With the release of her debut EP ‘Heavy Pt. 1’, CXLOE has delivered a career defining body of work that validates her artist to watch status that she’s received ever since she released ‘Tough Love’ in 2017. With every single release her songwriting got darker, her hooks got stronger, and the hits kept on getting bigger. She was continually outdoing herself from ‘Show You’, to ‘I Can’t Have Nice Things’, to ‘Low Blow’ and then recently to ’12 Steps’. And with these singles, her live show was also getting tighter as she hit the road with industry heavyweights like Maroon 5, George Maple and Camouflage Rose, and also performed at huge festivals like Falls Festival.
With this EP she opens her heart to listeners about mental health, love, and heartbreak, with candid lyrics that aren’t afraid to tell it exactly like it is. And the production is next level as she honed her dark-pop vibe that feels ultra electric and exhilarating.
I recently chatted to CXLOE about how writing and recording ‘Heavy Pt. 1’ has felt like a giant therapy session, explored the creative processes behind ‘Plans’ and ‘Swing’, and found out how testing out some of the songs in the live setting has altered their production and structure. Check it out HERE;
THOMAS BLEACH: ’Heavy Pt. 1’ has been a long time in the making, but it’s such a cohesive and strong collection that I think highlights your growth as an artist from ‘Tough Love’ to now. What is the biggest thing you’ve learnt about yourself as an artist from putting this EP together?
CXLOE: It’s taught me a lot about who I am sonically and conceptually with what I want to put out into the world. With ‘Tough Love’, I think I dove in pretty fast with putting myself out there on the line in the terms of vulnerability. So on a lot of the songs I’m very honest with how I’m feeling and what it’s about. The EP is just a self reflection of figuring out who I am, and exploring why I work the way I work, what makes me tick, and then accepting and being okay with that. It’s been interesting because it’s been like a three year therapy session.
TB: That’s a fucking long therapy session CXLOE *laughs*!
C: A long ass therapy session with so many different therapists *laughs*. I’ve gone on such a journey with the writers and producers that we’ve worked on this EP with. I’m so grateful that I’ve got to work with people who make me feel safe, and make feel open to discover who I am with what music I want to put out there, and what message I want to have.
TB: ’Plans’ is one of my favourite songs on the EP because of its infectious hook along with the light DIY pop production that feels so pulsating and fresh. And it kinda feels like an edgy Selena Gomez track. So can you explain to me the creative process behind this track?
C: I love Selena Gomez! It’s funny you say that though because it was actually pitched to her. So you’ve got a really good ear!
I feel like it is a lighter song conceptually and sonically. I wrote it at a writing camp last year in France which was wild. You kinda just get thrown into rooms with people you’ve never met before in a high key speed dating scenario. So I wrote it with these two guys called Scott Effman and Andrew Wells, and we walked into the room and I was like “I have this concept called Plans”, and it steamrolled from there and turned into this beautiful love song. Usually when I write a love song it’s really sad like ‘One And Lonely’ *laughs*. But this one is kinda happy. It’s like “I don’t have plans, you are my plans”.
I’m happy it’s on the EP because there is nothing else like it on the collection, and to be honest it’s not like anything that I’ve ever put out in general. However, it was scary deciding to put it out because of that exact reason. I wasn’t sure if people would get it, or understand what I was experimenting with. But on the other side of it, I don’t care, because I want to put music out and I want to experiment. I don’t really have that many inhibitions with it anymore.
TB: Do you think it’s more vulnerable to be a happier version of yourself creatively through music?
C: That is the best question ever! Yes, yes I do! It might sound pretty grim, but it’s because it’s not where I sit the most comfortably. Like when I am happy or in a good place it’s quite weird because I find myself questioning why things are fine, or why things are going good because I’m not usually in that place as I’m usually sabotaging something, or anxious about something. So yeah, it is definitely a more vulnerable thing for me to do.
TB: ’Swing’ is a darker moment that reflects on your personal battle and relationship with mental health where you feel like your mood is always swinging like a pendulum. You’ve said that writing this song made you realise that it’s apart of who you are and something you just need to regulate. So how do you make sure you do look after that while in an industry that can be quite triggering in different ways?
C: The music industry can be very volatile. I’ve been working on certain tools on how to put boundaries and a wall up when I need to. And that’s sort of the reason why I made “CXLOE’, so I could come out and be this person where I dress up and put on a show, but then I can dip out and look out myself when I need to do. Because it is too much sometimes, like, it really is. I was finding that my emotions were all over the place. Like when I found out I made this playlist I was up here, and then I was down here when the streaming numbers came out, and it was just too much. I don’t think anyone can keep up with that. So yeah I’ve learnt a lot about boundaries and what I should hold back on and what I can give myself.
TB: In some ways, ‘Swing’ feels like the mature older sister to ‘Monster’, not just with the darker production but also lyrically dealing with toxicity in different ways. Do you feel like any of the songs on this EP feel like evolutions from previously released songs, or feel like siblings?
C: Yes, I love that. ‘Swing’ is definitely the older sister to ‘Monster’ and definitely more mature sounding! But I also see ‘Swing’ close to ‘I Can’t Have Nice Things’ sonically because they are both quite soft, but the concept is so sad. But also ‘Low Blow’ and ’12 Steps’ are probably in the similar lane production wise being really at the forefront of the song and hitting really hard. But it is really interesting looking back at the evolution of the songs and seeing that I’ve written about a topic before and seeing that the ideas are a little more developed and mature now.
TB: ’One And Lonely’ is a song you’ve explained as one that you have fought for to release for 2 years, which I find really interesting because to me it’s always been a highlight in your live set. So how important has it been for you to stand your ground with these creative decisions?
C: So many times it was subtly pushed off the track listing and I was like “hang on, why is this song not on it” and they would be like “oh, we will put it back on”, and then it would be forgotten about again *laughs*. But I actually do have a very supportive team, and they asked me what I wanted and I said that I wanted ‘One And Lonely’ on the EP so they made it happen *laughs*
It is funny though that I did have quite a bit of pushback with the song because whenever I would play it live in the set, it would be the song I would have the most messages asking where they could find it, or asking when it would come out. So I had to kinda be like “you guys just need to trust me because I love this song”.
TB: Well another song that stood out in your set on the Falls Festival tour was ‘Half Of Me’ which you teased was going to come out really soon….
C: YES! So that may be on part 2… That song has been hard because it’s so different, and finding the right person to produce it has been a journey because it is A LOT. There’s a lot of moving parts in it, and I kinda felt like it fitted better into part 2, so don’t worry because it is coming as I love that one.
TB: As I mentioned before, you’ve been playing some of these songs in your live set for over 2 years now. So what is the oldest song on the EP? And what is the newest?
C: The oldest song would be ‘One And Lonely’, and then newest would be ‘Plans’ because I only wrote that one six months ago.
TB: When you put those songs together do you see a growth and a difference in your songwriting at all?
C: Not in my songwriting, but in my soul I see a growth. In my songwriting I think they still have the same strong concepts because with all my sessions I like to go in with a title or something that I want to base it around. But I can definitely see that I matured a lot by the time that I wrote ‘Plans’, even simply because I wanted to write a romantic song as I wouldn’t have done that a few years ago.
TB: I can’t chat to you without chatting about one of my favourite pop songs of 2019, ‘I Can’t Have Nice Things’. WHAT A SONG! Not only is the production insane, but the lyrics have always stood out to me as it’s a little self deprecating, and I feel that. So let’s chat about my fave lyric from this song, “I warned you not to give me things I can easily break” because that feels like quite a deep reflective moment for you?
C: Very! I’ve felt it forever. I remember this one time when I was six, my mum gave me this christmas globe and I was lying on my bed with it resting on my belly as I wanted to see how long it would stay full when I breathed in and out, and if it could stay on my stomach. And anyways, it didn’t. It fell off and smashed everywhere. My mum was like “you know, I try to give you nice things but then you just break them”, and that is still stuck in my head. I’m like, yeah, I do that all the time. I push the limits even though I know where it is going to go. So yeah, I’m glad that lyric stood out to you because it is a big one for me.
TB: You’ve done a lot of touring over the past couple of years, and played huge festivals and opened for the likes of Maroon 5, George Maple and Camouflage Rose. Has playing these shows to these huge venues changed or altered the production on any songs?
C: Definitely! There’s been a couple of songs that I’ve played and gone, “ooh, that didn’t land where I wanted it to land”. You can tell straight away by someone’s face if they like it or not. So you immediately have a couple of hundred people telling you and guiding you where a song should go when you play it live. It’s a good way to gauge. But also you have to remember that sometimes some songs aren’t “live songs”. So you need to take it with a grain of salt.
TB: Was there any songs on this EP that were accustomed to those changes?
C: I haven’t played ‘Plans’, ‘Swing’ or ‘Creature’ live yet. But ‘Heavy’ was actually one that we did tweak after playing it live on the Maroon 5 tour. I remember that it just wasn’t up to scratch, so we went back and made it bigger so that it could live in that word.
TB: Was ‘I Can’t Have Nice Things’ also one of those, because I remember hearing it at BIGSOUND for the first time and then hearing the studio version a year later and I swear there was an extra chorus from the start missing?
C: Yes! The whole structure changed! I love that you picked that up because the whole chorus was taken out after the first verse and then put it in the second half. It took me so long to get used to the new version after we did that.
TB: Let’s play a quick game of rapid fire questions, you ready?
C: Yes, let’s go! I’m so bad at this!
TB: The emoji the best describe my debut EP is…
C: The black heart!
TB: My pre-show ritual involves…
TB: The colour of my toothbrush currently is…
C: ooo, Green! I just changed it actually.
TB: A TV show I’ve binged during lockdown has been…
C: Oh my god, Schists Creek. It’s cured me from all my depression. It’s made me so happy.
TB: Pineapple on pizza is…
C: A yes! I love the sweetness in it. I love pears in a salad too!
‘Heavy, Pt. 1’ is out now!