Claire Fox chases down Grammy Award winning popstar, Foxes, to talk about her second studio album, which is released this month.
“Is your surname actually Fox or is that a typo on my diary?” asks Louisa Rose Allen, as our muffled phone conversation gets underway.
Sitting in a signature black London taxi cab, the Grammy Award winning pop artist, better known to you and me as Foxes, is more than amused that my surname matches her stage-name. Upon answering with an affirmative, yet starstruck “yes” to the singer’s question, Foxes goes on to exclaim a fascinated and child-like: “No way, that is funny!”
Foxes. Seemingly an unlikely choice in name for a female pop vocalist and perhaps more fitting of an indie electronic outfit, Louisa feels that Foxes was a natural name to associate her music with. Not wanting her surname to get confused with the already established UK singer, Lily Allen, and with a little guidance from her mother, she felt Foxes was the perfect title for her.
“I guess originally I didn’t want to be labelled under the tag of ‘female artist.’ I wanted everyone to listen to my music. I’m not really sure how it came about, but very early on I wrote a song called Like Foxes Do, so it turned into a nickname growing up.
“I told my Mum that I’d like to have the stage name Foxes and she said that she had a really weird dream the night before that there were foxes running around our house and they were making a beautiful, howling noise and she woke up thinking it reminded her of my music. So kind of an odd thing but I remember thinking that my Mum is usually right about most things,” laughs the Southampton native.
Citing her mother as a huge influence on her music and career, Louisa believes that without her she would not have had the self-belief to view music as a viable profession to pursue.
“She was someone who really inspired me to pursue singing and keep at it and work hard and keep creating. She really believed in me. From very early on I was always interested in singing and listened to jazz music growing up. It wasn’t always something I thought I could do as a job so it did take a while for me to believe that was possible and my mother was a huge part of that.”
Although Foxes’ first record Youth was released in January 2012, her first big break into the music industry came in the form of an unexpected collaboration with Electro/House influenced producer, Zedd. Not originally attracted to the EDM/Dance genre of music, Louisa admits that the call from the German musician to feature on his track came as a shock.
“It was strange and kind of surprised me in a way, too, how that came about, because I never set out to do a song in that genre. I think Zedd approached me very, very early on and shared a song with me on SoundCloud saying that he was looking for a female artist to collaborate with on his new track.”
So while the song may not have been an original choice for the singer, she admits that the lyrics are what made the track an enticing choice, not ruling out another dance collaboration if the “right song” came about.
“When you take away the dance stuff and the EDM, the core of the track and the lyrics are really beautiful when you strip all the added stuff away. That’s why I decided to go with the song because that side of it really enticed me.
“If it was the right song and the right DJ and the right time I’d definitely consider another collaboration. I did a lot of writing with Rudimental and some of my music is actually inspired by dance so I wouldn’t rule it out by any means at all.”
Speaking of collaborations, Foxes’ second album contains a track co-written with one of her closest friends, Dan Smith, frontman of electronic quintet, Bastille. While Smith’s focus lies with the lyrical side and Louisa’s with vocal embellishment, the pair’s musical partnership resulted in the achingly beautiful, Better Love, a track Louisa is extremely proud of.
“Dan’s a really good friend of mine so it was really nice just to work and jam with him. It came about very naturally, we just met up one day and popped into the studio and messed about. He’s very, very talented and you don’t always know how you’ll work with a friend, it could be a disaster.
“He’s super focused on strong, powerful songs, which I like. Dan is very focused on starting at the piano and writing about the very core of what a song is about and the lyrics, whereas I start with vocals, but it’s important to explore different styles and that’s how Better Love came about.”
Characterised by her strikingly enchanting vocal abilities, some of Foxes’ favourite tracks from All I Need are, of course, the more “vocally challenging” numbers.
“There are tracks like Devil Side and On My Way that are quite stripped back so I do sort of feel these are the type of songs I enjoy writing and performing the most and exploring with.”
While the construction of debut album, Glorious, took up a great chunk of Foxes’ early twenties, the writing and recording of her follow-up effort was a much speedier process.
“It was a lot quicker this time round. I started writing it about a year ago and wrote it quite quickly in the space of three months. I moved around from LA to London to Wales so there was a lot of running around. I guess I had this vision of who I’d like to work with, so I reached out to them and a lot of opportunities popped up. I sent a lot of emails myself and got in touch so, yeah, it all started to work.”
A natural born songwriter, Foxes described her first album as “experimental pop.” Two years later I ask the bubbly singer whether this description holds true for her second album and whether the concept of the “make or break” second album worries her.
“I do think this album is a bit more straight-forward pop. The first one was definitely the younger album, but I feel in this one I find myself as an artist more. I think it’s a bit experimental pop, it’s emotional and raw this time round but also warmer, I think, than Glorious.”
“I think you always worry wherever you are in your career,” continues the 26 year old, in a more reflective mood. “It’s all a journey of trying things and looking back at failures in past albums and things like that. I guess the first album will be one that stands out in my career. The second album in a way feels like the piece of a bigger story. I am worried, obviously. But I am happy and I do feel this is the right album for me. You just have to put it out and hope for the best.”
With music being the main focus of Foxes’ career, the Louisa side of Foxes has always experienced a fabulous flirtation with the fashion industry, regularly visible from the front row seats at London Fashion Weeks and chosen as the brand face of H&M in 2015. With devastatingly bold brown eyes, luscious brunette hair and a style sense to die for, what better muse to have as the face of the international store.
Just as modest in her style credentials as she is about her vocals, Louisa views her mother once more as her very own style icon, also gaining inspiration from characters in films and actresses.
“I really like creating outfits. I think I got this trait from my Mum who was a big fashion influence and what she wore, like late 90s stuff and, of course, I stole a lot of her clothes. I love that element of dress up and creating that fashion allows. I get transfixed with characters in films and have always loved Jane Birkin as well.”
Although a bright and welcome face to a bittersweet fashion industry, Louisa admits that there are aspects of the industry and media that she highly dislikes, which was partly the reason for her 2013 release Beauty Queen. Beauty Queen documents the dangerous consequences of living a life too concerned with image.
“I wrote that song about four years ago now. I remember being outraged after seeing the cover of a magazine. There was a picture of a woman one labelled ‘fat’ and the other labelled ‘skinny’ and I just remember feeling how that was such a bad, negative message to be sending young women. I felt really disappointed in society and the media that day.”
On a lighter note, the electro pop singer feels that the music industry is in a good place as far as female vocalists are concerned and even though she herself didn’t want the “female artist” tagline, she is proud to be a member of the prestigious group of women taking the world by a storm at the moment.
“I think it’s a good place for female vocalists with Adele coming back. I think there’s a lot of space for indie vocalists who can make something really unique in terms of soul. There’s gaps out there.”
Finishing on this high note, I say goodbye to the spirited singer, no doubt leaving her to pick up another PR/media phone call, as her taxi slopes though the busy London streets, like a fox in the night.