The Canadian soul singer Allie’s complex music and insightful lyrics are out of the ordinary, yet easy to jam to—and in the best way. In Toronto, Allie is much-admired for her beautiful vocals and her collaborations with fellow artists. On the heels of her yet-to-be-named and soon-to-be-released EP, she is premiering a new single for us Rooks! Listen to “Remedy,” featuring Nick Wisdom, here:
I talked to Allie on the phone last week about her latest project, her freestyling game, and the art of collaboration.
CHANEL: What can you tell us about the new single?
ALLIE: “Remedy” is about the desire to heal someone, to put them at ease, and to make all their worries fall away. But maybe you’re not quite there yet with that person, and you’re trying to convince them to let their guard down and to let you in a bit further.
The song was a collaboration with a friend of mine, Nick Wisdom. We linked up online. I think I sent him a message via Soundcloud or Twitter and we really liked each other’s stuff. We both ended up at the Red Bull Bass Camp in Montreal a couple weeks ago, and we started working on this track. We’ve been bouncing ideas back and forth.
Why did you start making music?
It really came out of a desire to create, and to express a deeper part of myself. I can be a little bit quiet, and I’m shy sometimes. When I make music, that side of me falls away, and it’s more about expression.
Is it tough being shy in the music industry?
As a teen, I had crippling social anxiety. It was brutal! Teenage me would’ve never imagined that I’d be doing what I’m doing now. Moving to Montreal changed my life because I didn’t know a soul, and I was like, OK, I’m either going to be really lonely, or I’m going to overcome this and talk to people. I’m much more confident now, but when I feel shy or feel anxiety creeping in, I just take some deep breaths and keep it moving. In the industry, it can be tough because you’re expected to put it all out there, but I’m a private person. So I really rely on my work to speak louder than me and to say the things that I sometimes can’t.
Do you have other musical talents besides singing?
Being a vocalist is my main thing. Over the last year, I’ve definitely been getting more into the production side of things and engineering. I’ve learned how to mix my vocals and chop them up and make my vocals into more of an instrument—like making different textures out of the sounds, and using my voice as you would use an instrument.
What does your songwriting process sound like?
I usually start by freestyling. I like freestyling a lot because I don’t have time to overthink anything. Whatever comes out is really honest. I’ll start with the melody and build around that, or I write a lot of poetry. Sometimes, I’ll read from my poetry and pick out lines or concepts I like and build around them.
Aside from poetry, what are your interests outside music?
I started out as a writer. I went to Concordia University in Montreal for English literature, and I grew up writing a lot of poems and short stories, and reading a lot of books. I went into English lit thinking I wanted to become a teacher, but when I moved to Montreal I was so inspired by all the creative energy in the city! I started taking singing lessons and writing songs—something just clicked. My love for poetry and music meshed. When I decided to drop out of school, everyone told me it was a mistake and to finish my degree so that I would have something to fall back on, but I didn’t want anything to fall back on. This is it for me, this is my path. I have to make it work and see my vision through.
Cool! What did you read and listen to growing up?
I was reading a lot of Jack Kerouac, and I love classic stuff like F. Scott Fitzgerald[‘s work]. I listened to a lot of jazz and blues, but in high school I was all about Lauryn Hill—I still am. She was my main jam. I’ll love Lauryn forever. People get all bent about her not releasing new material, but she doesn’t owe us anything. She made one of the best albums of all time. I’d love it if she made more, but that’s enough for me.
Does Lauryn Hill’s music influence yours?
Definitely. I think all of the artists I listened to growing up shaped me in one way or another. Trying to emulate those artists eventually brought me to my own unique sound and my own style.
How do you gather the confidence to put your creations out in the world?
It’s been a long process for me, but when I trust my instincts throughout the creative process, I know it’s going to come out the right way.
When you work with other artists, is it hard to balance trusting your own instincts with the compromise that’s necessary for collaboration? Do you have any tips for making those relationships work?
I think it’s really important to find the right people. Find people who really trust in your artistic vision and want you to do your thing. There has to be mutual trust and respect there. I think that will give you the space and freedom to just really be yourself. Also, use the inspiration from the people that you’re working with to make something that’s bigger than yourself.
I’ve noticed that you often spell your name using all lowercase letters? Why?
I was inspired by bell hooks, a writer I love. By using lowercase letters, she wanted to convey that it’s the substance of her books, and not who’s writing them, that is important. I’ve always admired that sentiment, so that’s why I choose the all-lowercase vibe. ♦