Although the recently-released All I Need is Foxes’ second album, it marks a big step forward for the singer-songwriter more ordinarily known as Louisa Allen.
It’s the old music business cliché that you have all of your life to write your first album, and only a year or two to write what comes next. But that’s exactly how it’s been for Louisa – and she’s been relishing the experience.
After winning a Grammy three years ago for her work on the single Clarity with electronica producer Zedd, the Southampton-born singer released her own debut album Glorious with its attendant hit singles Youth and Let Go For Tonight. Then she toured it relentlessly around the globe, before heading straight back into the studio to work on its follow-up.
‘It has been a bit of a whirlwind,’ explains the pop star. ‘I haven’t really stopped, but it’s all good.
‘I didn’t really stop after the first album, I kind of dived straight into the second album and writing it. It’s been busy, but that’s the way I like it.’
And for Louisa the new album represented a chance to wrestle with some more mature themes and styles. While not entirely abandoning the synthpop of her debut, there is a definite progression.
‘I wrote the first album from the age of 16, so that felt like quite a young album, I think going into the second album, I had a lot of things to write about, and a real drive to go back into the studio, I guess to write about what was going on now, and write about what was more relevant to me than what I did on the first album.
‘It somehow felt strange singing songs that I wrote when I was 16. It was just really refreshing, and it was healthy for me to write the second album straight away.’
So is it more personal?
‘Yeah, it is. Everything I write is personal, but with this one it came more down to being about experience, and having a lot more emotion and rawness.
I think there’s a different side to this album which people might not expect to hear. The only thing I can do is put it out into the world, be proud of it and keep working.Louisa Allen
‘The first one was more about the experiences of being a teenager and really in that time I have grown up and had relationships and I wanted to write about that.
‘I always write personal, but this is quite cut-throat personal.’
Does that mean there are people out there – ex-boyfriends perhaps – who should be worried when they hear this album?
‘No, we’re friends now, but at the time it was sort of... everyone goes through break-ups and the odd part is that some people write about them.
‘It’s kind of like writing a diary, that you don’t really think that’s going to be for everyone else to hear, but I’ve come to accept that other people will listen to it, or otherwise it would just be me listening to it.
‘I could hide it away but that doesn’t really work, does it?’
When Louisa spoke with WOW247 a few weeks ago, the album, which made it to number 12 in the charts on the week of its release, was about to come out and, as you might expect, there was apprehension, but also a sense of pride in what she’d created and wanting people to hear it.
‘I’m really excited, it’s been a long time waiting.
‘There are a lot of songs on the album. I’ve written the whole thing, so I want people to hear all the different sides, not necessarily just the singles, but all the other tracks too.
‘I think there’s a different side to this album which people might not expect to hear. I’m terrified, but I am quite excited. The only thing I can do is put it out into the world, be proud of it and keep working.’
Although Louisa is credited as writer on all the album’s songs, she worked closely with a number of key collaborators on the project, including Dan Wilson who co-wrote and produced Adele’s Someone Like You, and Dan Smith of indie-poppers Bastille, who co-wrote and appears on the second single to be lifted from the album, Better Love.
‘I love all of the collaborating. That’s something I did a lot, even before the first album – working with Rudimental and Zedd – all of that I really enjoyed doing, and it was so nice to work with Dan (Smith) because I went on tour with them in Australia.
‘We’d been meaning to get into the studio for ages, so when that came about it was very exciting.
‘I love that side of it, and I definitely want to do more of it in the future. When the right thing comes up it’s always good fun working with friends and getting involved in different projects.’
Foxes is currently out on what is the biggest tour of her career so far – 12 dates across the UK, including the Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea on Monday.
‘I’ve got all of the musicians I want coming on tour with me, it’s going to be really exciting.
‘I’ve got a band in who worked quite closely with me on this album. A lot of the instruments are live on the album, and I wanted to take as much of the album and that sound on tour with me as possible.’
She will however, be taking things at a more leisurely pace than last May, when she set a Guinness World Record by playing seven concerts in different cities in a single day.
‘That was linked to a charity called Trekstock (which works with young people diagnosed with cancer) who I wanted to raise money and awareness for.
‘We wanted to get together and do something that would be music-related but would also create a buzz, through the world record, trying to do as many gigs as possible in different cities and it was really nice, we raised a lot of money and we ended up doing it.
‘It was pretty tiring. We started at 6am and finished at midnight – and the day before I’d been in Barcelona shooting a video, so we got off the flight and went straight into that.’
While Louisa is originally from Southampton, there’s no hometown gig on the itinerary. Was that a conscious decision?
‘It’s just the way the tour’s worked out, but I do feel strange about playing Southampton, I don’t know why. I feel like I need to leave that to Craig David,’ she giggles.
There will be plenty of her old school friends and family coming to the gig though.
‘It’s kind of nice playing in Portsmouth, though, because it’s just far enough out, it’s like playing on your front doorstep.’
For her fans, it might be a surprise to hear that she also performed in the opening night gala show at last year’s London Jazz Festival with a 48-piece orchestra – something you might expect to be new territory for her. But no: ‘Funnily enough it’s not at all outside my comfort zone.
‘I grew up listening to a lot of jazz and started out with jazz, so that was probably one of the best moments so far, one of my favourite moments - working closely with the composer, who was incredible, and then to have the orchestra compose a song you’ve written is mind-blowing, I was totally overwhelmed, it was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced.
‘I grew up with a real jazz background, so it does sound like quite a contrast from pop music, but strangely that’s lot closer to home.
Could this be a hint then, of a new direction for album number three?
‘I don’t think you’ll find me playing in a jazz bar quite yet,’ she smiles. ‘Maybe in a few years.’
n Foxes is at The Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea on Monday.
Doors 7.30pm, Tickets £16. Go to wedgewood-rooms.co.uk