Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Amelia Moore creates the kind of visionary alt-pop that both defies all expecation and feels immediately essential. In a whirlwind journey she describes as “homeschool to Hollywood,” the 21-year-old Georgia native got her start singing in the church choir as a little kid, followed her dreams to Los Angeles at age 18, and soon attracted a massive following on the strength of her bold but vulnerable songwriting (a feat that includes gaining over 50,000 followers on Spotify before she’d even officially released a song). True to her TikTok and Instagram handle (@icryatwork), the 21-year-old artist approaches all her music with a fierce commitment to total emotional transparency—an irresistible counterpart to her kaleidoscopic and endlessly unpredictable sound.

Originally from Lawrenceville (a town outside Atlanta), Moore grew up in a conservative Christian household and first discovered her natural musicality by singing in the choir and taking up violin at age five. But despite her immense talent on the violin, she felt compelled to expand her horizons. “From a really young age I felt creatively trapped and knew I wanted to write my own music, so I quit violin and taught myself piano on a cheap little Casio keyboard,” she says. Also a worship leader at her church, Moore began writing her own songs at age 13 and within two years joined an Atlanta-based artist development training program to sharpen her vocal and performance skills. When her parents refused to pay for the program (“I remember them telling me, ‘Maybe music can be a hobby, and you can be pharmaceutical sales rep instead,’” she recalls), Moore got a job at a fast-food chain and raised the money on her own. “It completely changed my life—from then on I believed in myself 1,000 percent,” she says.

After graduating from high school at 16, Moore kept on writing songs and ventured into producing for other artists, then enrolled at Belmont University in Nashville. “It was the craziest culture shock I’ve ever experienced in my life,” she says. “I went from being so sheltered to being surrounded by kids who are all drinking, partying, hooking up, and pretty quickly I started questioning everything I was raised to believe.” As she broke out of her shell and adjusted to life on campus, Moore continued collaborating remotely with her longtime friend Austin Sanders (aka ASTN, a Florida-bred singer/songwriter), and soon began heading to L.A. for co-writing sessions. During her first trip, she crossed paths with up-and-coming producer Pink Slip and instantly felt a potent creative chemistry, striking up a collaboration that endures to this day. Halfway through her sophomore year, Moore dropped out of Belmont and moved to L.A. on her own—then found herself frightfully adrift when the pandemic hit just two months later. “Any opportunity I’d had to play shows or put a project together fell apart so fast,” she says. “Like so many other people, everything I’d been working toward was swept out from under my feet.” Determined to move forward, Moore immersed herself in writing and refining her vision for her debut project, and eventually began sharing her songs on TikTok. Within the very first week of posting her original material, she’d amassed over 100,000 followers drawn to her unaffected yet magnetic presence and fearlessly honest perspective—a turn of events that ultimately led to her signing with Capitol Records in fall 2021.

Released in October 2021, Moore’s debut single “sweet and sour” is an intoxicating first glimpse into Moore’s untamed imagination and overall mission as an artist. “One of my main goals is to elevate what we expect from pop artists, and usher in a wave of weirder, edgier, more left-of-center music with production that’s really crazy but also refined,” she says. Produced by Pink Slip, “sweet and sour” fulfills that ambition by delivering a stark yet explosive collage of sonic details: shadowy beats, jagged guitar tones, sudden shifts in texture, a gloriously fuzzed-out and frenetic outro. Meanwhile, its lyrics speak to the sheer power of embracing your own complexity. “This song is a perfect statement of who I am as a person,” says Moore. “For the most part I’m a total angel and super-sweet, but the second you mess with me or any of my friends, that’s all over. It’s kind of a warning to everyone, telling them to be careful and tread lightly, or else they’ll get the sour.”

Naming hyper-inventive artists like Frank Ocean, SOPHIE, Kanye West, and Flume among her inspirations, Moore continually feeds her creativity by seeking out boundary-pushing musicians and soaking up inspiration from art forms outside music. “One of my favorite things is to go to museums by myself, put my earbuds in, check out the art and ask, ‘How can I make a song that feels the way this looks?’” she reveals. And with her debut EP due out next year, Moore is intent on merging her wildly original sound with lyrics that encourage listeners to fully live their truth. “I hope my songs make people feel powerful, and inspire them to believe in themselves and trust their gut no matter what everyone else is doing,” she says. “You really can alter your reality, and it’s completely up to you to make that happen.”