INTERVIEW: Hoodie Allen talks his artistic reinvention & new single 'Call Me Never'

Hoodie Allen

We all reinvent ourselves in some form or another at one, or at many points, in our lives and for all sorts of reasons; personal, professional – and sometimes just because we can. Hoodie Allen is one such individual who has taken it upon himself to undergo a reinvention, switching from being a hip-hop artist to one with a more pop-punk sound, as showcased on his latest single, "Call Me Never."

With big plans for the next few months and beyond, XS Noize caught up with him to learn when he first got into music, what it was like collaborating with Ed Sheeran and what fans can expect from his upcoming album.

Let's go back to the beginning. When did you first realize you had a passion for music?

I don't know if I even recognized it as a passion back then, but I used to write these songs after school, starting back when I was 9 or 10 years old while I was waiting for my parents to be done with working. I'd sit and write and keep it to myself for years. It was my creative pursuit before I even knew why I was doing it.

At what age did you know for certain you wanted to make it a career?

I mean, with music, it's a privilege to get to make it your career. Since I was in high school, I would daydream about this being my job, but it always felt far away. Once things began to become more real around age 20-21, I knew if I could pour all my time into it, I could make it a reality.

Which bands and artists influenced you the most growing up, before you became of the industry, and have those influences changed much over the years?

I was always firmly between underground hip hop that I found on the internet and pop-punk and emo music that I found from my local area and the MTV generation in general. My earliest albums I bought were like Dude Ranch by Blink and Americana by The Offspring, but I was also finding this crazy affinity for hip hop from Atmosphere and Talib Kweli and all of these other storytellers who really intrigued me. I still love all of these artists, and I think they've shaped what I do in many ways. My influences only grow as I am able to continue being a fan of more and more people doing awesome stuff.

You first earned considerable attention with your 2012 EP 'All American.' Did you ever expect the collection to earn the response it did?

I believed wholeheartedly in the songs, but I don't think you ever expect the first time you put an album on iTunes for it to go #1 overall. I had built this online fanbase and given away music for free for multiple years, and it was so cool to see the fans rally behind me and turn their online secret into a thing that challenged the mainstream paradigm.

That success led you to collaborate with Ed Sheeran, earning you coverage in and from the likes of Buzzfeed and Billboard. What do you remember most fondly of your time working with him?

I mean, Ed is first and foremost a friend. We've known each other for years prior to ever recording a song together. I loved working with him because I admire his talent and song-writing immensely, so getting the chance to work with someone you love is always the best of times. We all want to make music with our friends, and when it is received well by others, that's just icing on the cake.

You recently broke away from your previous hip-hop sound to reinvent yourself with a more pop-rock/punk edge. What brought that about, and why did you feel that now was the right time for you to do so?

It's just the sound that felt most right for the story I'm telling on this record. It really doesn't even feel like a reinvention to me because it just feels like I'm more fully tapping into something that was always there with my music. Naturally, since this is more of a breakup album which is different for me musically, it did lead me to try new things sonically, and I think that's what made the timing feel right.

Unlike many with a hip-hop background, the pop-punk genre is nothing strange or unknown to you, given that you've toured with Fall Out Boy, opened for Panic! and collaborated with Blink 182's Mark Hoppus. How invaluable has that past experience been, and is it for you now as you embark on this new chapter of your career?

I mean, every single thing you listed was transformative and incredible for me. I've never enjoyed a tour as much as the one with Fall Out Boy, and it taught me so much about touring as a professional. Working with Mark was a lifelong dream come true, and the record we made together is probably my favourite on the album. It just makes me feel like I belong and can really contribute musically in a space where I'm working alongside idols. It's very motivating.

What's the story behind "Call Me Never"? Is there one?

Like the rest of this album, "Call Me Never" details a moment of time in a breakup where you're telling yourself outwardly that you're moving on, but inside, you still will do anything to chase back to the moments you had with that person.

Who or what ultimately inspired or influenced its writing?

Real-life heartbreak, lmao!

Where did the idea and concept for the video come from?

I collaborated with my guy Erik Rojas on the video concept. A lot of our visuals on this album stemmed from the idea of this circular nature of time and how we tend to get ourselves caught in these loops chasing after the same thing, not fully moving on. Erik had an amazing sense of bringing that to life and really made this video one of my favourites ever.

The song is taken from your upcoming album. Without giving too much away, what can you tell me about it? What can fans expect when they hear it?

I think fans can expect to hear a much more vulnerable and raw side of me. If you've been a fan for a while, it feels like growing up together, and if you're a new fan, I think it's a badass introduction to what is next to come.

Are there any performance or tour plans you can tease? How badly are you wanting to get out on the road again, given the disruption caused by the pandemic? Social media is a staple for many, but especially artists.

Yeah, I'm touring all August playing a bunch of the unreleased records for the first time, as well as all the fan favourites. I'll also be going back to Europe in February next year, but that will be officially announced later this year. I didn't even realize how much I missed touring till I started going back to shows, but wow, yes, I am so eager to be back.

To what extent would you say you rely on it to reach an audience, and do you think you'd continue to have the success you do without it?

I think touring is the best, most authentic way to connect with the people who support you online. But nowadays, you do not need to tour in order to have a career in music. I personally love it and think it makes the writing and recording process all that more satisfying when you see people singing these songs back. A crowd in person feels better than some likes on a photo. But if you're just starting out, you'd be better served using the internet to reach more people than to buy on to a tour.

Finally, then, 2022 has been a year of reinvention for you. Taking that into account, how will said reinvention continue in the coming months? How will you continue to grow and evolve as an artist, and just how excited are you to plan for and see what the future holds?

I take every day as an opportunity to be better and be kind to myself, and I just want to keep working hard on the things I love the most, which are family and music. I hope to stay busy releasing a lot of music and travelling the world; sharing it is an absolute gift.

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