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ATP! Interview: Lily Allen

When I spoke with Lily Allen, it was evident that she had a lot to say. Her words were short, but her ideas were drawn out – she elaborated on opinions with a tone of voice rather than a gathering of syllables. She validated her own thoughts much before our conversation, and evidently, far prior to releasing her latest album Sheezus. The record, a very direct [and arguably, very accurate] social commentary succeeds in typical Allen fashion. Acting as a pop culture muckraker of sorts, the singer gets to the truth with help from a bit of wit and a lot of honesty. But don’t take her word for it – she wants you to figure it out for yourself.

“I think there’s a certain level of anxiety before you put anything out. I don’t think that the lyrical content is what makes me anxious, to be honest,” Allen speaks of her feelings on the debut of Sheezus. “Hard Out Here,” the first single, is a straightforward jab at the music industry as a whole along with a few select guests of dishonor. The song raises issues about the treatment of women in the business, elevating Allen as someone unafraid to confront injustice explicitly. In regards to prompting a change, the singer asserts, “I get so many comments from girls on my Twitter feed and my Instagram, and fan mail… that say exactly that. That it does inspire them. That’s always really nice to hear.” She continues on, “But it’s never really my focus, you know, why I write something. I don’t want to be a role model to anybody and I don’t claim to know anything more than everybody else.” Allen makes it clear that when she writes, she is only thinking for herself. “Whatever anyone thinks is accurate and correct, for them.”

Allen takes a moment to reflect on the recent run of performances supporting superstar Miley Cyrus’ Bangerz tour. “You know, it was kind-of crazy because I’ve never supported anyone before, in my life. And I think with this album cycle, I really tried to push boundaries for myself,” she comments, “I’ve really really worked quite hard at developing my life, so I feel like taking that on and doing an arena tour for people that have no idea who I am was really beneficial in a lot of ways.” Despite not having her full band, Allen considers the reception to have been beyond expectation. “It was crazy! I was kind-of expecting it to be like, you know, the first three rows [filled], but it wasn’t. It was full every night. The response was incredible for what it was.” She also credits Cyrus for a successful production, declaring that being behind the scenes was equally as amazing as being on the stage.

So are the two singers friends now? I inquire about the outing Allen and Cyrus had in the city that involved the duo singing karaoke together. Laughing immediately, she exclaims, “Yeah, we went out in New York!” Allen elaborates, “She’s just super friendly and super nice, and clever and funny, and embracing.” Remembering the Bangerz tour once again, she pauses a moment to recall. “There wasn’t like, security at her door… She’s a really sweet girl and I had a lot of fun with her.”

Now that the short stint with Cyrus is over, Allen is looking forward to her own United States headlining tour which recently began on September 9th in Miami. She reminds me that due to visa issues, her tour for 2009’s It’s Not Me, It’s You had to be cancelled, which meant that some fans who had been with the singer from her career start may have never seen her live. The set is a desired mix of old and new, according to Allen – “That’s what they can expect, a pretty even amount of songs from all three albums so far, a couple cover versions maybe. It’ll be a visual [and musical] journey that we can go on together.”

You can be certain that Allen’s lyrical content will make for a live show that’ll keep you on your toes. “I really like performing ‘Not Fair’ live,” she chuckles. The singer illustrates that she enjoys watching the female reactions to the song in in the audience. After a second of consideration, Allen humorously asserts, “And also, I quite enjoy watching the male reaction as well. It makes them feel really awkward. I quite like watching them squirm, if it is only for a couple of minutes.” We both giggle at the thought of it. She tells me that she also enjoys playing “Smile” and “Sheezus” on tour. After interjecting that the latter is a badass song, the singer replies in perfect form. “I feel like it’s representative of me, and how I feel.”

It is easy to tell how Allen feels, and it is equally as easy to understand that she doesn’t want to preach. She isn’t soliciting your support of her beliefs or opinions. Knowing this makes it almost impossible to not look up to her. She’s done it all, and she’s done it well; Lily Allen really is Sheezus. I nervously ask her what advice she’d give to young girls looking for a similar career path. I can hear her slightly hesitate. She begins, “I would say… Just develop your craft and know who you are, because I think that men that work in the music industry really like to try and validate their paycheck and they try and impose their power and control on people that they see as being weak, which usually are the females.” A moment of silence. “I would say just know who you are and know what you want to do and stick with it, and don’t let anyone tell you anything different.”

Words by Laurel Weber

Dates and ticket information for Lily Allen's current North American tour can be found here.

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