Most people don’t want to watch commercials – there are whole technologies devoted to the pursuit of ad-free television consumption.
So how did a Wells Fargo cad with no celebrities, CGI, or nerds making out with models rack up almost two million views on Youtube?
If you’ve watched a show on Hulu or lost your DVR remote recently, you’ve seen the clip featuring a mild-mannered banker trying to help fund a struggling musician’s pursuit of her passion. While EW was planning our What’s That Song? TV Ad Edition for this week’s issue, a few of us independently brought up the Wells Fargo ad and realized that the struggling musician in need of a loan had a familiar look about her.
Well, Syndey actually is a real musician with a real name: Andy Allo. While Allo’s story is similar to the one she portrays in Wells Fargo’s commercial, she’s come a little further in her career than Sydney – including touring with Prince, releasing a sophomore album of funk-and-soul-infused R&B music called Superconductor that debuted with a performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live earlier this year, and a headlining European tour later this month. Show me to the bank!
We caught up with Andy to shine some light on her music, her commercial and her career thus far.
Entertainment Weekly: Tell us how you were cast in the Wells Fargo commercial. Did the producers just like your look, or were they looking for a recording artist?
They were looking for musicians, but they had actually already cast the main girl. The producers told me this later, but as soon as I walked in they changed their minds. They said, “That’s the girl. That is who we want.” I told them I had been touring and had a few albums out, so they asked me to go into the next room and learn a song. I learned a song I had never heard before, I learned the chords on the guitar and I came back in 20 or 30 minutes later and I performed it for them. That was it! They called the next day.
Was the song that you learned the one that ended up being featured in the commercial?
Yes! They worked with a music supervision and production company called HUM Music and their writers wrote 20 seconds for this commercial. The song is called “Unstoppable.” I actually recorded a full version and we’re still figuring out when it will be coming out and the way they’d like to release it. The reception has been incredible.
It was interesting to see you be called “Sydney” in the commercial, in what seems like a really personal story. Was there any sort of decision there to make you a fictional character versus playing yourself?
It is very close to my story, actually quite spot on. Before I got the opportunity to tour with Prince and do all these amazing things, I was a struggling artist, and I went to a bank and asked for a loan. Because I didn’t have any credit history or anything like that, I wasn’t approved. I was trying to fund my first album. So this is so my story – and I still feel like a struggling artist sometimes, trying to get out there because I’m independent. I think the idea behind changing the name and putting a character to it is to make it a little more universal. We all struggle to make our dreams come true in one way or another, whether it’s financially or personally, we need to overcome certain obstacles.
It wasn’t until I moved to the U.S. – I’m originally from Cameroon – in 2001, that it became a possibility that I could have a career. It seemed possible now, because this is the U.S., the land of opportunity. You can actually make a living by being a musician and an artist. I started reaching out to different producers and I was writing. Then I realized, I want to be able to play and go outside and not have to rely on other people, so I picked up the guitar about five years ago and just started playing. It’s been a work in progress. I have light years to go as far as my guitar playing, so I’m always improving and working on it.
Speaking of your guitar, tell us a little bit about working with Prince. How did you meet him and what is your musical relationship like now?
I’m so young, but my journey has been insane. Similar to this ad and how it just happened, that’s kind of how my whole career has been. I knew a group of people called The Africa Channel. They’re this network and they’re huge fans of mine. Somehow they got to work with Prince when he was out here [in Los Angeles] doing his concert. They invited me out to his show and never in a million years would I have ever thought that me working with The Africa Channel would get me to meet Prince. But it did, I got to meet him that night at the concert and he listened to my album.
Then he invited me on stage at his house party that he has after every concert. I had been preparing for this moment. I had been performing around; I had been working on my music. This was my thing [laughs]. This was my moment, I was ready! He gave me a guitar and we just played. I played some of my songs and then in three weeks later he invited me out to join the band and go on tour with him.
How long were you working with Prince before you went back to recording on your own?
I did his Welcome to Europe and Welcome to Canada tours in 2011 and then he and I started writing and working on my sophomore album while we were on tour. We co-produced my last album together and we co-wrote some of the songs. Towards the end of the year, that’s when I went out on my own and decided to release the album we worked on together. I thought people needed to hear it, it needed to get out.
Superconductor was such a collaborative effort. Prince pushed me as a writer, as a singer and as a musician. The level of musicianship and the standard he sets, I’m forever grateful and forever changed because of it. The way I look at arranging songs – being in the studio and just watching him was a learning experience on it’s own. He’s got something!
For people who might not be as familiar with your music or who are just discovering you, how would you describe your music to them? What would you want them to know about you as an artist?
I would say it’s first and foremost good music: it makes you feel good and it connects to your soul. It’s relatable. It feels familiar and you want to dance, you want to smile, you want to cry maybe. I would say my music takes you on a journey. It’s about things that we all experience.
You’re leaving this month to headline your first European tour. How are you feeling?
I’m speechless. It’s crazy. This is where I’ve always wanted to be, but it’s so surreal. I’m not prepared in the sense of, I haven’t packed anything and I’m supposed to leave next week! But I’m having a lot of fun. I have my first tour manager. I’ve never toured on a bus before so this is insane.
This is a really big next step, so looking at other “struggling artists” who are independently producing things and meeting people and taking the steps you took to eventually be able to get where they want to be, what kind of advice do you have for them?
Wow, there’s a lot! But the basics: keep your integrity. It’s easy to get lost in the hoopla and at times you can lose yourself, lose why you were doing this in the first place. Always remember yourself and your strength. Remember the reason why you got into it in the first place. It wasn’t about money in the beginning; it wasn’t about fame or all those extra things that come out of it. It was because it made you happy and it was something you loved to do. And you loved to share that gift with other people and to make them happy. Sometimes that just gets lost. Staying true to yourself, that’s the key.