After enduring a painful break-up, the artist formerly known as Louisa Allen has laid out her heart on her new album, writes Ed Power
POP singers rarely lay their hearts out on a platter but that’s what Louisa Rose Allen has done with her second album. “It was my first real break up,” says the 26-year-old London resident, who records effervescent electro-pop as Foxes. “I was going through it while writing my second album. It sadly ended soon afterwards. I needed material — that is what was happening in my life.”
She would like to make it clear that All I Need, released on Friday, is not an archetypal ‘break-up’ LP. Those hankering for Adele-style heartache and yearning can move on. Rather, Allen has crafted a multi-faceted rumination on young romance, encompassing times both sad and happy.
“There are a lot of feelings in there,” she nods. “It has upbeat elements definitely. I didn’t just break up with someone and then go and make a record about it. The process was more complicated. Life is more complicated.”
Still, the dark moments were genuinely painful. Some hurt so intensely she is unable to quite recall what it felt like to record the songs. It’s a frame of mind to which she will not lightly return.
“A lot of it I don’t remember exactly,”she says. “I was a bit of a wreck. Those aren’t the nicest things to reflect on. I was coming to terms with a relationship that wasn’t working. I was thinking ‘Wow, if I was happy then I shouldn’t really be writing these kinds of songs’.”
Allen is full of contradictions. Her image is that of the natural-born pop star. She smiles effortlessly in her videos and photo-shoots, appears at home under a spotlight. Yet face to face she is thoughtful and even slightly introverted. She nods — becoming a figure of public scrutiny was not at all straightforward and though she may seem to radiate bullet-proof confidence, that isn’t in fact the case.
“It’s the oddest thing ever,” says Allen of life in the music industry. “A lot of my friends find it quite funny. Maybe they’re more aware of it than I am. The thing I hold onto is that I really love what I’m doing.”
It helps that her career has progressed at a relatively sane pace. Allen’s first big moment was a guest slot on the single ‘Clarity’, a club banger by Russian DJ Zedd (for which she won a Grammy). She followed this with a well-received 2014 debut LP — it garnered mostly approval from reviewers and a loyal fanbase. The question now is whether she can parlay early acclaim into arena-scale success. She understands this is by necessity the ultimate aim.
“There are lots of pressures,” says Allen. “Especially when, as a solo artist, you are involved in every aspect of what you are doing. Because I’m not in a band, it feels very personal. You want people to hear the music, you want chart success. Not because you crave that for its own sake but because you want to be able to go and make more records.
“What I really would like out of all this is longevity — to not have to rely on one album blowing up. I want it to be slow and steady and to have a long-term career.”
Allen grew up in Southampton (where she attended the same secondary school as members of Coldplay). She was training as a beauty therapist when she decided to follow her dream of a music career. So, at age 18 she moved to London to attend stage-school.
Back then, she performed as Louisa Allen — which naturally led people to wonder if she had anything to do with Lily Allen (she didn’t).
She would, she eventually accepted, have to use a stage moniker. It was around then that her mother shared with her a dream she’d had of a fox running outside the family home. Presto — Foxes was born.
It’s a cliche, she knows, but Allen did find herself working through second album blues. “It was scary — you never really are sure if you’re going to be as inspired as with your first record. On that, I was working with songs I ‘d written from the age of 16. This time I had to come up with an entire body of fresh material in a relatively limited span.”
Adding to the stress, she was touring Europe with Pharrell Williams. Rather than be overwhelmed, she embraced the pressure and got stuck in. “I started writing during the Pharrell dates,” she says. “Once I got started, I realised I really was ready to come up with new material. It had been a long time since I’d made up new music. My other stuff had started to feel old. I was definitely ready to move into the next chapter.”
All I Need is released today. Foxes plays the Academy, Dublin, February 24
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