Allie X began with a vision: of a blank slate. The multimedia electronic pop artist chose the letter “X” to signify infinite possibility – an attempt to strip herself of any pre-existing identity. Yet she feels the presence of multiple versions of herself: good ones, bad ones, and everything in between.
“I think I’ve always had this self-awareness of the bad parts of myself,” she reflects. “I remember feeling as a kid like I hadn’t suffered enough, which is kind of a strange feeling. And then I remember in middle school feeling like I wasn’t being nice enough to people.” Her self-awareness has only expanded with age: “As I’ve gotten older, sometimes I just feel like I’m watching myself from somewhere else and think, ‘Who is this person?… Who am I, and is it good or bad?’” Unsure of who she is, anything does seem possible.
The cover of Allie X’s latest album and full-length debut, CollXtion II, features her literally reassembling herself, slotting cubed pieces of her shin back into her leg. The visual perfectly captures what The Story of X, the name she has given the narrative that arches across all of her creative output as Allie X, is about: her journey to figure out her identity and discover her whole self again, piece by piece, song by song.
Sometimes, the pieces fit together in ways that surprise her. “For me, words are very uncalculated. I can write jibber-jabber and find cool words, then find an idea out of that.” She made one particularly surprising personal discovery while writing lyrics for CollXtion II: “So often, my lyrics turn out to be about relationships and heartbreak, which day-to-day isn’t something I think about a lot.” After pausing momentarily to ponder this observation, she self-diagnoses: “I must have been very impacted by these memories. I still don’t fully understand what to make of that, like, ‘Where did that come from?’”
Pant Suit: Matthew Gallagher Glasses: Linda Farrow
Overall – confounding and revelatory instances aside – Allie X’s vision is so crystalized, she can bring on collaborators without compromise. She attributes this ability to co-writing in her day-to-day life in Los Angeles, where she works as a professional songwriter. “[Collaborating] doesn’t compromise my vision because usually I’m very clear about what I want, and I’ll just tell somebody if it isn’t working. A lot of the times, I start an idea by myself, and then all the basic things are there.”
The track, “Vintage”, which she co-wrote with Brett McLaughlin and Troye Sivan, is a good example of her collaborative style: “The melody was already there, and the lyrics were already there, and I’d already done most of the production. So when I went to work with Brett and Troy, they knew what direction to take it in.” Despite how clear her vision is, she enjoys working with other people, especially musicians like McLaughlin and Sivan who know her well enough that their input will not stray too far from her own ideas. “I really like collaboration,” she professes. “There’s all sorts of inspiration you can get from working with other people that wouldn’t be there if you were just doing everything by yourself.”
Writing for other people occasionally makes her recognize aspects of herself that she does not notice before and that she ends up exploring in her art. “It does make you think differently,” she admits. But does writing for other people exacerbate the feeling that there are multiple versions of herself out there? “Not so much, no. When writing for someone else, it’s actually more about going into parts of yourself that are relatable to that person, rather than actually embody[ing] the person.”
Perhaps it is because of this deep diving for something beneath the surface that Allie X has grown more discerning with her creative choices. “I’ll try ten different parts. But the difference is, in [my debut EP], CollXtion I, I kept all ten parts, and in CollXtion II, I really embraced finding the very best parts and bringing those out in the mix as opposed to that really lush, layered sound that I was really into for CollXtion I.”
The more Allie X refines her creative process, and the more she looks within herself, the further along she pushes The Story of X. She may not have found all her answers in CollXtion II, but she knows one thing for sure about her quest for completeness: “I’ll be Allie X until I can become just Allie.”
See Allie X live Monday, September 25 in Toronto at the Church of Holy Trinity.
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Tyler Shaw is going through a renaissance. After exploding onto the scene and the charts in 2012 with his hit single “Kiss Goodnight” and a wildly successful debut album that followed, it’s hard to imagine what the Canadian pop singer could possibly need to reinvent. But after two years of writing and exploring, Shaw has taken the reigns on developing a new album and a new sound that’s better in tune with his growth as an artist. Just before the release of his new single “With You”, Georgie caught up with Shaw over the phone to talk about his upcoming album, mental health, and the feelings he’s harnessed into a musical renewal. G— What were some of the biggest differences for you between making the upcoming album and making Yesterday? TS—Yesterday was more so “I’m a new artist, I don’t really know what I want to do. This sounds cool on my voice, so does this.” With this album on the other hand, I know what I want. I know what melodies I want to go to and what I want to talk about. [Yesterday] came out in 2015, and ever since then, I mean, you go through life experiences