GLO is a singer, songwriter, dancer and multidimensional creative, born and raised in Sydney. When asked who she is, a question often met with discomfort; she meets it with a grounded answer—“I am a visibly black, dark skin, East African woman—a child of refugees, raised by a single mother, doing whatever I want creatively, and doing it with utmost love with the best people possible”.
Taking an intentional route—she is directing her music towards truth, exploration, creativity and collaboration—creating art that bends what is conventional in the entertainment, art and music space by putting quality at the forefront of everything she does. Her transparent and sacred sound lies in a deep yearning to return to self by producing an offering within her vision that is equally an ode to the past, present, and future.
There is no façade to who she is; true to the core of her wants and needs—in an industry that often makes you forget who you are—her art is in tune with herself. Her upcoming EP, set to release in early November, plays on the notion of time and space. Her first single, ‘Certified Freak,’ is destined to release in early October, ahead of her EP. A song that insists on the discovery of self, harmonised with a visual that honours and fuses her transparent love for music and dance.
Despite gloomy weather and incoherent rainfall on the day of this shoot, there is warmth in the room full of bolstering laughter. Yemisul’s Shoot Playlist chimes on Spotify while photographer Rocket K Weijers sets up in his Rockdale studio. There is indisputable trust when GLO extends herself into the glamming area for hair, makeup and styling, having worked with both Laura Mazikana and I on previous projects. GLO describes this part of a shoot as a ritual where she finds calm.
Whilst shooting outdoors in the arcades of Rockdale, passers-by look on with intrigue and remarks like, “what are you guys doing?” along with endless compliments on how beautiful GLO looks, dressed to the nines in an embellished upcycled Miu Miu jacket. Possibly the sweetest encounter was one of the shop owners requesting to take a photo with GLO, as they later bonded over music.
After the shoot wraps, we sit down over dinner to discuss who GLO is and what she’s discovered along her journey thus far. Keep reading to get to know her more, then scroll through the gallery above to see the extraordinary images we created on the day.
If you could listen to one music genre for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Do I listen to RnB for the rest of my life? Do I listen to disco for the rest of my life? I think I’m leaning towards RnB… some experimental RnB for the rest of my life, all day, every day. I do that already, I listen to everything else, of course, but RnB would be my staple. I like so many elements of RnB; the production can be simple or complex and instrumental. The lyrics can be thoughtful or candid and upfront. I love the spectrum of it all. I like the blackness of it all, the softness of it all, and the hardness; it gives me everything.
What music did you grow up listening to, and has it changed?
I listen to still a lot of Pop music, but Pop was very different in the 2000s because there were a lot of RnB influences. A lot of hip-hop producers that were hitting pop records, like the Neptunes, for example, but then I would also listen to a lot of my Mum’s Ugandan CDs. I remember this one artist, Ragga Diggy; he was a very raspy singer, but Ugandans also love dancehall, so you could hear that influence too. What I listen to now is quite similar to what I've listened to before. I still listen to Aaliyah, Ashanti, Angie Stone, Janet Jackson, and Musiq Soulchild. I also love the new era of music, but it's always nice to hear where all that came from.
What moment did music feel right for you?
It felt right around 2017; I was working retail for years, and I always did creative things on the side but without too much conviction. I got to a point where I was like, let me just try it. I was doing $50 gigs at pubs, just trying it all, and started to get into the studio with people just singing and experimenting with my voice. The journey of being creative is always going to come with having your doubts and wanting to quit, but I always came back to it.
What subjects and themes do you find yourself returning to in your music?
It's whatever is happening in my life. The themes are always my spiritual journey, sexual evolution, and relationships with friends and lovers. My ideas of individuality and my sense of self how they intersect by reconnecting with my culture as I was born here and not where I'm from, in Uganda. I try to just be authentic to what my experience is every time I write. Then there are also times when I want to manifest what isn't in my reality yet. Writing things on paper truly makes them come to fruition.
What’s your creative process like?
When it comes to music, I’m still figuring it out. I like to write thoughts down first; over the past few years, I’ve been teaching myself how to produce so I can get to the studio and create a sketch by myself; sometimes, it’ll go off an emotion or go off what I want to move to, a certain kind of BPM (beats per minute) will be a reflection of if I want to do a choreographic sequence, I’ll do something a bit more heavy hitting, faster tempo or even a slower BPM but something I can still move to. The lyrics will sometimes reflect the feeling of what’s being created, or I can switch it and move from the feeling where I can do knocky kicks or verbed-out snares, and then I want more airy vocals or do some floor work. It's nice to have different elements to form an end product or feeling.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work and the most challenging?
The most rewarding is moments like this, being here with my family, and we make beautiful work together, and we can sit and just reflect on it or think about the next thing. The intention of it all is just to challenge ourselves to create something new and exciting. Supporting each other through experimentation. I always remind myself to find that inspiration cause sometimes it’s gone for a while. That’s what I find challenging; when the inspiration is gone, things can be oversaturated as an artist. Having to be present online is difficult when I have nothing to say. Even when I do have things to say, I want to sit with it myself and think of things myself; I don’t always want to get the co-sign from people or the likes and views. I just want to exist. Trying to reconcile what it means to be an artist in this day and age versus not having as much access to social media and the internet back in the day. It always comes back to being able to create with the homies and create beautiful, iconic types of work. My friends are iconic, we're on this iconic tip, and it’s just going to keep being iconic.
What values in people do you look for when working with them?
I love transparency and honesty; how you’re feeling, what state you’re in and how that might affect the creative output. I love mutual respect and understanding, agreeing on a common goal and working towards it together in a nurturing and caring way. Being able to cater to different things, meeting it all in the middle. Mutual true genuine love for the art cause when you meet people who are on that same ship, it’s just lovely to geek out and create art that’s genuine and authentic.
Other than music, how do you channel your creative expression?
I feel like in my later 20s; it’s been through what I wear and how I adorn and dress. It's completely now for myself; I like to wear what I want to wear, how I want to wear it, to show skin or not show skin, be androgynous or be super sexual. I feel like it took getting to my later 20s cause, for a long time, it was about external validation, appeasing to a male gaze, appeasing to a white gaze. Those things were both subconscious, and it got to a point where I just wanted to enjoy art, music, and fashion cause they give me purpose, which makes me look forward to doing things that make me happy and reflect how I feel.
When do you feel most you?
When I'm taking time and hanging out with myself or when I'm hanging out with people that make me feel how I feel, when I'm hanging out with myself when I can be in my zone, and someone else that I love can be in that same environment and be in their zone, and we can meet in the middle, or we can just chill. I feel most myself in a recording studio or dancing studio when I'm alone or with the right people. I also feel most myself by water, in nature, under the sun, and in the grass. I feel most at peace when I'm connecting with mama nature.
Where do you call home, and how do you think your upbringing shaped your worldview?
I was born and raised in Sydney, but I don't completely feel at home here, and I’m still on the quest on finding my physical home. I have decided to create a sense of home in myself because it doesn’t necessarily have to be a tangible thing. When I visited Uganda a few years ago, I felt at home there, but I also felt like I wasn't from there; people can spot who wasn't born or raised there. I thought about that for many years, like, damn, where is my home? It’s a state of being where I believe you can cultivate yourself. I feel like I’m getting there; home is with connections, friends, and family. Home can be with lovers, too; even with my past relationship, I felt like that person was home to me in certain ways. What can’t be taken away from me is my ability to create environments where if I’m not sure if I fit into one, I can always feel within myself I fit in. I feel solid, and I feel good.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
That TikTok aunty that said this life is too short and we need to make ourselves happy, work hard, relax the body, eat well, take vacations, buy good clothes and enjoy ourselves. I think that’s, so far, the best advice.
Are there any social or cultural shifts you hope will happen in the next ten years?
I mostly hope for better infrastructure for the arts scene in Sydney particularly, also nationally. There are many great artists and great avenues for people to take, but I want us to have more support. That is something to take on community-based, but I also do believe people who are calling the shots or are in power should care more. When someone goes to University and says I want to do a Bachelor's degree in, say, Accounting or Marketing, they’re guaranteed a job after 4-5 years; they’re guaranteed a salary; I want similar security for all artists of all disciplines.
We acknowledge the Gadigal/Bidjigal people of the Eora Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which this shoot took place.