These days, it seems a pop artist must also be an artistic visionary to have an impact. A savant musician. A creator of interesting things. Case in point? Allie X, an emerging Canadian artist who exploded onto the scene with a 48-hour multimedia extravaganza at the Phi Center in Montreal, where she launched her first EP as Allie X, CollXtion I.
Allie X started life as Alexandra Ashley Hughes, a regular on the Toronto music scene where she enjoyed a modicum of success with the release of two albums, Ladies and Gentleman and Waiting for the Prize. Dissatisfied with what she was producing, she went back to the drawing board. She studied sound design and music production and spent two years cocooned in her shoebox apartment, writing music and perfecting her sound before she emerged onto the LA music scene in 2013 – a butterfly complete.
Her music is complemented by strong visual elements that include original artwork, boundary-pushing videos and spinning GIFs. When asked what is fuelling this new age of music and art, she replies: “In a word, the internet. It’s turned the music world on its head in negative and positive ways – the positive being that there is a lot of artist empowerment. You can become a star in your bedroom on your own YouTube channel. I think by putting more power into the artist’s hands, it’s changed the parameters of how weird you can be with the work you put out.”
Although Allie X regularly converses with her fans online, she remains a fiercely cloistered person. Her eyes are usually hidden behind a pair of oversized sunglasses or her hair is draped across her face. Even her chosen name ‘X’ comes from the algebraic expression of the unknown: “I want people to take on X as their own identity and not to become a part of my identity.”
As we meet and get to know each other, we’ll reveal more about ourselves and have a more vulnerable relationship. It is a dichotomy, though, because this project is about opening up your soul, but also remaining anonymous.
How will she overcome the problem of wanting to have a more personal relationship with her fans while still maintaining boundaries and privacy? “I think of it as a relationship like any other,” she says. “As we meet and get to know each other, we’ll reveal more about ourselves and have a more vulnerable relationship. It is a dichotomy, though, because this project is about opening up your soul, but also remaining anonymous.”
Perhaps the struggle for identity and anonymity is one that all artists go through as they transform, and are transformed by, the music world. But as we wait in anticipation for what comes next, let’s just hope that Allie X is able to keep her freak unique.
In the ten years since Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg started First Aid Kit, they have been going non-stop. The indie-folk duo got their start when their cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” went viral, and have since released four albums, won five Swedish Grammis awards, and brought two of their idols to tears on live television. Following a brief hiatus, and four years after their last record, Stay Gold, First Aid Kit is back with Ruins, a raw account of losing love and finding yourself. In the middle of a North American tour, Georgie talked to Klara and Johanna about the new album and what brought them to Ruins. G—You’ve said in past interviews that Stay Gold was a more put-together, polished kind of album, and Ruins is a lot rawer. What caused that shift? JS—The production of Stay Gold is very lush and elegant, and I think that’s what we wanted at the time. But we started longing for this rawness, this almost lo-fi aspect that we had on our first records. [For Ruins]…our attitude was that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. If we sing a bum note or there’s a little crack
Charlotte Cardin is on track to having her biggest year yet. The electro jazz-pop singer has been nominated for Songwriter of the Year and Breakthrough Artist of the Year at next month’s Juno Awards. Along the way, she has performed at Osheaga—an experience she calls “surreal”, having attended for years growing up in Montréal—and Festival d’été de Québec where she opened for Sting and Peter Gabriel. More recently, she has been touring behind her EPs Big Boy (Cult Nation Records, 2016) and Main Girl (Sony Music, 2017). Through this past September and October, she supported Nick Murphy (formerly Chet Faker), and she’s been on tour with BØRNS since January. This spring, Cardin will headline her own dates. Prior to her full-time career in music, Cardin modelled in fashion which afforded her pocket money and freedom to work on her art. She also competed on the first season of La Voix, a francophone Canadian version of The Voice. But being on television, like modelling, was never her passion. “I never really felt that much pressure when I was on TV. For me, there’s something a lot more real about what I’m doing right now.” She feels more pressure performing her own
Garland Jeffreys’ album, 14 Steps to Harlem, grew out of a soulful period of retrospection late in the artist’s life and career. As a veteran songwriter, Jeffreys started writing provocative, ahead-of-its- time, genre-bending songs in the early 1970s, with lyrics focused on everything from relationships to racial diversity to political turmoil. Now in his seventies, the New York musician is looking back on his life with an album that takes on bold topics and includes a title track inspired by his turbulent relationship with his father. Jefferys spoke with Georgie about his latest release, his relationship with Lou Reed and his somewhat unconventional approach to songwriting. Georgie—14 Steps to Harlem is a great album. Garland Jeffreys—Thank you. I’m very proud of the record. I took some chances in recording it but had confidence that it could be something special. You don’t know a record is good or bad until it’s done – then you know. I worked on the album with my co-producer, James Maddock, who’s a great artist in his own right. G—The title track, “14 Steps to Harlem”, stood out to me. I read that it was written with your father in mind. Did the experience of writing about your dad