An unquenchable wanderlust led Alice Phoebe Lou to leave her native South Africa at the age of 17 to explore the wider world.

On her travels around Europe, she discovered her talent in street performing across different cities before settling in Berlin. Here, she found an art scene she identified with and inspired her to take performing to another level. She started making CDs of home recordings and learned her craft of grabbing an audience. Connecting with people on this ground level has given her the vision of how she wants to live as an artist.

Her debut album, Orbit, is a myriad of styles where its songs speak of the internal realms and the world around us. Andrew Darley spoke to Alice before her show in Dublin to talk about the uncompromising spirit behind her music.

How does it feel to have your first album out?

The funny thing is that I've been selling CDs and merch for quite a few years. When I started busking the first thing I learned from older buskers is to make a CD because that's how you start to survive from street music. When I was 19, I took 10 shitty recordings I had on my computer and made one with them. I printed them all myself and made the covers. Since then I've made an EP and a live album, which was all done so I could record a proper album. Now it's the real thing.

Is it a nice feeling to have control over all elements then?

It's so important to me. There's a lot of reasons to go with a record label which are well-intentioned. There are a lot of artist-friendly labels but a lot of artists just go with them because they cannot front the costs of touring or recording an album. It's out of that desperation you can sign with a label. Once you get past those merits of a label, there's downsides with creative control. Somehow I've managed to pull something from nothing. I worked my ass off to make that money and call the album my own. I'm too uncompromising. I can't handle having to answer to anyone.

On the album, there is a strong theme of freedom and control, it sounds like you're challenging that.

My songwriting process and the meaning in my songs are never singular. There's the personal element, a storytelling aspect and the overall human experience, which is based on my philosophical approach and what I observe about life. That's why Orbit is an appropriate name for the album; the personal orbit of your friends and life and there's the physical one of galaxies and planets. I'm 22 so I'm obviously going through my period of nihilism and existentialism which makes you feel super small and super big at the same time. The intention of my songs is not to derive a singular meaning. You can take what you need from it.

That's reflected in the artwork which could be an eye or it could be planet.

It's all ambiguous and I want that to be a constant theme. I've learned from playing on the street how different every person reacts to my music. I'm on my first solo tour and seeing the crowds that come out to watch and how diverse they are. Being able to reach out to lots of people on many levels is important to me.

Are you conscious of making a first impression then?

I guess I was conscious of making a first impression. The way the album was made is really weird and out-there, it went through many different stages. A lot of artists have a lot of pre-production and they go into the studio knowing what they're going to record. We had none of that which led to some beautiful things. I invited musicians to play on it rather than telling them what it had to be. They were not brought in to be session musicians. I asked them because I liked their style and how they intuitively added to the music.

Coming from the angle of being a street musician, do you think that has given you an edge of communicating with an audience?

Totally, it's helped me on so many levels. I never really played music until I started doing it on the street. In the beginning, I was playing really shitty cover songs which pushed me to learn pretty quickly. It taught me crowd-building techniques and how to communicate because it's so vulnerable. I initially wanted to study anthropology but now I feel like I have a degree in it because I learned so much about humans on so many levels. I love people watching but also their reaction to me as a performer. It's made me so comfortable on stage now. A lot of artists have a persona with a different name or attitude on stage but for me there is no separation. Playing on the street allowed me to not be afraid and I realised I don't have to be happy all the time when I'm up there.

What influence has Berlin had on your music?

Berlin kickstarts a lot of things. The creative inspiration there was exactly what I needed. I didn't know I'd know I'd be a musician until I moved to Berlin. The people I was surrounding myself with were making art and music without any intention of money or profit. They were doing it out of creative necessity and love of making it. People flock to Berlin because they don't feel like they're going to be judged for who they are. There's no normal societal pressures in the art scene I'm in. It doesn't have that pressure of having to do the 'right thing' that kills people and makes them do things they don't want to. If you love something enough you'll find way and means to do it. There's a real acceptance and encouragement amongst artists there. It doesn't have that competitive nature that can exist in certain art scenes.

On the album, there's a lot of observation happening with stories of other people. Do you find it easier to speak from other people's perspectives other than your own?

That's interesting. I don't have a formula in the way I write songs. Sometimes I'll write a song about a certain subject that's way easier to talk about as a 'he' as opposed as an 'I'. Then I'll have moments when I want to write something completely personal.

Has making this record made you think about yourself in ways you may not have before?

There's a whole lot of things that go into making a record, especially when you're doing it without a label; taxes, money and financial things. I have a manager but I can't just give up all the business so I can be totally an artist, which is an idea a lot of people are sold by labels. For me, that is when you're life is out of your hands. The process of making this record has been integral for setting up my future. I know so many artists that have made a few small decisions that have fucked them and made issues for them. I'm setting up a structure where I'm on my own label, I'm hiring people to do certain functions for me, but if they were all erased from my life I would know exactly what's happening financially or otherwise. I'd be able to figure out for myself.

Do you feel prepared for the success the record may have?

That's an interesting one because my Dad who never really gives me compliments, but will say my praises to his friends, has told me how much he loves it. I'm not someone who likes to feel elevated, that's why I'm constantly on the street, on a ground level. I don't want people to regard me in a praising way. He asked me what I'd do if the album gets a lot of success and I'm put in a position I don't want to be in. I realised the answer is the structure I've made for myself. If it all becomes too much for me, I don't have to do it. I'm not scared at all because I won't go along with anything I don't want to.

Orbit is out now.