Published Jul 05, 2017"Identity is something that I explore in all my work," says L.A.-based Canadian pop singer Allie X. "This project is a way for me to navigate my way through the world and who I am."
Her latest such audio compass, CollXtion II, considers the degree to which we are shaped by experiences, compared to what is hardwired when we're born. "How much of who you become is informed by pain?" she asks. "Each song is a piece of me, whether it be a dream, fantasy or memory."
Born Alexandra Hughes, the Oakville, ON native saw Allie X as a clean slate. "I made it as private as possible," she says. The "X" in her stage name "stands for the possibility of anything. It also represents anonymity."
Indeed, listening to her debut EP, CollXtion I, very little links its conceptual dance pop to the joyous indie pop she made as Toronto-based Allie Hughes. Pursuing a parallel career as a professional songwriter, Hughes moved to Los Angeles in 2013, notably placing a number of tracks on Australian artist Troye Sivan's 2015 debut album.
Writing for other artists, "You want to make sure that they really connect with what you're thinking about and at the same time, you have to connect as well," she says. Slipping between different modes and mindsets is essential. "It's a delicate balance."
But navigating the L.A. music machine — living inside someone else's head, trying to write hits in a matter of hours — takes its toll. "It got in my way as an artist," she says. "I looked at all the songs that I'd written, and there were a lot of them, but they weren't coming together in my mind."
Looking for a break, Hughes retreated to Canada to visit with friends and family, to essentially be herself. "I got really inspired again." She wrote four songs in a month, stripping back her sound, paring down to the bare essentials. "It wasn't until I stepped back and started doing it my way that the album started coming together."
Her identity explorations have yet to yield concrete conclusions, but the invisible wall between Alexandra Hughes and Allie X is becoming more opaque. Showcasing "more of myself," in both her music and in interviews, is an increasingly agreeable experience. "Each song is a piece of me," she says. "I'm getting better at showing my true self: the good, the bad and the ugly."