Amy Allen is feeling psyched about the release of her debut EP AWW!. For the singer-songwriter, this debut has been a long time coming after writing songs from a young age and working with some of the biggest names in music like Halsey, Shawn Mendes, and Harry Styles.
“I’ve always loved songwriting, whether I’m writing for someone else or myself,” Allen tells EUPHORIA. “But it’s a completely different thing when you get to put out your own music. It’s been really exciting to finally get to put it out into the world and share the messages in each of the songs.” Each of AWW!’s six tracks explore Allen’s personal coming-of-age through the triumphs and failures she experienced throughout her life. Each song is cohesive in its message and demonstrates her talent for crafting vivid, colorful lyrics to tell her story. “One of the things I love about songwriting is that a lot of times when I go into the studio or I’m sitting at home with my guitar, I really don’t have a meter on what’s going on in my brain at that time until I start writing and seeing what comes to the surface.”
That was the case when Allen wrote “RIP (Really Insecure Person),” the EP’s first song and lead single. “RIP” isn’t a song she expected to be on the EP, but she felt the message was too important for it not to be included. When she reflects on writing the song, Allen recalls feeling surprised because she came into the studio in a good mood, but felt something simmering at the back of her mind that made her really upset. “Sometimes as artists and writers, we write things that we think are just gonna be for ourselves as a cathartic day of writing,” she says. “But I remember finishing the song that day and I sent it to my manager. She listens to it and she told me ‘this is the most you I’ve ever felt from a song.’”
The song itself stems from a situation that took Allen a really long time to work through and focuses on her feelings of being taken advantage of and not being appreciated. In the press release on the single, Allen clarified that “‘RIP’ is less of a song about resentment and anger and more of a song about finding your voice.” In our conversation, Allen elaborates and says, “It’s important to talk about because it empowers other people to stand up for themselves and draw a line in the sand and set boundaries for themselves.”
The accompanying music video, which also dropped last week alongside the EP, features internet sensation Rebecca Black and Allen herself in a karaoke-style performance, with bright, colorful outfits pulled straight from a ’90s pop music video.
For Allen, the ’90s music inspiration runs through “RIP” and each of the other songs on AWW!. “The ’90s was a much more explorative time for pop writers to be really telling stories,” she says. She cites Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette as her personal inspiration when developing her own songwriting style and praises their ability to tell real stories through every single one of their songs. “I’ve talked with different friends and asked them what their brain gravitates towards when listening to songs, and a lot of people will say the production, the chords, or the overall feeling that it gives you,” she shares. “But I’ve always been lyric first and I’ll be listening for the story somebody’s telling.” One of the things Allen loves about music is storytelling through lyrics and listening for the underlying story in a song.
Growing up, she was in a band with her sisters but didn’t know how to play any instruments. Her parents gifted her with a bass guitar, which she learned to play and started out learning songs by Everclear, Crow, and other niche bands from Portland, ME. A few years later, she started playing guitar and fell in love with coming up with her own chords from the ones she learned. She started out with melodies and chords rather than lyrics and slowly transitioned to writing poems. “I vividly remember sitting in my bedroom when I was around 10 or 11 years old, feeling it all click in my brain, thinking, ‘oh I could go into a chorus here,’ or ‘I could drop down into a verse here.’ It felt like this superpower I had because it wasn’t something I really talked about in school, it was something I would do at home. I was fearless to mess up or write something that was bad, I was just going for it,” she says.
One of the most interesting parts of music for Allen is that so much of it is intimate, personal, and vulnerable and she learned a lot of that through writing for other people. One of her most well-known works is the Ivor award-award winning song “Adore You” from Styles’s sophomore album Fine Line. Allen explains that she learns so much from each person she collaborates with, whether she’s working with Styles or an unknown person who hasn’t put out their first single yet. “You learn so much from understanding how other people see the world and communicate their thoughts; it’s such an incredible gift and what’s kept me writing for other people over the past three and a half years,” she says. But through sharing her emotions and stories to help others with their music, she missed that personal connection when performing those vulnerable songs with an audience, which is what really brought her back to putting out her own music.
“A Woman’s World” served as a turning point for Allen when she put her EP together. In a press release around the song’s release, Allen said, “I was way zoomed out, and then the second I had the idea for this song, everything came into hyper-focus, and I could really see what the next body of work I wanted to make would be. When I wrote the line ‘I know you think you’re God’s gift to earth / But you’re living in a woman’s world,’ I was able to say what I had been feeling for a really long time.”
The song mentions the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a nod to her contributions as a Supreme Court justice. When asked about the other women that inspire her most, Allen mentions her mother, two older sisters, and her manager Gabz Landman, who taught her a lot about the industry. Allen also mentions Dolly Parton, whom she sees as a trailblazer in the industry and praises for the works she’s done for women all over the world through her lyrics and storytelling in such a male-dominated space.
Even in 2021, women are still severely underrepresented in the music industry. A recent study by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California found that 12.9 percent of popular songs were written by female artists in 2020, which is down from 14.4 percent in 2019. Allen describes women supporting women and working together in the industry as the gift that keeps on giving. “We always need the points of view of the minority in the music industry,” she says. Allen gravitates toward the ’90s female rock artists because they were fearlessly saying what they felt and their own stories were. “It’s really important to have women writing songs with and for other women,” she says. “Of course, great songs can come from anywhere but I think it’s a powerful thing to keep the presence of women growing in the music industry and continuing to support one another. It’s inspiring to see young female writers and artists growing every day and becoming stars.”
Making her own impact in the industry has been a huge mission statement and a part of why she wanted to go back to putting out her own music. As Allen’s platform grows, she’s most looking forward to using her art to speak out on the many issues she’s most passionate about like women’s issues, human rights, and environmental issues.
Allen also mentions “Unsatisfied,” a special song where she talks about growing up in a small town and the people you lose touch with over the years. “Something that’s always on my mind is how far away I am from home now. I come from a really small town that’s still in my heart and my mind, and I think about the close friends that I had growing up that I lost touch with all the time,” she says.
Allen is currently set to embark on her first cross-country tour, which will end with her first headline show at New York’s Mercury Lounge on Nov. 18.
Allen’s songwriting prowess already established her among the great contemporary songwriters in the music community, but AWW! not only amplifies her talent, but demonstrates her confidence and power in knowing who exactly she is and wants to be in this world as an artist and a person.