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Canadian singer-songwriter Allie X has quickly been making her mark on U.S. pop charts since Katy Perry tweeted her obsession with the single “Catch” over the spring.
Born Alexandra Ashley Hughes in Toronto, the singer crafted the Allie X persona prior to her newfound fame, creating a stage presence separate from a past that included schooling at Michigan’s prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy where the likes of Betty Who, Josh Groban and other artists have studied.
Allie X spoke to BTL from Los Angeles prior to her upcoming tour stop in Detroit on Nov. 18 and was more than ready to step into her new self.
“I don’t speak to my past, sorry,” she admits. “Since I’ve become ‘X,’ this is the chapter of my life that I feel comfortable talking about.”
As per her evolution into this “X” persona, the singer described the concept of “Feeling X,” a name she gives to the development of her current sunglasses-wearing incarnation on her website.
“‘Feeling X’ is difficult to talk about,” she says, laughing. “I don’t meant to be a difficult interview candidate here! But ‘feeling X’ is, in essence, an indescribable feeling. It speaks to confusion and irony; I like contradictory images … what I like is being an image that is rather dark, but also has sort of a wit about it.” When elaborating on contradictory images – apparent in the clash between her ethereally light pop sound with darker lyrics – she mentions some influences for this artistic collision.
“(If you haven’t) heard of Toilet Paper magazine (http://www.toiletpapermagazine.org/), you should check it out. It’s a great example of the kind of contradictory images I’m speaking of.”
Though some artists bristle at the need for hard labels for their sound, X thinks honestly about the music “that naturally comes out of me.”
“My music has legs in a mainstream sense,” she notes. “I believe that it does. I would like for as many people to hear my music as they can. Obviously, there’s differences in the lyric content and in the sound design; I guess I don’t really consider myself a pop artist … I like to say that I’m theatrical electronic dreampop.”
With influences like Bjork, Sylvia Plath and Sia, among others, her mix of mainstream and eclectic sounds with heavier lyricism is likely to find a home in Detroit, known by many as the home of techno and house music.
“I hear great things about the music scene in Detroit,” she adds. “I know that there’s a lot of excitement around electronic music in Detroit … Not to say that I’m a true electronic artist, but I can expect that my audience will enjoy my music.”
One of her more recent singles, “Bitch,” again highlights X’s love of contradictions.
“Bitch was a strange song. It was written very quickly, which isn’t usually the case for me; usually I labor over songs for a long time,” she says. “But ‘Bitch’ happened in one day, and I just walked in a room in this house with a single drum machine and a single synth, and with those limitations I kind of made it. I started improvising a melody over top, and those words came out: ‘I’m your bitch; you’re my bitch.’ And these very domestic kind of lyrics (came out); I never really analyzed it, I just sort of did it and let it be. When it came to releasing the song, I did start to analyze it. I came to the conclusion that it was about the relationship with myself, and sort of the darker parts of myself versus the lighter parts of myself, and the compromise you have to make with yourself in order to just live a balanced life.”
It’s quickly apparent that X does not separate her life goals from her music, noting that any future plans involve “finding the missing parts of myself and becoming a peaceful person.” She finds herself getting closer to this milestone with her success, noting, “My success has been in that I now have an audience who I care about very much and who care about what I’m doing very much, and that’s made me feel fulfilled as an artist.”
Allie X’s desire to keep in close touch with her inner self has carried over in her passionate support of the LGBT community.
“All of my closest friends are queer, and it’s a social issue I’ve always cared about and I’ve always related to and I will always fight for,” she says. She counts herself fortunate to surround herself with positivity around the community as well, as she adds, “My perspective (of homophobia and anti-LGBT actions in the United States) is skewed because I am an artist, and I’ve only lived in artistic hubs full of very liberal people. So other than the news or the bullshit that you’ll see shared online, I don’t actually see that hatred.
“And in L.A., there hasn’t been too much of a difference,” she laughs. “Most of my friends there (Toronto) are queer, most of my friends here are queer.”
Despite the more liberal, artistic similarities between her hometown and L.A., the singer acknowledges the differences she’s feeling on the west coast.
“Since I’ve moved to L.A., I have noticed the way I write songs has changed slightly, though I think for the most part it’s for the better and I’m more efficient and more aware of melody and lyric and really what constitutes good songs,” she reflects. “I also feel afraid sometimes that I’m falling too much into the writing of pop music culture here and my ears are changing, so I always try and balance out my co-writing sessions with me just working at home in my studio like I used to do, so I’m still creating things in a way that really comes from me and my lyric brain.”
Like with her development into Allie X, will L.A.’s influence shape her continued evolution as an artist?
“Everyone’s tastes change, and I never feel that sense of anger towards artists who radically change their sound or put out an album that doesn’t sound like their other albums, you know?” she says. “At the end of the day, if you’ve chosen to lead the torturous life of an artist, you should at least have the right to evolve as you see fit.”