In Elite Daily’s I Can Explain… series, we’re asking celebrities to revisit their most memorable photos and tell us what really went down behind the scenes. In this piece, we chat with Allie X about her artistry and creative evolution.
Allie X is in a period of transformative growth. It’s what happens to the Canadian indie-pop singer each time she retreats from Los Angeles to her childhood home just outside Toronto, where lakes, cottages, and simply good juju abound. “The pandemic afforded me time,” she tells Elite Daily over Zoom, emerging in a fantastically decadent Dries Van Noten turtleneck paired with an oversize blazer and blue jeans — a casual outfit for a singer-songwriter who typically performs in heels and refers to her extravagant onstage looks as “drag.” Reflecting on the past year, the musician says she’s in a “good vibes, creative, wholesome mode.” And as a result, new Allie X music is on the way — at some point.
“Every time I spend my summers here, I have so much creative inspiration from being relaxed and being around my true friends and family. It’s magic,” she says, explaining that some of her most popular songs were written in her family’s dining room. At 36, Allie X (born Alexandra Ashley Hughes) is best known for moody earworms like “Paper Love,” “Girl of the Year” and “Fresh Laundry,” each tethered to imaginative EPs and albums that transport listeners to other worlds. While discussing her forthcoming project, she speaks about it magnetically, with an unequivocally confident attitude that makes it sound like fans are going to eat good when it finally drops.
More details about that new music? “I’m going about it very differently this time,” she says. “I’m producing it myself, from scratch. I’m approaching this album kind of like I approached my song ‘B*tch,’ like a minimal amount of gear to work with and just my instincts. It’s sort of a test to myself to see what that sounds like. I can’t say when you’ll hear it or anything more specific than that. It’s very conceptual, as always.”
Speaking of conceptual, in July, Allie X and RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Violet Chachki released a gothy, electronic single titled “Mistress Violet” along with an accompanying music video that pays tribute to all things role play and BDSM. In it, the two are dressed like dominatrixes, each adorned in fantastical pieces from Schiaparelli’s spring 2021 couture collection, which she calls “theatrical and conceptual and graphic and genius!”
For Allie X, the experience was pure fun, a hyper-collaborative project that relied on Violet’s aesthetic influences (think: archival images and documentaries you’ve never heard of), plus Allie X’s innate lyricism. “I was able to write ‘Mistress Violet’ in an hour or two,” she says. “We both thought that the muscles of the Schiaparelli collection were really beautiful ways of getting across the role play that the song is about.” On working with Violet, she adds, “What an artist! The level of taste. I love what a b*tch she is. I just relate to her in so many ways.” A project like “Mistress Violet” is quintessential Allie X — strange, provocative, inspired — and perhaps a precursor to what’s next.
As she finalizes her next record, fans can keep up with Allie X on Instagram, where she’s chosen to be a bit more vulnerable lately. Below, she shares the backstory behind three of her most stripped-down posts.
Sweet Little Koji
Elite Daily: Your dog is sprawled out like a human and it’s adorable. Take me back to this photo.
Allie X: My partner and I actually drove the whole way to Canada [from L.A.] with my dog. It’s like a seven- or eight-day drive, which was very exhausting, so we took a day off in Colorado Springs at a really nice resort called the Cheyenne. Koji, my dog, is such a little baby. She loves to be held. She goes completely limp in my arms. Ever since she was a puppy, I’ve been putting her on her back like that and rubbing her belly. I love that she’s so cuddly. I could go on and on about her. She’s like an angel sent from heaven. I love her so much. That was the impetus behind driving, because I can’t get her here on a plane. Am I going to leave my baby dog in L.A. for six months? No! She had to be here.
ED: I love that the photo is paired with a glam shot of you in Lanvin sunglasses, jewels, and long red nails. How do you curate your Instagram aesthetically?
AX: It’s really evolved for me. When I started my Instagram account for Allie X, I wanted it to be very veiled and enigmatic. I used to post a bunch of weird images I’d find on Tumblr. Through this journey of being an artist, I’ve realized that what makes me happy is honesty, and getting to be honest with my fans. I never even showed my eyes back then. Now, I like people to see my face with no makeup, I like people to see when I’ve been crying. It feels good to me to put everything out there so that there’s no deception about who I am. I thought that I wasn’t enough — the plain human person that I am — and I realized that I can have both. I can be in a casual look and then I can go be, like, a dominatrix in a wig that’s cinched to the nines. Both have meaning.
ED: This shot certainly highlights your casual side. This was taken in Canada, yes?
AX: That is the quintessential Canadian summer photo — just jumping into a lake in Muskoka. There’s something so meaningful to me about it. I can’t even put it into words. And swimming specifically in a lake. The ocean is fine, but it’s not my place. I don’t like pools. I love a freezing-cold lake.
ED: Are there a ton of animals? I mean, I’d be spooked to jump in.
AX: Everyone gets scared ‘cause lakes are dark so you can’t see! No, no. There’s like little fish, but there’s no risks that I know of in terms of getting attacked by anything.
ED: The photo was posted in July 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic really forced North Americans to quarantine and slow down. When you think back to last summer, what comes to mind?
AX: I’ve actually been writing about this period of time in my life as an exercise for the next album. It helps me to type, type, type to get ideas fleshed out in my head. I underwent such a transition during this time. I see everything differently now. Slowing down allowed me to see particularly my career, my business that I’ve created, for what it was and stop looking at it as if, “Maybe one day I’ll win the lottery. Maybe one day I’ll have a huge hit.” I just started looking at what I had and the value of what I’d created and the person that I am. That all really shifted for me and it definitely wouldn’t have had I not had the time.
ED: How come?
AX: When the pandemic started, I hadn’t been in the same city for more than two weeks in six months. As artists, you’re always getting on a plane and going somewhere, to do some performance or some session. You’re leaving it up to other people. And those other people, if you’re lucky, they’re doing a good job, but a lot of the time they’re not going to care about you as much as you do. This time has been about seeing my life for what it is and taking responsibility. It’s been such a major thing for me that it’s hard for me to even sum it up. I’m sure I will be able to when I’ve fleshed it all out in my head.
Blast From The Past
ED: Your energy here is so ridiculous and fun, in the best way. Why are you holding a bottle of all-purpose cleaner?
AX: Oh my God. This was before I started having some of my philosophical shifts. When I look at this I’m like, “She was just lost.” Obviously I knew that I was making a comedic photo by holding all-purpose cleaner, but I was trying to figure out, like, “What am I doing? What’s the at-home content?” I think I’m wearing an Ottolinger outfit. It reminds me of a time when I was a bit directionless, though I still look super cute.
ED: Given those philosophical shifts, what’s fueling your creativity right now?
AX: The first is my dad. We’ve been in constant conversation. Since I came to Canada last summer, he started analyzing my contracts and speaking to me about my business. He’s not part of the music industry at all and knows very little about it, but just having someone in my life who cared to speak to me about these very, very important things. He was able to really help me and I realized how privileged I am to have someone close to me like that who could be bothered to save me from some situations.
I’m also really inspired by someone like Kate Bush. Obviously artistically and creatively she was groundbreaking, but on the business side of things she owned her own publishing company and her own management company. When you go underneath and analyze how artists went about their careers, that’s what’s really inspiring to me right now. Musically, I’ve been listening to Eurythmics a lot. I’ve been listening to New Order. Giorgio Moroder. But more than anything it’s, like, this boss, business woman sh*t. I want autonomy. And I’m angry. That’s the thing that’s pushing me in all directions right now.
ED: What’s making you angry?
AX: I’m dangerous when I’m unfiltered. I haven’t been in an active [press] cycle right now, so I hope I don’t say things that get me in trouble, but so many things piss me off. Like, the infantilization of the artist — how you’re patted on the head and told, “What a good girl you are.” In doing that, no one is doing you any favors. They’re taking your power away. They’re taking your ability to survive in a very difficult industry away. That really bothers me.
I would rather, if when I started out, people had given me the truth. Even if it didn’t sound glamorous, I would have rather had the truth. There’s so many things. It feels like I’m moving towards freedom. It’s hard to explain. I think people look at a singer like me and think, “Oh, it’s so fun. She gets to dress up and make music for a living. What a privilege.” There's this whole other side of it that artists don’t even want to talk about because it’s not fun or glamorous. That’s really where my head has been in the last year. But I think I already did say too much. This is the sort of thing that fans want to read about or hear about, but it’s just how I feel.