ALLIE HUGHES is the cool counterpoint to antagonized musical theatre nerds everywhere.
She’s got a one-in-a-million voice, a soaring operatic soprano that was exploited early in her training at the Etobicoke School for the Arts, Michigan’s renowned Interlochen Arts Academy and later at Sheridan College’s Musical Theatre Performance program. She spent the first year of her professional career working on musicals, which led her to a stint on CBC’s How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? But instead of “My Favourite Things,” she sang Bjork. Even early on, Hughes knew how to stand out from a million young hopefuls: if they think you’re adorable, show them your deviant side.
Soon after, Allie Hughes made a departure from theatre and found her home in Toronto’s indie scene. She has written/recorded/performed with the likes of Brendan Canning, Katie Stelmanis of Austra, Bonjay, Ron Sexsmith, Dwayne Gretzky and as a solo artist under various monikers, has garnered a reputation for being a innovative and bold performer. Live, she’s given her sets plot lines, performed her own wedding/divorce and in a Carrie-themed spectacular at the El Mocambo, sang in a prom dress covered in fake blood.
In the age of Lady Gaga, a song is merely the gateway to a multimedia experience, full of discursive gender politics, video imagery and transgressive fashion trends. While her performances are often showstoppers, Allie Hughes maintains that she is a songwriter first and foremost. This year, she was selected as one of four music residents at the Canadian Film Centre, chaired by Oscar-nominee Mychael Danna, where she is making a name for herself in the film/television world. Currently she is composing songs for a 1950’s style musical film, Jeffrey St. Jules’ Bang Bang Baby, currently in development with Telefilm.) Her work as a composer/songwriter/producer has led to sessions with Jim Vallance, Chantal Kreviazuk, Mychael Danna and Christophe Beck. Oh and on the side she is a vocal coach (students include Tokyo Police Club’s Dave Monks, Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos and Entertainment Tonight’s Kimberly D’eon).
Whatever she does, Allie Hughes’ vision is surely cinematic; it’s rare to see a homegrown indie artist with such a vivid intuition for crafting characters and emotions through song. Whether reimagining Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” as a Breeders b-side, or asking what she can do to make her partner love her through 60’s do-wop conjecture – there’s that voice. Allie Hughes could’ve easily – and successfully – found her way into musical theatre. But playing someone else’s heroine wasn’t enough. Her gift to us is her incessant need to be an individual, an artist, and a total weirdo. And that’s what makes a star.