Your Weekend SXSW Playlist, Courtesy of Elle Exxe
Scottish triple threat (singer/songwriter/producer) Elle Exxe is the next pop powerhouse you didn’t know you needed in your musical rolodex – until now. Her debut album, Love Fuelled Hate – released in 2016 – is chock full of tracks that make you not only reflect on relationships (love is such a complicated thing, right?), but also make you want to shimmy and shake on the dance floor. Elle’s strong vocals coupled with her very own stellar production makes her album a solid listen.
We’re completely here for her latest electro-pop single, “Queen”. Considering the #MeToo movement amid the sexism issue that continues its pervasiveness across the entertainment industry, “Queen” couldn’t have come at a better time. “There’s a lot of men out there. It’s still totally disproportionate,” Elle comments regarding the festival arena.
Motivated by the desire to empower females across the globe and a love for music, Elle curated today’s Friday playlist aimed at the women acts of SXSW. Elle adds, “So many festivals across the world haven’t got female headliners. SXSW is the place where all the new female headliners are coming to play because they get seen here and then you can get elevated. People coming into SXSW are at that stage where they’re about to get a record deal. They’re about to be catapulted. So, the women that are coming here (SXSW) are the future of music and I wanted to highlight women and make sure that they’re getting seen.”
We caught up with Elle at the peak of SXSW to discuss everything from her triumphs as an artist to her unique style. Listen to the exclusive playlist while you peep the interview below.
So, tell me a little about “Queen”. How did that come about? I know it’s based off of some of the experiences you’ve had in the music industry, but what was the catalyst in motivating you to write the song?
I was really struggling at the time. The industry is so intense – you feel like you have a big dream and you’re not getting there. So, that’s quite difficult to deal with. I sat down at the piano and decided I was going to do something about it. I did it the only way I know how which is writing a song. I wrote it and I was feeling empowered by it. I was like, ‘I’m going to produce this one as well. Why am I not producing? I know how to produce.’
I think it’s awesome that you ended up producing it as well. It’s so rare to find a singer/songwriter that also produces. Kudos to you for that! For your debut album, Love Fuelled Hate, it’s very much about all things love. So, what emotional space were you in when you wrote that album?
I was in this whole mixed up state. One second, I was writing love songs [and] the next second, I was writing a hate song. That’s why it came to be. I was talking to one of the producers and was like, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to make this work because each song I write is the opposite. How am I going to make that work?’ He was like, “That’s always been you. You always push from different directions. That’s what’s cool.” All that [said], you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m doing that wrong, but actually I may be doing something right and that’s what makes me unique.’ So, I focused even more on the love, even more on the hate. It all started to come back together. It goes full circle that album.
It does. With love, it’s complex. You go through this rollercoaster of emotions in relationships. So, it makes sense that you have both sides of the pendulum. How did you get involved with music? What was your start?
I feel like there are so many starts that you have.
What was the start that stood out to you the most?
I think my biggest start was when I actually hit ‘refresh.’ So, I dreamed of being in music since I was a little kid. I did the whole having a hand at the piano and making up crap songs and trying to write poetry. Literally when I was seven, I had poems that I was like, ‘One day, this is going to be a hit song.’ About three years ago – when things weren’t going my way – I couldn’t find a place to rent, I didn’t have any money, I was like, ‘How am I going to make this happen?’ I looked for places for so long that I ended up sleeping on sofas and I had savings because of that. I booked a trip to LA and SXSW. That trip helped me to understand what I needed to do. It was like a life-changing trip where I just realized exactly what kind of music I wanted to make. I started to recognize that I needed to ask people for help. I stopped doing it on my own and built a team. It was just crazy. The one thing that was holding me back was that I wasn’t asking for help. Then, as soon as I opened myself up to people and was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll work with you and I’ll work with you, with whoever. I just want to collaborate.’ Once I realized that, everything seemed smooth.
I feel like when you work with a team, that expands your mind even more because you’re able to get different perspectives. So, you can say, “Okay, this works, and this doesn’t work.” It takes a lot of humility on your part to admit you need help. That’s a key quality that a lot of artists don’t have.
It took me a long time. (Laughs)
Yeah, you need to be humble to ask for help.
Also, I think some if it is just you don’t think anyone is going to say yes. So, you don’t ask. You realize when you ask it, people are actually like, “Yeah, I like what you’re doing.” It’s that kind of confidence thing. Sometimes you don’t take the risk of rejection.
When it comes to the playlist, how did you come across some of these artists? Were you introduced to them?
I genuinely listen to the entire SXSW playlist – all 800 plus. I only listen to a little bit of each one, but I spend like an entire day going through all of it because I don’t want to miss anybody new. I don’t want to look at all of the blogs. I want to figure it out myself – what I like and not be led by anything. So, I went through all of the songs and I made a playlist of about 200 women, I think. Then, I whittled it down because no one wants to listen to 200 people except for me. I chose my favorites. I went through the list and there were obviously names that I recognized and that I love like Dessa. I’ve performed with her a couple of years ago. So, I was excited to have her and to see her again. Nina Nesbitt is Scottish. Tasha the Amazon, I never heard of her before, but I think she’s pretty cool.
Before your playlist, I wasn’t too familiar with the artists you featured. So, I’m glad you’re introducing these artists.
That’s the thing with SXSW, there’s so many unknown bands. That’s what’s so exciting about it.
Last, but not least, tell me about your personal style. We’re all about fashion.
I wear a lot of white because on stage it stands out, but also because it works as a canvas. (Shows me her white fringed jacket as pictured above).
That is amazing!
I like bold colors, bold shapes, things that look like art; or things that look like objects rather than clothes. I like everything that Jeremy Scott does and Moschino.
I can tell with your question mark and exclamation point earrings!
I love pop art. I love illusions and stuff like that.
Very cool. I know I said that was the last question, but I have one more for you. What’s been your favorite part of your journey so far? What’s been a key highlight in life for you?
(Pause) There are loads, but which one was the ultimate moment? There are a few in my head, but the best moment for me is when I’m on stage with a crowd that I’m actually connecting with on an individual level. When I look at everybody in the crowd, I’m like ‘We are all here together. We’ve all let go of our days, of our worries and other things. We’re just here to have a good time.’ I’m dancing with you, you’re dancing with me. We’re just free. Those moments for me is why I keep going. I just can’t get enough of that.
Featured image courtesy of Elle Exxe.
Stay tuned to Milk for more Friday playlists.