- Words Lily Major
After years spent telling the stories of others, singer-songwriter Amy Allen is finally ready to tell her own.
“Queen of Silver Linings,” the country-tinged, hair-raising debut single from Malibu’s Amy Allen, is both timeless and present. Not giving in to the pressures of how music is typically formatted today, the track is struck with bold lyrics that pour straight from the heart of a person experiencing them in that moment. Written with Dan Wilson of Semisonic fame, the “Queen” in the narrative is revealed in contrast with “The King of Good Intentions,” a character whose repeated efforts produce nothing but heartache.
As a songwriter, there are two stories you can tell: yours and someone else’s. And with lyrics this rich in narrative, it comes as no surprise that Allen’s ability to tell a story has aided some of the world’s most established artists. In 2018 after graduating from Berklee College of Music, founding a small band and beginning to navigate her way into the industry, Allen wrote “Back to You” for Selena Gomez, opening the floodgates to more global interest. She began writing and booking studio time with Halsey, Camila Cabello, Shawn Mendes and Sam Smith, throwing all her creative energy into the work of others. Last year, in a perfectly harmonious collaboration with Harry Styles, Amy wrote “Adore You” for his December-released, chart-topping album ‘Fine Line’. An unabashed love song, complete with a classic rock sound and an indulgent guitar solo, the track went on to became Styles’ biggest solo hit in America.
Stepping out into the spotlight, she is finally giving freedom to the performer within her. Her debut album is the result of years spent consolidating her craft, combining the practice of working with world-renowned musicians and the experience she’s acquired as a performer to produce a mesmerising first project. Following the July release of “Queen of Silver Linings,” Amy Allen gave us her latest track “Difficult,” a satirical anthem for being a woman and for being quote-unquote, difficult. Tired of having the term weaponised against her, she decided it was time to reclaim it. “As a woman, I’m often referred to as difficult. Difficult for advocating for myself. Difficult for wearing my ambition on my sleeve. Difficult for prioritising my dreams,” Allen admits. “I wrote ‘Difficult’ after I realised this word which I used to take as an insult, is actually something I own.”
Having spent the past year establishing herself as an artist, Allen stresses that this solo effort in no way implies she is unhappy about collaborating with others. Inspired by those around her, she credits collaboration as the key to successfully finding her own voice. So, while Amy Allen reclaims her passion for performing with infinitely more tools at her disposal, we caught up with the girl from Maine who overnight became one of the industry’s most in-demand artists.
Performing live is one of the reasons you’re back making music for yourself. How have you missed the live aspect of music during this crazy year of isolation and staying at home?
I MISS IT SO MUCH. So wild how much more you miss something when you can’t do it anymore… But to be fair, I haven’t been performing live for the past few years because I’ve been writing with and for other artists. So quarantine has just been forcing me to self reflect and practice more than I ever have before- which can be good or bad depending on what day you ask me haha
What’s your lived experience on releasing music right now? Has it been hard, or are you finding new music to be a great distraction?
I’m learning a lot! The world today isn’t quite the world I was expecting to release my songs into back in January. At first, I wanted to wait until the world settled into a more “normal” rhythm again, but I think the one thing I’ve learned in the past few months is that the world will probably never go back to the way it was and I think that’s a good thing.
So knowing that I feel like now is actually a good time to put music into a world that’s probably more in need now than ever of genuine words and mindfulness.
Across your career, I feel like you’ve really seen it all. Whether that be working with big names in the industry, writing for yourself, collaborating with other creatives and music industry execs. Has this unique experience prepared you for life in the spotlight?
I think being in bands when I was younger made me realize that I wanted to perform but I didn’t quite have the life experiences to write about, or the voice to tell them the way I wanted to.
So for the past 3 years, I spent the days writing for other artists and the nights writing for myself. I think going back and forth between the two allowed me to carve out my own identity as a writer. I’ve honestly learned so much from working with some of my favourite artists.
Leading on from this, what have you learnt about yourself as a creative over this time?
I’ve learned that I love collaborating with my friends and people I respect and trust. That I’m a bit of a control freak, for better or for worse. And full disclosure – I’ve learned just how much the classic rock music my Dad used to play in the car has influenced the way I write.
Writing songs for yourself versus writing songs for other people must be wildly different. Is it the freedom you’re enjoying?
It is SO freeing. When I write for myself, I don’t have to write the whole song in one day, which is often the case when I’m working with an artist. And now I can use any specific references and personal memories that I want, which makes it fun and emotional. And of course, now I can be hands-on with every aspect of the writing, production, and the visuals that go along with it, which is the ultimate freedom. But all that being said, there is no better feeling than making something you love with an icon you admire.
Song-writing and making music is so personal and I imagine you can become very attached to your craft. How do you deal with rejection?
Ufff… I think I learned the art of rejection when I was younger and playing with my band to rooms of sometimes 3 people who HATED the music haha. But ya, it’s been a slow, shameless burn.
Has this changed over time?
I think now I have way more confidence as a writer, that if people aren’t feeling a song, I just try to remind myself that I have a better one in me and all I can do is try to write something honest tomorrow.
Aside from sonically, how else are you expressing yourself?
I think right now is an incredibly important time in history to express yourself, your morals and beliefs. So I’ve been trying to do that as much as possible and encourage my family and friends to do the same. With the election coming up, I’m just continuously trying to hold myself accountable to using my voice and treating people with love and kindness.
.Are there any other avenues you’d love to explore creatively?
I used to surf when I was younger growing up in Maine, and so I’ve been doing a bunch more of that recently. I think its just such a beautiful art form. I’m shit at it, but I’m trying to explore that.
Is there anyone on your list of influences we wouldn’t expect?
Cher and Elton [John] always.
Aside from your own music, what have you been listening to?
Harry Styles’ “Fine Line” album. Sheryl Crow’s self-titled album. Dijon’s ‘How Do You Feel About Getting Married’ EP. T. Rex’s ‘Electric Warrior’ album.
Tell us why we should listen to Amy Allen?
Mmm. because I’ve probably been through a lot of the same human life shit you’ve been through.. and I make it fun.