“I was going through a bit of a mental block with songwriting,” says Allen, who takes the stage name Foxes. But that block collapsed last year after she received an email from her father looking—after many years of estrangement—to reconnect.
“As much as things can feel dreadful and horrible at the time, a song can be born out of it, and there’s something really magical about that,” she says.
That song, titled “Holding Onto Heaven,” touches on loss and reconciliation, and became the third of 11 tracks on her debut album, Glorious, a sweeping, airy ode to the anxieties and uncertainties of early adulthood. The album’s sound is vast, hollow, and aching. On tracks like “White Coats,” Allen writes, “I could not see the light / I didn’t want to be alone,” revealing a hunger for connection and her search for something substantial to grab.
“There’s a real melancholy vibe to it. I’ve always written like that, and I’ve always wanted to see the silver lining in things,” she says. Allen, a native of Southampton, England, grew up with Ella Fitzgerald on the living room stereo and a mother who—in addition to owning a clothing shop—encouraged her daughter to embrace stylistic nonconformity and early vocal experimentation. But the artists that made the strongest impressions on Allen were those who’d shunned vocal acrobatics in favor of lyrical vulnerability and emotional imperfection. “I don’t necessarily love a trained voice,” she says. “I think there is so much beauty in somebody who’s just writing from passion. And that’s the reason I love people like Patti Smith, Kate Bush, because it’s just so honest and powerful.”
For Allen, who won a Grammy last month for Best Dance Recording, the songwriting process has become what she calls a cathartic and therapeutic experience. And while the studio has proven a haven for self-expression, performing live poses a different challenge altogether. “I used to feel quite nervous, but then, just recently, I’d get the kind of buzz that you get from being on stage and meeting people who listen to your music and feel inspired by it,” she says. “I don’t necessarily love the kind of invasion of privacy that can come with things. It’s not really something I’m that into. Being the face of something is kind of scary sometimes—but I guess it comes with it.”
Allen embarks at the end of the month on a UK tour and Glorious hits shelves in the U.S. this spring, though—a chronic symptom for most writers—her satisfaction is hesitant. “When I listen back now to the album in full, there are so many things where I’m like, ‘Oh, I could have done that better.’ But I think what’s important is that that was a moment and it’s really important to leave that.”
Photographer: Jo Metson Scott for webberrepresents.com. Stylist: Sam Ranger for SerlinAssociates.com. Hair: Louis Byrne for TheLondonStyleAgency.com using Bumble and Bumble and Batiste. Makeup: Isabell Boettcher for TerriManduca.co.uk. using Dr. Hauschka and Lancome. Manicure: Michelle Humphrey for LMCWorldwide.com using Maybelline New York. Producer: Seona Taylor-Bell.
Beauty Notes: facial toner and quince day cream by Dr. Hauschka, absolue replenishing cream makeup spf 20 and color design infinite 24H in perpetual pink by Lancôme, and hyperlash mascara by Smashbox Cosmetics.