Foxes: Louisa Rose Allen’s brush with stardom
Louisa Rose Allen, the woman behind the Foxes pseudonym, has already tasted major success as a guest vocalist on an EDM hit. Now she’s striking out on her own with a Glorious debut album
Fox pop: Louisa Rose Allen aka Foxes: “I never, ever would have done ‘Clarity’ if I didn’t think it was good. I have my own music and style. I haven’t used ‘Clarity’ to heighten my profile. I’ve let it be and gone back to my own stuff”
Louisa Rose Allen is a firm believer in fate. The young woman behind Foxes – her electro-indie alias – almost ditched a career in music for one in beauty therapy. Today, instead of explaining her music to journalists on a beautiful spring day at her record label’s Dublin HQ, she could be doing pedicures, applying eyelashes and fixing fake tans for folks in her native Southampton.
“I had lots of friends who were going off to do a beauty course; at the time, I was 17 and thought ‘Oh, I’ll just go off with them and do it – it’s what my friends are doing’,” she explains. “And then my sister rang me and said ‘What the hell are you doing? You don’t wanna be a beauty therapist, you want to be a singer and you’ve always wanted to be a singer!’. She basically said ‘Come up to London, live on my sofa, live out of a suitcase and go to music school.’ That day, we packed the car full of all of my stuff, my mum drove me to London, and I didn’t ever go back.”
Her sister’s intervention proved especially providential because seven years later – and before she has even released her debut album – the 24-year-old Allen has already notched up her first Grammy Award, thanks to a collaboration with dance producer Zedd on his track Clarity.
To get the full picture, however, we need to rewind to her days as a mere cub. “I was writing from a young age – I wrote my first song, Like Foxes Do, around 13,” she says. “I was lucky that both my mum and my sister had great taste in music and a real passion for strong female singers like Patti Smith, Björk, Tori Amos, Kate Bush. That was very much my soundtrack, growing up. My dad was a musician, but I don’t speak to him; but maybe it’s in the genes.”
She took the name Foxes from that early song, and from a dream that her mother once had about the animals. It also helped her distinguish herself from the similarly-named Lily Allen. About a year and a half ago, during her early dabblings in recording she caught a lucky break when producer Anton Zaslavski – aka Zedd – heard one of her songs online. The Russian-born musician and producer had already produced and co-written with the likes of Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber.
“He’d heard one of the songs that I’d put online before I’d got a record deal,” she explains. “He got hold of me and said that he’d been looking for a female to work with for some time, and my voice really grabbed him. We ended up Skypeing because he lives in LA, then I went over and we worked together. Neither of us had any idea what Clarity would do.”
The song became a mammoth hit in the US last year, peaking at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, topping the dance charts and filling dancefloors from coast to coast. The Grammy win, a “total shock”, came in January. “I went back every now and then and I saw how American was taking to it,” Allen says. “Over a year, it just blew up. It has become its own being now; I feel like it’s out of our hands. It’s weird, because it really did do something that not many songs do.”
The song undoubtedly raised Allen’s profile in the US – her own tunes have been featured on the TV show Gossip Girl and she has also guested with pop-punks Fall Out Boy on a recent album track of theirs. Still, she is wary of being viewed as “the girl from that song” or being wrongly perceived as a vocalist in the EDM (electronic dance music) genre.
“Luckily, I haven’t really delved too deeply into the EDM world – and I could have, easily,” she says. “When Clarity happened, the amount of emails I got in from producers and the whole EDM world just asking for the same thing was insane. But the thing about Clarity is that I never, ever would have done it if I didn’t think it was good; that song really did mean something and I think that’s the only time, really, that I would do that type of music. I have my own music and style. I haven’t really used Clarity to heighten my profile in any way; I’ve let it be and gone back to my own stuff.”
To that end, she is striking out on her own with her debut album, Glorious. A supremely confident collection of tunes – some of which even have dance beats – its release comes in the wake of several well-received – and very diverse – singles. She dabbles with beats and electronics on White Coats and Youth, while the elegantly grandiose choruses of Let Go for Tonight and the forthcoming Holding Onto Heaven have some of Florence and the Machine’s epic pop flourishes. But there is lyrical depth amidst the catchy melodies, too.
“I think there’s a sadness and a happiness that runs through it,” Allen says. “White Coats is about anxiety and panic attacks and mental illness, but I wanted to turn it on its head; I like to do that with lyrics a lot of the time. I think there’s a melancholy streak running through it, for sure, but that’s what I’ve always wanted. I love how Björk had that on her first album. There were moments where she didn’t take herself too seriously. At the same time, she wasn’t trying to make every song a single, either. Singles are great, but I think the album tracks are the ones that stick with you.”
She is adamant about building a fanbase on this side of the Atlantic rather than taking the easy route and absconding to America, where her vulpine persona already has a profile. It seems quite important to her that she makes her own name as an artist, rather than just make a quick buck riding on the coattails of another musician’s success.
“What I don’t want to do is just suddenly go ‘Oh, I had a hit with Clarity, I want to go off to America and live off that hit’, because that’s gonna get me nowhere,” she insists. “I want to be able to say that I have a fanbase here first, even if it’s a small fanbase. And I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket. But I’m enjoying it all and hopefully I’ll be able to carry on doing music for while.”
So, no regrets about her near-miss as a beautician, then?
She giggles manically, rolling her eyes. “No, definitely none,” she smiles. “I’m happy with how things have worked out, I think it’s been a nice slow-burner so far. And I think I’ve made an album with a lot of different sides.
“It’s definitely very personal, and I think I’ve hit on things that people will be able to relate to, hopefully. There are moments that are fun, there are moments to dance to, there are moments to cry to: there’s loads in there. When you buy an album by an artist that you like, you take what you need from it, don’t you? That’s a nice way of looking at it: taking what you need from it. I’d love to think that people will do that with mine.”
yyy Glorious is released on May 9th.