Published Jun 16, 2017"Identity is something that I explore in all my work," says Allie X, explaining the concept behind her full-length debut, CollXtion II (out now on Twin Music/Sony. "This project is a way for me to navigate my way through the world and who I am."
CollXtion II follows a string of well-received singles across which she's explored different facets of her life. "It has to do with who you are now and how much of that has been guided by experience, and how much of it has been there since you were born," she says. "How much of who you become in your life is informed by pain? Each song is a piece of me, whether it be a dream, fantasy or memory."
When she launched the Allie X "project," which includes music, videos and even the ongoing short story, "The Story of X," she wanted a clean slate. "When I started this project I made it as private as possible," she says. The "X" in her stage name "stands for the possibility of anything and it also represents anonymity."
Indeed, listening to the songs that appeared on her debut EP, CollXtion I, you'd be hard pressed to link the conceptual dance pop to the joyous indie pop she'd made while living in Toronto as Allie Hughes. Born Alexandra Hughes in Oakville, she moved to Los Angeles in 2013 to pursue a parallel career as a professional songwriter, notably placing a number of songs on Australian artist Troye Sivan's 2015 debut. Meanwhile, her debut single as Allie X, "Catch," caught the attention of many, including Katy Perry.
Slipping into different modes and mindsets is a handy tool when 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. "It's a delicate balance."
But navigating Los Angeles's pop music machine — constantly existing inside someone else's head, trying to write hits in a matter of hours — took 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."
She retreated to Canada for a break last year, to visit with friends and family — to essentially be herself. "I got really inspired again."
Within a month, she'd written four songs, including lead single "Paper Love." "I would sit at my computer and just spend hours experimenting with sounds," she says. "It wasn't until I stepped back and started doing it my way that the album started coming together."
Open to pretty much everything — UK electronic music, Fleetwood Mac, today's top 40 — she began stripping back her sound; where "Catch," "had a zillion things going on," the songs on CollXtion II are pared down to bare essentials. "The more minimal you go, the harder it hits and the bigger it sounds. You can really get to the heart of a song that way."
Though she says she came to no conclusions in her exploration of her identity, the invisible wall between Alexandra Hughes and Allie X has become more opaque. "Not that I'm super famous, but I have fans and I've become more comfortable showing them more of myself," be it in her music or in interviews. "The older I get, the more comfortable I am with opening up a bit more. I don't trust too many people, but the ones I do trust I'm getting better at sowing my true self: the good the bad and the ugly."