Sad Glamour: A ‘Pretty Sad’ Interview with XYLØ

XYLØ © Nikko LaMere
XYLØ, moniker for pop singer Paige Duddy, discusses her newfound independence as a musician after going solo and the process behind writing her debut EP, ‘Pretty Sad’.

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Everyone knows that art — in all its variations — can be a form of catharsis for the artist as well as the listener. Being able to express how one feels in another “language” is therapeutic and relieving. That’s exactly what pop artist Paige Duddy, also known as XYLØ, has done in her brand new debut EP, Pretty Sad (March 1, 2019 via Pretty Records). The EP features Duddy’s intoxicating vocals with her signature electric pop production and raw lyrics — many about her own personal experiences.

XYLØ - Pretty Sad EP Art

Pretty Sad EP – XYLØ

It’s been less than a year since the former pop duo XYLØ announced that they would no longer consist of both siblings Chase and Paige Duddy, but rather continue as a solo project for Paige. Since then, Duddy has released multiple singles to help establish her presence and sound as a solo artist. Pretty Sad consists of heartfelt songs Duddy wrote while in London; all the songs are close to the young artist for their honest and open lyrics — something she never got to do while XYLØ was a duo.

XYLØ’s singles “Heaven Only Knows,” “Don’t Panic,” “I Don’t Wanna See You Anymore,” “Tears and Tantrums,” and “Freak” are all reminiscent of the duo’s fun and upbeat sound, but also showcase Paige Duddy’s capability as a solo act with her quirky tone and infectious personality. Although she wants to keep the same vibe she and her brother originally created, she also wants to show her listeners and fans a side of her that they can relate to.

Atwood Magazine spoke with Paige Duddy about her independence as a songwriter, the transition to becoming a solo artist, and what it took to write her debut EP Pretty Sad.

I think there’s beauty and sadness behind why I wrote all these songs and it captures how I was feeling at that point of my life.

Stream: ‘Pretty Sad’ – XYLØ

:: A CONVERSATION WITH XYLØ ::

Atwood Magazine: How does it feel to release your first EP as a solo artist?

Paige Duddy: It feels amazing. I have waited so long to release another body of work so I’m bursting with excitement that it’s finally happening! Although it was fun to release singles, I think I’m the type of artist that needs to tell more of a story. Sometimes those are in songs that don’t seem like an obvious pop belter.

Since becoming a solo act, what do you think you’ve learned about yourself in terms of being a musician?

Duddy: Over the last year, I got to experiment with my sound and I’ve learned a lot about what type of artist I want to be. I want to be honest, I want to write my own music and tell my own story. I want to experiment with sounds and production. I just want to put out loads of music and connect with my fans as much as possible. I’m excited to be able to do that in 2019, now that this is my first Independent release!

What are the major differences you’ve noticed between working as a duo as opposed to working as a soloist? Has your songwriting process changed at all?

Duddy: When I was in a duo I didn’t have nearly as much creative control over the sound of the music or lyrics as I do now. It was a constant compromise and I wasn’t as experienced of a songwriter as I am now. Going solo was something I needed to do to grow as a person and as an artist. Sounds cliche but I’ve been able to tap into emotions I didn’t know I had or know how to articulate until I started creating my own music. It’s been really therapeutic and helped me get through a lot of shit.

XYLØ © Nikko LaMere

XYLØ © Nikko LaMere

What was the hardest part about transitioning into a solo artist, and what was easiest for you?

Duddy: Fearing my fans wouldn’t stick around for my new era. There’s always a moment of, “Will they not like this?” or, “Just because they know a member left, will it subconsciously change the way they listen?” Maybe because I know I have done that before with other bands/artists. But my fans have remained extremely supportive even through the transition to solo career and I’m so grateful. Although it wasn’t that easy in some aspects, it was comforting to have the same exact team around me as I had before so it didn’t feel like much of a change in terms of the way I released music.

So now that you’ve released a lot of music as a soloist, how has the fan reaction been so far?

Duddy: The reaction has been great and my fans are still so supportive. I get the few “make more music like Afterlife” comments here and there but I think every artist or band has fans complaining that their new music doesn’t sound like the first few songs they discovered them on. That’s fine. I am constantly growing and evolving as a person and as an artist, as is everybody. But music is also changing and it’s being consumed very quickly. It’s not the same as when I put out lo-fi bedroom music in 2015.

What was the process like writing for this EP? Who did you work with? How long have you been working on it?

Duddy: I wrote most of the songs on this EP in a week in London. I love all the songs I wrote and they all felt like they worked next to one another really well. When it was confirmed I was releasing an EP I decided to add a song called “Blue Light” that I wrote in London last year because fans were requesting it be on the EP. I had played a snippet of it on a live stream and they’ve been asking for it ever since. Then the song another song I wanted to add called “Pretty Sad” was written after I named the EP and I wrote that only a few weeks ago. There was a set of chords that Lee Newell had made and I had been wanting to write a song to them because it felt like the perfect vibe I was going for.

I worked on this EP with Seb Daniels and Kloe Latimer who wrote “Miracle,” “NLTS,” and “Should’ve Known.” Frank Colucci and Owen Cuts who did “Fireworks.” Phil Cook and Martin Luke Brown wrote “Blue Light” with me. “Pretty Sad” was written with Maize La Rue and lastly Lee Newell who wrote and co-produced all of the songs on this EP with me.

I enjoyed this process more than I ever have before. I went in knowing what I wanted and that was to make music to feed my soul and please me and no one else! I didn’t care if my label thought there was a big smash hit on the EP, I just wanted to make music I was proud of.

XYLØ © Nikko LaMere

XYLØ © Nikko LaMere

The production on the EP is really great, and you said that’s one of the things you wanted to experiment with, going solo. What was it like working on the production with your team for this EP?

Duddy: Yeah, since going solo I’ve always been pretty involved with the production and usually sit with Lee till the production on the songs is finished. Lee also mixed the entire EP so I was there for that whole process. We would bounce the songs and then go drive around LA listening to it and then would go back in and he would fix the notes we had. We did that a lot. It kind of makes you go crazy because you’ve heard everything 100 times but I’m lucky to be able to be so involved.

Duddy: A couple of my friends always tell me that my aesthetic is sad glamour. So when I was driving in the car one day I was thinking about what the songs mean to me and why I wrote them. They are all coming of age and based around self-discovery. So I came up with Pretty & Sad. Then Lee was like just call it Pretty Sad. I think there’s beauty and sadness behind why I wrote all these songs and it captures how I was feeling at that point of my life.

How do you think this EP is different from your recently released singles?

Duddy: I think this EP has consistency and themes of growing up and self-discovery. The singles released were cool and very pop but they were written to be released as “singles” and they were picked by my label. There are a lot of other songs I wrote that I would have released if it were only up to me.  

Do you think we'll be able to hear these songs in the future?

Paige Duddy: Yeah, definitely. I really wanted “Blue Light” to be my first single as a solo artist but the label wasn’t up for it. But now it fits perfectly on the EP so that’s exciting. That being said, I tend to want to release songs that are fresh and new to me since I’m constantly writing. But some of the songs in my archive might see the light of day depending if it’s the right moment!

Any specific tracks on this EP that have a special meaning to you or were memorable when writing them?

Duddy: “Miracle” is special because it’s about me and all of my insecurities wrapped up into 3 minutes. I thought the structure was really interesting and when we wrote this song we were like “this sounds fucking cool and unique” It’s pop but it’s not your typical pop song and that’s what I love about it.

“Miracle” is actually one of my favorites on the EP because it's so honest and unapologetic. When you were writing it, as well as your other songs, was there ever an instance where you were afraid of exposing so much of yourself to a large audience?

Duddy: No, In fact, I was stoked how effortlessly that song came together especially the lyrics. My favorite artists are honest with who they are and what they struggle with. I wanted people to get a deeper look into who I am as a person. That song really lays it all out on the table.

What was the hardest song to write? Why?

Duddy: I don’t remember any of them being hard to write. That’s why I love all 6 of these songs- they came together so naturally and we had so much fun writing them. I think that’s why they turned out so well.

“Fireworks” is about your first time living on your own. Could you go into detail about that experience and writing the song?

Duddy: I wrote this song after an experience I had in my apartment one late night when I was home alone watching Netflix with my dog. I heard an argument outside my window and my dog was going crazy barking. So I turned off the TV looked out the window and within a matter of seconds this guy pulls out a gun and shoots at his girlfriend. I immediately dropped to the floor and crawled to my bedroom because my living room is all windows so I didn’t know what could happen. I called 911, there were helicopters swarming the building, swat team everywhere and I couldn’t leave my room for over an hour as this guy was on the loose and they saw him run into my building. They never caught him and I don’t know what happened to the girl because she fled the scene as well. But I wanted to write a song about that experience because it was a big change from the life I lived, growing up in a small town where nothing bad ever happened. These transitional years in your early 20’s are weird and you’re like, whoa, this world is dark.

XYLØ © Nikko LaMere

XYLØ © 2019 courtesy the artist

What would you want your fans to grasp from this album?

Duddy: I just hope my fans can relate to these songs and connect to me as a person a bit more. I dive deeper into who I am than I ever have before. I want them to know that the old XYLØ is still here and I still like making sad bops!

The EP delves into sensitive subjects like your insecurities and vulnerabilities, how was it getting deep into those topics? How were you able to do so?

Duddy: I found it really easy writing about those topics because it’s so honest that it just poured out. It wasn’t something I felt comfortable expressing when I was in a duo so it’s cool to be able to do it now with this EP.

The Internet and social media is another big theme on this EP. What advice would you give to someone who’s struggling with a lot of insecurities solely from the expectations/beauty standards we see every day online?

Duddy: These songs are just a reminder that most of us go through the same shit. We all compare ourselves to others who are more successful, or prettier or funnier ect., we all need validation & love from people even the ones who don’t even know us! That’s a part of why we use social media. If I find myself comparing my life to someone else’s, I usually remind myself that they probably experience the same struggles I do no matter how perfect their life looks.

What are you working on now? A full-length album?

Duddy: Working on a lot of more music to keep putting out. It could be an album or it could be more EPs. I’m excited to just put out what I’m digging at the moment!

You mentioned how you’re the type of artist who wants to tell a story with their music. What other “stories” do you hope to tell with future works?

Duddy: I’m not sure yet. I think I need to go experience some more life! I like writing in London because I’m outside of my normal day to day boring life and I’m in a new environment and the spirits are high. I’m planning on going back there within the next couple of months to work on my next body of work!

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XYLØ - Pretty Sad EP Art

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Caitlin Ison

My name is Caitlin, I am 22 years old, born and raised in Southern California. Like most of the human population, music is something that has played a very important role in my life. Writing about music allows me to share my fascination with artists and their work and their process of creating it. I attended the University of California, Irvine and I spent a lot of my time volunteering at the school's radio station, KUCI. This definitely expanded my love and knowledge for non-mainstream music. Outside of the music realm, I spend my time taking photos (concert photography being my favorite), practicing my calligraphy, and spending time with my family, friends, and dogs. I am definitely a home body but learning about different cultures, hobbies, foods, places, and the world around me all excite me.