Singer-songwriter teases work on 'RuPaul's Drag Race' All Stars 3, Troye Sivan's new album
Most pop stars who’ve taken us to the furthest reaches of the sonic galaxy have grown up and out of their self-made spaceships of delightful oddity; after revolutionizing the look and feel of a mainstream diva for a new generation of women, Lady Gaga and Kesha have nestled comfortably back on earth, strumming guitars and rocking out with organic instrumentation on their most recent, Americana-tinged albums (and judging by “Malibu” and “Younger Now,” Miley Cyrus is aiming to follow suit). But Allie X, perhaps the shiniest of undiscovered gems bubbling under the surface of the contemporary scene, is operating on another level, crafting a blissfully singular realm of her own creation, and plans to stay there until the masses take notice.
It’s a land occupied by otherworldly fashion and drag queens (Allie X is an avid fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race), soundtracked by soaring choruses (“Vintage,” “Catch”) and smooth-as-glass vocals. Other pop stars occasionally swing by as well; Katy Perry has tweeted her support, while the 32-year-old Canadian also contributed heavily to Troye Sivan’s 2015 debut, Blue Neighbourhood. But no matter how many elements are added to her burgeoning equation, Allie X’s goal is artistic sincerity, above all.
“I make pop music, but it’s filtered through my very strange brain, and what comes out is something a little more dark,” she tells EW. “Conceptually, the Allie X project is about making yourself anonymous, and not committing to any one school of thought that’s pre-existing. It’s more about finding your own truth in this mad world that we live in.”
CollXtion II, her debut album, is now available on iTunes and Spotify. Read on for EW’s full Q&A with Allie X, during which she teases her love of drag queens, her involvement in the upcoming season of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, and working with Sivan on his second LP.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’re a huge RuPaul’s Drag Race fan, right? I heard you actually voiced a character on a challenge once?
ALLIE X: I did! I did the voice of Princess Di, with Katya lip-syncing [during All Stars 2]. It was funny. My friend writes music for the show, and I actually just recorded another little bit for an upcoming season.
You also had Violet Chachki of Drag Race fame in the video for “All the Rage.” I love how openly you embrace the LGBT community. What do you think it is about your art that attracts so many gay fans?
I’ve always had a lot of gay friends. I was in Provincetown, Rhode Island around age 10 with my family. We were passing through on vacation, and we walked past these drag queens and I felt so delighted by them, I felt this camaraderie. I waved at them and smiled and they waved back, like “Hey sweetie!” It’s a fond memory… In terms of what I do, [my art] has to do with finding my place in the world, and maybe the LGBTQ+ community relates to that.
Ten years old!? That’s such a young age to be experiencing peak P-Town in the summer! [Laughs] I know! I was with my family, and my dad isn’t homophobic, but he’s an older, conservative British man, and he was just looking at me like you’re so at home here! It’s always been a place where I feel comfortable.
The pop community has also embraced you. Katy Perry is a fan, you wrote with Troye Sivan for his first album… Are you aiming to break into that sector of the industry or do you think there’s more creative freedom on the underground pop scene?
I want as many people as possible to hear my music. I’m not opposed to being in the top 40, but what I am opposed to is going for top 40 while compromising my artistic integrity, and I feel like a lot of the time when artists attempt that, they’re not taken seriously… I feel like I’m doing it the right way. I’m growing my fan base. We’re all very connected and on the same page, it’s not like they just heard one song on the radio and went oh, she’s coo, I’m going to follow her. We’re kind of like a community.
Fans actually helped you shape CollXtion II, right? You put demos online and let them pick which ones they liked?
Yeah, I thought it would be an interesting experiment, and I got a lot of valuable feedback and ideas about how to present the record when it was done… the way people put out music is changing so much, you have the freedom to try things like that. Even since I moved to L.A. four years ago… the changes in the industry have been immense, just watching Spotify almost overtake radio, and the sound of pop music changed so dramatically.
Do you think that’s where the future of music is, in your social presence with fans?
There’s a lot more power in the social presence of an artist now, whereas before it was just about record sales. Radio is still incredibly important, but even that is shifting. It was interesting for me to watch Troye succeed, because he got to make the record he wanted to make because he already had fans. They weren’t fans of him because he was a musician; they were fans because he was an online celebrity… I see that happening a lot. Executives at labels don’t really know what to look for anymore in an artist, other than data, so it’s a weird time, but the good news is, the audience is becoming more discerning. Younger people are listening to all sorts of music, and it’s not just what their parents play on the top 40 radio in the car anymore; they have so much freedom to listen to so many different types of songs, and I think that’s why pop music is becoming a little more interesting. Lyrically, it’s more abstract, and sounds are more analog.
Well as a fan that’s a part of that process, can I please Stan for “Vintage” to be released as the next single? That song is such a bop.
I love that song! Troye actually co-wrote it.
That’s a happier song, but a lot of your songs – particularly “Casanova” – have an element of beautiful romantic tragedy to them, if that makes sense.
A lot of my songs with that theme are memories of the last 10 years, of various romantic entanglements. I didn’t hold myself in high regard, and I often ended up in relationships with people I was infatuated with but treated me poorly. But, I still felt very sexy while doing it, and I think that’s where a lot of those lyrics come from.
Your songs are also so cinematic. Do you go into writing with a visual element in mind, too?
It’s part of who I am and the standard that I hold myself to. On that level, I relate to drag queens as well. I feel the need to build… I wouldn’t say a persona, because it is who I am, but it’s almost an amplified version of myself. I’m very dramatic with my emotions and in my head, everything is extreme and cinematic.
… and everything comes back to drag queens.
As it should, darling. [Laughs]
Do you approach writing for other artists differently than you do writing for yourself?
It’s less pressure for other people. Lyrically, I’m particular for my own project. If it’s a co-write, I’m picking them apart. If it’s for like, Demi Lovato, or we’re trying to pitch it to more straight-ahead pop artists, I let the other writer have the reins on the lyrics because I feel like I don’t know how to write lyrics like that. Sometimes I do, but very rarely. I’m more of a melody person when it comes to pitching.
Are you writing for anyone else at the moment?
Yeah, I am… I’m also working on a film that will probably come out in 2018. It’s a super cute teen movie, like a modern version of Pretty in Pink starring Shannon Purser, who plays Barb on Stranger Things… Troye wrote a bit on it as well. [We did] a cute, ’80s-sounding song, so I’m excited to be featured on the soundtrack.
We’re also working on [Troye’s] second album. He makes records in a more traditional fashion, where he has the main members of the writing team all go in and look at it as a body of work, whereas with a lot of artists, you pitch and the label just picks ones they think are gonna work on the radio. That’s how it is with these potential cuts I have with other artists. I wrote it with someone else, I pitched it, they cut it, now we wait to see if they’re going to release it.
What else can you tease about Troye’s next album?
He’s definitely in a more mature place with this album, whereas we were writing the first album from a growing up, leaving the suburbs, lost boy kind of perspective. He’s in a different place for this album.
Are you working on any new music yourself?
As soon as I get back from the tour I’m going to be in the studio constantly for the next month. It’s looking like October probably, getting on some new stuff. I have my folder of stuff that’s on the back burner that I might use as well.