you all so so much! I’ve been trying to bring my shows over to you for so long. It will happen eventually. Thank you all for the support.

AL365: Thanks again Ali, for taking the time to with e-chat with us. We hope that you and your loved ones are doing alright in Wales, especially with the current firebreak lockdown. Keep safe, take care and we hope to see you around this part of the region sometime in the not too distant future, for much needed music and hugs. 🙂

Novo Amor will also be making a hugely anticipated return to live shows in April 2021.

Also read: An interview with one of Wales’ ethereal talents – Novo Amor

The tour will kick off in Dublin on April 23rd, taking him through the UK and Europe’s major cities before culminating in Lacey’s hometown of Cardiff on the 22nd May. 

From Wales, he will travel to cities in Asia such as Taipei, Singapore, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Wuhan, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Xi’an, and Beijing, as well as São Paulo and Rio De Janeiro in Brazil.

More information on his tour dates here.

Cover photo: Daniel Alexander Harris

Embroidery: Aline Brant