By Julia Cancilla
Photos by Quentin Challier
In a world full of Internet celebrity machines, Brandy Schwelcher, a.k.a. Almondmilkhunni, is a breath of fresh air. Effortlessly cool, authentic and personable, Schwelcher has proved she is more than just another viral internet sensation. What started as an alter-ego created for a silly inside joke captured and engaged fans, making her a standout pop-R&B artist with indisputable talent. We got the chance to sit down with the Philadelphia native to talk about almond milk, creative freedom, tattoos and more.
Where does the name Almondmilkhunni come from?
It comes from being a barista at Starbucks when I was in college, it was pretty much just a joke and then it stuck with me, so here we are.
Where does your passion for music come from?
I just love making music. I love listening to music. I don’t know where it comes from, it’s just kind of there.
What were some of your earliest musical influences?
I grew up listening to R&B, like, Aaliyah, Usher, Genuine, all the really popular R&B artists, so that was the biggest influence for me growing up.
When did you first start singing and performing?
I never sang in front of people until I literally signed my first record deal. I was always very shy, so it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I was singing around other people .
Was it difficult making that transition?
Yes. I had the worst performance anxiety and it’s just one of those things that only gets better if you do it often.
Do you have anything that calms you down before a show?
Not really. I try to meditate a little before the show and just chill, maybe go for a walk, but not really kind of just, you are gonna get nerves no matter what. Yeah. So it is what it is. Yeah.
Was there a moment when you knew you would be able to turn this into a career?
I’ve had a lot of moments like that in my life, honestly. But I think one of the big moments was when I had Kid Cudi ask me to do a couple sessions with him. We just made some demos and stuff and he didn’t end up using them, but that was one of those moments where I was like, whoa. I think I’m doing something here and maybe people are noticing and it made me feel like I could believe in myself a little bit more.
Who would you say is the coolest person you’ve worked with?
Probably Kid Cudi, but I’ve worked with a lot of producers who are super cool too. Like the producer who executive produced my whole project, I think he’s amazing. I think he’s a genius. But yeah, I’ve worked with a lot of cool people, and a lot of good people, which is more important to me.
One of your biggest hits, “damnboy,” gives us a look at your experience as a bisexual woman. And I feel like a lot of people resonated with the lyrics and the video. Were you expecting such a positive reaction and maybe expecting that the song would blow up?
I didn’t really think about it because I had just been living my life in that space for a while, I guess. And I was a stripper as well, so to me, this is just life. But then, you know, realizing that other people aren’t that expressive or they’re not that comfortable yet, reminded me that for some people it’s hard to come around to that.
What was the experience like having so many people really resonate with it?
It was cool. It is very effortless for me to be in that space, you know? I also felt it was really important, ’cause originally the treatment they came up with for the music video and it was with a guy. And I was like, yeah, that’s cool, but maybe I can just show a real part of who I actually am with this. So we just took another route. I love it, it’s a beautiful video.
It’s one of my favorites. And I feel like when you first look you up, that’s the first one that comes up. So that’s everybody’s favorite, I feel like you took it in the right direction.
On your latest project, “Enjoy the Ride,” what was the hardest song to write on that?
The hardest song? I feel like they were all really easy and that was on purpose, you know? With this one, I just wanted to like doing most of the writing and most of the creative direction on it. I’m a firm believer that if you’re thinking too hard about it, maybe you’re doing too much. Honestly, none of them were really that hard to make. They all felt really good and I knew right away if I loved the song. They were all pretty effortless.
Which one was the most fun for you to write or the most fun to perform?
Probably “COMA,” because that was the first time I heard something that I made that was so different and I was like, this is amazing.
How do you think your music will evolve over time and what kind of directions are you hoping to push into?
I’m not really sure. I look at a lot of other artists who do like eras of music, and it’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with it, but I don’t personally see myself making a conscious decision to to rebrand in that sense. With my new stuff I have, but it was more of like, okay, this is who I am as an artist. And my old stuff was like, you know who I was under a label, so I guess it was a rebrand… [laughs]
But it was more like setting the standard.
It was more like, this is what happens when I’m actually making my music. As opposed to working with a million writers in a room and barely having a say. I think I’m just not gonna think about it too much. I still love R&B, “PISTOL” is very R&B. I’m just doing whatever I like at this point.
Awesome. Have you seen any fans get tattoos based off of your music?
Yes. A couple years ago a guy got the cover of my first single “Grapefruit.” He got a really cool, outline version of it tattooed on his arm, which was really shocking and still is shocking to this day.
Yeah, I feel like it would be. Is that something that you would ever get used to [seeing]?
No, I think it’s so weird that somebody has that.
That’s funny. But it’s really sweet though.
It is really sweet. But I’m also like, I wouldn’t tell someone to get a tattoo of me. Ever [laughs]. It’s a lot of pressure…
What was the first tattoo you got and is there a story behind it?
The first tattoo I got was on my ribs and I got it with my sister. We got matching ones. I was 17 and we went to this guy’s house, and it was super sketchy and just not legal in any way. I’m really lucky that nothing bad happened, but it’s a story.
It’s a story. And you still have it?
I still have it, yeah.
What’s the silliest tattoo that you have?
My silliest one is my little Bambi tattoo. I think her Instagram is XoXoPink Lemon. She’s so cool and she makes tattoos that look like sketchbook drawings, which I’ve really been into lately.
Nice. Which lyric of yours is the most tattoo worthy?
Ummmm, I don’t know. I’d probably get any of them tattooed. Like from “liar,” there’s like, “You’re a fucking liar.” I think that’s funny, I’d get it tattooed like it’s a joke. And then in “COMA” there’s the line, “a temporary coma is a remedy I need,” I would probably get that tattooed. It might look a little corny if you don’t know what it’s about.
I like that. Those are good ones. What advice would you have for somebody who is trying to get into the industry and also stay true to themselves?
Everyone says this, be yourself. But, like, really be yourself. I think a lot of people struggle with finding who they are. All of us do. But man, it’s really hard to find who you are ’cause we’re constantly doing that. But also, letting that translate into music is really tough. I think [people should] just try to be as real as possible because people sense that and they know if you’re just writing a song that you don’t believe. Everyone knows that, everyone can feel that.
So write about real things to you. Even if the only thing that matters to you at the moment is sleeping or something, just write about it and make it authentic.