Photo Credit: Soteeoh
First Look Friday: Witness The Chosen One a l l i e Do Her Thing
Photo Credit: Soteeoh
There must be something in the water in Toronto because this week's First Look Friday subject, a l l i e, is a chosen act meant to take experimental sounds to the next level.
Inspiration is the key to making all dreams come true. There wasn't no sage person who was quoted with saying this, it just it a universal fact, and one that a l l i e lives by as a talent influenced by classic soul singers like Otis Redding and Etta James. But that's not all, America, as the imaginative ingenue as also infatuated with experimental artists such as Little Dragon and Flying Lotus.
Her 2013 effort, Strange Creature, was crafted on that blended diversity of soul and sci-fi sound. It was a formula well concocted as press around the world lauded her EP, while Red Bull made her one of its first Canadians to be chosen as a Sound Select artist in 2014. Standing out in a crowd of wannabes, a l l i e has increased her star potential by linking up with choice selectors such as Nick Wisdom (Bastard Jazz), Da-P (Soulection) and Elaquent (HW&W).
With her latest project, Nightshade, slated for release on July 21, 2017 (which you can pre-order here) — we here at Okayplayer were fortunate enough to have a bit of a l l i e's time as she sat down with us to talk about her musical influences, creating safe spaces for others and overcoming depression for this week's installment of First Look Friday. Before you dive into the words, though, please check out the premiere of her Mark Martin-directed, Birthday Boy-produced video / song for "Bad Habits," which you can watch below. Enjoy!
Okayplayer: To music snobs the world over, you are making an impact. What is it that those in music game are seeing and hearing that the rest of the world has yet to discover?
a l l i e: I think they’re seeing and hearing somebody who’s authentic in their work. I don’t try to follow any trends in my music, I just do what feels natural to me, and that always seems to speak to people.
OKP: For those who have a passion for music, they honed their skills and practiced their craft. Who are your most cherished influences in music and why?
a:Lauryn Hill, Little Dragon, Erykah Badu, Frank Ocean, Amy Winehouse, Flying Lotus... the list goes on forever. But all my influences have a common thread in that there’s something about them that’s unique. I love artists that have a distinctive style, and as soon as you hear their music you know it’s them.
OKP: Can you talk about how your life was while developing as an artist? How did you react to your first bits of press?
a: I was in this little creation bubble for years that was very solitary, and my process is still like that—it’s all about retreating into myself and being alone with my thoughts and the energy around me. Then I started putting shit out and getting a bit of press, and it made me pause and think about what I was manifesting. Like, is this the life I really want? I kept taking steps forward and then a bunch back because I didn’t know how to deal with it. And that set me on a path of trying to find a greater purpose with the work I was putting out.
OKP: With incidents involving people of color, police and racist occurring almost on a daily basis around the globe — how can your music (and/or others) help to relieve the trauma that is being experienced by the masses?
a: It’s so hard to reckon with the state of the world right now. We’re watching public executions live streamed, we’re watching people get murdered solely because of their race and it’s terrifying. It has such a huge impact on our mental states as people of color. Music is so healing, it’s been the most healing aspect of my life. So my goal is to transfer some of that healing to others, to create spaces to appreciate each other, empower each other and reclaim our worth.
OKP: What have been the most definitive obstacles that you’ve overcome in your career thus far?
Photo Credit: Soteeoh
a: Struggling with anxiety and depression for many years held me back, so I had to find coping mechanisms to deal with that. Music is one way, meditation is a way, being in nature is a way, writing is way. I don’t think I’m ever free of all that, it creeps up on me, but it makes creating that much more important to me because it’s not an option, it’s something I have to do to keep myself balanced and happy.
OKP: Can you also talk about the importance of the music industry scene as how you’ve experienced it? How do you see it evolving in the next five years?
a: It’s such a scramble right now. Everyone is trying to figure out how to navigate all the changes in the industry. Soundcloud has been the best way for me and so many independent artists to get their shit heard, and I hope it survives because we need platforms like that. I think labels will continue to cling to an old model and that model will continue to fade. Artists are realizing that they have power, that they don’t need to sign their masters away and make nothing. I also think virtual reality will become a huge part of the industry, and how we consume music and entertainment for better or for worse.
OKP: What are some things that you’ve learned about yourself that comes out in your music?
a: I’ve learned I’m stubborn as fuck! But I’m also very patient. So I take my time making things and pay attention to the details and that comes across in the music.
OKP: What were some moments from your recent travels that will forever stick with you? Why?
a: I was backstage at an event in L.A. a few months ago, and Oprah [Winfrey] was like two metres away from me. She was just radiating all her Oprah-ness and I was just standing there like, "Yes Oprah, bless me!" I’ll never forget that.
OKP: What was the first song that you ever wrote entitled? Can you talk about what it has come to symbolize since you’ve entered into the professional life?
a: I wrote a lot of shitty songs before I wrote anything good. I think the first song I wrote was called "Honey Brown". It was terrible, but I thought it was great. So I guess it just reminds me how far I’ve come, and how far I still have to go.
OKP: How can your music speak truth to power in an age where people are so quickly digesting sounds and disposing of artists in a nanosecond?
a: I think if something is real and genuine people will feel that. I’m speaking my truth and no matter what that will always affect the people that are ready for that truth. But I try not to think about the reception of the music too much and just focus on my process and what a gift that’s been in my life.
OKP: Collaboration is uniquely a key to the success of certain creative individuals who wish to change the game. Who would you want to work with this year going into the next and why?
Photo Credit: Soteeoh
a: My dream collab is definitely Pharrell, cus it’s Pharrell! He glows from the inside.
OKP: What is the overall message that a l l i e is trying to present in her music?
a: Be your authentic self even if it makes others uncomfortable, honor the divine feminine, heal through sound.
OKP: Can you break down the inspiration behind a song that you created but never put out?
There was a piece that got left off the new album, sonically I just couldn’t make it work on time. It was inspired by a few visions I had during meditations where this energy came and spoke to me. She took on different forms which confused me at first, but she told me not to be distracted by that. She was just taking on forms that I could easily recognize. It felt like an insanely vivid dream but I was wide awake, and for weeks afterwards I felt a crazy sense of peace. I’ve never experienced anything like it before or since then, and I hope I can still put that piece out when it’s ready.
OKP: How do you see yourself changing the music industry for the better versus all of the bad stuff that goes on within it?
a: I’m going to just keep doing me, keep working on me, and spread positive energy by cultivating as much positivity as I can from moment to moment.
OKP: How do you get over any anxiety before hitting the stage to perform live? What are some
a: Meditate, stretch, warm up the voice, drink a little whiskey. I usually try to look up at the sky for a while before shows to remind myself how big the universe is and that I’m here to play my part, nothing more nothing less. That helps relax me and helps me get out of my own way.
OKP: If the reader’s learned one thing from this First Look Friday chat with a l l i e — what would it be?
a: That it’s not about the destination, it’s all about the journey. And the journey never ends.
Be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for more from a l l i e (and us!) by following her on Twitter @alliemoves.