WHO is Amy Lou? A singer? An artist? A fierce, queer, glitter-faced, Irn-Bru-swigging, indie rock activist who toasts the establishment with a middle finger and charges head-first into the fight for equality. Yeah, pretty much…

But who really is Amy Lou? It's a character, a shield, an "alter ego" of the Tyler Durden variety. Created and embodied by Amy Louise Rogers, it is everything between a stage name and a philosophy, the spokesperson for a manifesto of individual expression. The two will remain separate entities – Rogers the artist; Amy Lou the performer. But it's fair to say the pair go hand-in-hand.

Rogers speaks candidly with The Weekender on the creation of Amy Lou and reflects upon the character's development with some pride. But, still, very few understand exactly who is who. Even the question itself has a deep meaning and quickly became part of the artist's folklore.

Rogers explains: "There was a review about me and was reviewing me as a person. It was bringing out bits like me being a lesbian or whatever. And one of the comments at the bottom was: 'Who the **** is Amy Lou?' So, we put it on a t-shirt and we put it on badges and use it as a backdrop for gigs. If something hurts you, or upsets you, there is no point wallowing about it – just make it your own. That's what Amy Lou would do."

"I grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac and they were one of the big things for me. I wanted to sound like Stevie Nicks, but I wanted to be playing the guitar like Buckingham."

That philosophy has been formative in the creation of Dunfermline-based Rogers' alter ego. Self-pity is not a phrase which Amy Lou would soon recognise. Sexual orientation may be brought up by commentators and while Rogers has never shied away from the subject, it is not something that has come to define the art.

The singer adds: "My big thing has always been that I am a lesbian – it's the only thing I've had stick about. It's not a massive part of me, but it's something that I do recognise. There's no point in concealing it. It's never went down the line of abuse, it's always been: 'Amy Lou…is a lesbian'. Yep, well done, thank you. We had a quote in that review: 'She is a massive lesbian' and we thought: 'That's going on a badge as well'. A brilliant review, so funny."

The origin of Amy Lou is fairly surprising. Rogers originally began recording as more of a folk-inspired singer-songwriter. The influences were there from a young age with Fleetwood Mac among the most prominent. Rogers even put together an album in the folk genre, but with adolescence came an awakening of sorts – a realisation that indie rock was the way to go. As a result, the folk-singing background helped to bring a new dimension to the indie arena and provided the foundation for the Amy Lou sound.

Rogers adds: "There came a point where the music I was listening to, and really loving, wasn't what I was writing. I got into folk stuff because when I was that age, at 13-14, the female songwriters around were Gabrielle Aplin, KT Tunstall, Amy Macdonald and so for a long time I thought that was the only thing I could do was that sort of stuff.

"I was playing acoustic gigs in pubs, playing covers, and there was no character to it at all. One of the things that was happening when I was playing acoustic is that I was being compared to Lucy Spraggan because you see a lesbian with a guitar. I always wanted to break that mould – by all means, I am a gay artist but I am not just a gay artist.

"I grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac and they were one of the big things for me. I wanted to sound like Stevie Nicks, but I wanted to be playing the guitar like Buckingham. And I've always listened to indie rock and it just slowly got to the point where I thought: 'Yeah, I'm not into folk'. Still, folk is cool to go back to and write in and I can take inspiration from that genre – and other genres. I take a lot of lyrical rhythms from folk.

"Playing the electric guitar is just more natural for me, and with a backing band behind I just felt like I could be a bit mental. I never set out to do it – it's just a bit natural. I've never wanted to box myself into any genre. And that was one of the things with Amy Lou: I just wanted to do my own thing. Going from folk singing, which is one box, to Amy Lou as it is now, which is anywhere but the box, is empowering."

In a bold symphony of defiance and liberation, Amy Lou was born. It was a bit of a natural development; Rogers' on-stage person becoming a little more in terms of the off-stage branding. It offers a little more shielding for the artist on a personal level, and ensures there is more focus on the art and the brand.

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: ON STAGE: Amy Lou headlining PJ Molloy's in Dunfermline last monthON STAGE: Amy Lou headlining PJ Molloy's in Dunfermline last month

It has been said that there are two sides to every person – the one we show to the world and other we keep hidden. However, Rogers is keen to stress that Amy Lou is not a gimmick – but more an outspoken representation of ideals. The confidence that it brings also has a huge impact on live performances.

The Fife singer says: "I completely see Amy Lou as an alter ego – it is a character. When I am on stage, that means I can just go for it. And it's made the building of the brand – the glitter and Irn-Bru – and building a rapport with the audience a bit easier. It's not as though it is an unnatural character; I am like Amy Lou, but it is emboldened. The character of Amy Lou is still authentic. If I am 20 per cent, as natural Amy, then Amy Lou is at 3000 per cent. It's a bigger version of me.

"Interacting with fans, especially through social media, is a big thing in Scottish music right now. You look at Lewis Capaldi: He is completely a character. If you are doing music and doing all these shows and interacting with your audience as best you can, it's exhausting. So, it is important, from a mental health point of view and an artist point of view, to have that character there then that you can switch off. It's good [to save a bit of yourself]."

Rogers adds: "I like making a show out of live performances. Because at the end of the day, if people are paying to come and see you and you are just playing the songs then you might as well just pop it on Spotify and sit. A show is about creating something that people want to be a part of. For me, a Dunfermline show or Glasgow show is best because there is an audience to bounce off of. I've got a wee chant and everything – Amy Lou's doing bits."

If ever there was a place to nurture the likes of Amy Lou then it is the Dunfermline music scene – it has been a fruitful breeding ground for emerging bands in recent years and maintains a fine reputation for artists. There are a number of venues which encourage new acts to come through but what's more is the manner in which artists support each other.

Rogers looks back: "When I was coming on to the scene in Dunfermline there were bands like Oskar Braves, Shambolics, Moonlight Zoo and Dancing on Tables – so I've grown up knowing them. The Dunfermline music scene is very much a collective; it's like a wee family. It's nice, there are a lot of people to bounce ideas off of. In fact, the whole Fife music scene is exceptionally underrated. I think people just look at Glasgow. There is a lot of amazing bands coming out of Fife. There are lots of places to play – PJ's is class."

While the Dunfermline scene has been a great source of support for Rogers, the same cannot quite be said for everywhere else. Women are still not treated as equals in the music industry, according to the artist, but there have been some strides forward.

"The average music fan would struggle to name five female artists and that's something I want to see change over the next ten years or so. There needs to be a shift.

Despite numerous warnings not to speak up on political issues, Rogers reckons it would be remiss of Amy Lou not to try and affect change in the industry. Indeed, staying silent on such an issue would render the entire exercise pointless.

"It's a lot better than it was," Rogers adds "But it's not where it needs to be. There are more and more jobs out there for women, and festivals where it's a bit more equal, but it's not there yet. It's important to make sure opportunity is readily available for women.

"There is a group called SWIM – Scottish Women in Music – and they do a lot of events for not just female artists but for other women in the industry such as promoters, photographers, managers, techies, lampies – they are creating that space and opportunity. A lot of people will sit back and say there is a lot of opportunity for women in the music industry, but there's not. There are lots of women interested in tech. My manager is the only female sound engineer for all the venues in Glasgow.

"The average music fan would struggle to name five female artists and that's something I want to see change over the next ten years or so. There needs to be a shift. You see bands putting ads up on Facebook saying they are looking for a bassist – you see women reply and they get patched, even though they are just as good.

"It's not that the industry is sexist, but there a lot of people in the industry who still have a very sexist view. And it's very hush-hush, as though we shouldn't be talking about. But nothing is ever going to change if we don't talk about it.

"I've been told by people in and out of the industry that I shouldn't mix my political views with what I do with Amy Lou – but why shouldn't I? I have a bit of a platform, so why don't I use it?

"I've been told not mix in my views on women in work, or the difficulties for young queer folk. I feel that if I don't talk about these things, as Amy Lou, then Amy Lou is no longer authentic – that's when she is just a character."

Indeed, that desire has helped to fuel the latest Amy Lou single, Tonic Wine, which is due to be released on March 5. It is as big a protest song this country is likely to see this year, despite a wealth of ongoing political strife in the UK. The artist has teased the release on Twitter, remarking that "This one means a lot; here's to the gay kids".

The comment adds: "Our discontent as a nation and community is glaringly obvious – we will not go unnoticed." It also represents a different method of songwriting for the artist who, until, had focused on producing more radio-friendly, pop-rock tracks.

Rogers says: "There's a lot in today's world that is just depressing, especially in politics. That's really my aim with Amy Lou, it's about empowerment. I want to empower young, queer people. I see Amy Lou as a body of empowerment."

"Tonic Wine is a little more politically and socially aware. Chania and Fiat [Five Hunner] were predominantly love songs. It's talking about mental health as a young, queer woman. It's a bit different so I'm really excited to bring it out. I am trying to write about other things and other people – it's a little more interesting to delve into that."

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: NEW MATERIAL: Amy Lou will release her new single Tonic Wine this monthNEW MATERIAL: Amy Lou will release her new single Tonic Wine this month

THE new single will be well-supported by a unique set of dates across the country – Amy Lou's Awfy Intimate Tour. The first stop was Aberdeen yesterday (February 29) before a show at 13th Note in Glasgow on March 6, Dunfermline on March 8 and, finally, Edinburgh on March 12.

Three of the shows – Aberdeen, Dunfermline and Edinburgh – were set down as taking place at secret locations, which Rogers revealed to The Weekender.

It's a little exclusive secret thing," the singer says. "You buy the ticket and you find out where it is and you can only get in with a ticket in advance.

"Edinburgh is in an office in Haymarket – Dunfermline is in a comic book shop – and Aberdeen [was] in someone else's flat. 

"What I love doing with Amy Lou is putting on shows in places that are not gig venues, like sweet shops. I like doing things like that; it's cool, it's different. When I started playing Amy Lou as a band, I sort of abandoned that part of me where I'd play in weird and wonderful places.

"I'd been wanting to play Aberdeen to play for around 18 months – there is a little fanbase up there. We'd been trying and trying and trying to get a venue to book Amy Lou, but because I'm not from Aberdeen they were a bit hesitant. So, we took into our own hands...If you don't put Amy Lou on, I'll put myself on.

"The Dunfermline show is in a comic book shop; they're all Amy Lou fans there. For the Edinburgh show, we're going to rent a PA, we're bringing in our own lights and there is a big white while and were going to have projections.

"All the gigs are BYOB and we're doing corkage donations to local charities. It's another way to take the gigs into my own hands and have some fun with it."

Amy Lou has never been a typical musical act – going against the grain has been the preference. In deference to that creed, fans will be delighted to hear a full orchestra version of Chania may well be on the cards, along with a short movie about the rise of Amy Lou, called: Who the **** is Amy Lou?

The project started in September last year and is scheduled to end with the Awfy Intimate Tour in March. Rogers' team have been filming events, performances and interviews and while there will be comedic elements to the upcoming mini-documentary, it will delve into more serious issues such as the struggle of women in the music industry.

If I can empower people – a person – then Amy Lou's job is done. That's the goal."

For Rogers, the freedom to make movies and to host unusual gig venues is a product of the remarkable support network in place. The artist has been careful who to bring into the inner circle and it has already paid dividends.

"I have a good relationship with my management," Rogers continues. "They are exceptionally supportive. If I feel like I need a break from Amy Lou, then I can take a break. But we are focusing on the art I am making, rather than how well it is selling.

"It's a really good set up; it gives me more freedom, and it's not always about money. These shows I am about to play won't make a lot of money, but it's about interacting with my audience. It's for the audience; it's not about lining the pockets just so I can make another single."

The 20-year-old adds: "I used to do everything myself. I was self-managed before; it was so stressful. Not only do you need to be the artist, but you have to be the radio plugger, the manager, deal with press releases and all the rest of it.

"I have friends who are on rosters and they are being pushed towards targets and there is pressure. They are pushed to buggery. We don't have a target that we are pushing towards. If I can empower people – a person – then Amy Lou's job is done. That's the goal."

Amy Lou is a million miles away from the 14-year-old Amy Louise Rogers who first picked up the guitar and started to sing and write folk songs in "Dunfy Toon". Of course, Rogers' musical theatre training does lend itself to the Amy Lou's onstage theatrics.

So, again, who is Amy Lou? There have been many words used to describe the character. Boring is not one of them...

Alloa and Hillfoots Advertiser: FANCY A BRU? The iconic Scottish drink is a part of Amy Lou folkloreFANCY A BRU? The iconic Scottish drink is a part of Amy Lou folklore

 

AMY LOU'S BRU - The Origin Story
(In her own words)

When I was eight years old, my gran asked me what I wanted to be for Halloween – I said a can of Irn-Bru. She made me a costume. I have no idea why I said it, but it was amazing.

I get my guitars made for me by Malcolm Kyle – he's famous for making Irn-Bru and Bucky guitars. I've had three or four made by him and they are all done up in the Irn-Bru colour scheme.

He's also made me a guitar for the Awfy Intimate Tour – Amy Lou's Wee Bru. It's done up as the 1901 Irn Bru. Basically, it's a children's guitar but it's been re-fretted and it plays brilliantly. So I'm just playing it for that tour, then it goes in the Amy Lou museum.

I've done so much for them in terms of advertising, already. In Irn Bru headquarters, they know who I am, they're just not ready for Amy Lou. I'm aiming for my own can design: Instead of Irn-Bru, it'll be Amy Lou. That's all I want. I'll get that and then I'll retire.