Interview: Singer/Songwriter Allison Ponthier Is an Intimate, Heartfelt, & Captivating Artist-to-Watch

Allison Ponthier © Lissyelle Laricchia
Allison Ponthier © Lissyelle Laricchia
Equal parts Taylor Swift, Kacey Musgraves, and Phoebe Bridgers, Allison Ponthier is quickly asserting herself as one of 2021’s freshest and most exciting new singer/songwriters.
 for fans of Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers, Adam Melchor, Gregory Alan Isakov
Stream: “Harshest Critic” – Allison Ponthier




Equal parts Taylor Swift, Kacey Musgraves, and Phoebe Bridgers, Allison Ponthier is quickly asserting herself as one of 2021’s freshest and most exciting new singer/songwriters.

Born and raised outside Dallas and now based in Brooklyn, the Interscope-signed Texan has introduced herself this year with two songs (and one superb feature) that capture her raw talent and the weird, quirky “gay cowboy” identity she has come to embrace over the years. Painfully honest and unassailably visceral, her heartfelt, irresistibly catchy music cuts to the core – and while this is only the beginning, Ponthier has already set herself apart from her peers as a need-to-know artist to watch.

Cowboy - Allison Ponthier
Cowboy – Allison Ponthier
It took New York to make me a cowboy
Now everybody knows
Even if I change my clothes
Familiar, but strange, like an android
From every gapin’ hole
A new garden fully grows from me
Wasn’t ready, I wasn’t ready
I had a foot in my mouth, oh
Saw the cutters through barbed wire
I didn’t know I could come out
– “Cowboy,” Allison Ponthier

A self-described “wide-eyed misfit” from the Lone Star State, 24-year-old Allison Ponthier made her major-label debut earlier this year with the hauntingly beautiful, spellbinding “Cowboy” – a transformative coming-of-age song full of confessional grace and sweeping, lush, and soaring sonics.


“‘Cowboy’ is the story of when I moved from my hometown in Texas to Brooklyn and ended up coming out as a queer person,” Ponthier tells Atwood Magazine. “I grew up listening to country music, but as a teenager I wanted to rebel against being from my town and tried to be the “cool indie kid” that listened to Paramore and Imogen Heap. After I moved to NYC, I met my girlfriend and realized that I didn’t know how to process the emotions of being scared to come out and mourning the time I had lost.”

“I wrote ‘Cowboy’ to get some of those emotions out, and it just came out as a country inspired song. I was always trying to run away from different aspects of myself, and I guess it was time to live my truth as a gay cowboy.”

Colorful, captivating, and exceptionally expressive, “Cowboy” faithfully serves as an autobiographical introduction to Allison Ponthier’s art and artistry. “I was always hiding my quirks or the things that made me different growing up, and “Cowboy” wasn’t any different,” she relates. “almost didn’t include it the first time I played songs for my managers. I thought it was too sentimental, too personal, too weird. They stopped me and said, ‘No, this is the special one. Because it’s your story.'”

Harshest Critic - Allison Ponthier
Harshest Critic – Allison Ponthier

Following her featured duet on Lord Huron’s song “I Lied” (off their recently released and critically-acclaimed fourth album Long Lost), Ponthier unveiled her sophomore single in mid-May. As heart-wrenching and evocative as her debut, “Harshest Critic” (co-written with longtime Atwood favorite and artist-to-watch Adam Melchor) finds the artist swimming through deep pools of self-reflection and insecurity as she explores the sheer vulnerability of artistic performance. Her lyrics touch on the roles of the critic, the performer, and the “studio audience” as admits to being her own worst enemy, in her own poetic way:

Late night
Tv makes me daydream on this lame night
What if all my fears were on display
Right in front of all the world, under the spotlight?
Would they still be on my side?
After all the curtains close
They’ll leave their seats and drive on home
They might not know a single word I said
If the highlight reel is on repeat
And only on repeat for me
Could I say I’d do it all again?
And if I’m being honest
Don’t know if I can tell you
Whose the harshest critic in the room
It could be the studio audience
But they’re just payin’ for admission
And I’m the one with everything to lose
Who’s the harshest critic in the room?

Ponthier explains that she wrote “Harshest Critic” “at a time when I was terrified to release my music or even just be perceived by other people.”

“I was a super shy kid that struggled with making friends growing up, and the idea of releasing my project was so scary. Somehow through everything, the urge to show people what I had made and the things I love always broke through that anxiety and fear.”

Yes, “Cowboy” and “Harshest Critic” are only two songs, but they are two very special songs full of wonder, emotion, and depth.

Allison Ponthier’s intimate, vulnerable lyricism, stunning vocals, and enchanting production have set her apart as a fast-rising (dare we say?) musical sensation – one whom we cannot wait to hear more from in the months and years to come. Get to know a little more about this newcomer in our interview below, and stay tuned for more songs coming soon!

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:: stream/purchase “Harshest Critic” here ::
Allison Ponthier © Lissyelle Laricchia
Allison Ponthier © Lissyelle Laricchia



MEET ALLISON PONTHIER

Cowboy - Allison Ponthier

Atwood Magazine: Allison, you’ve so far released two songs this year, and one more collab with Lord Huron – all of which I love, by the way! Why did you debut with these songs, and can you tell me a bit more about what each one means to you?

Allison Ponthier: Thank you so much! “Cowboy” is the story of when I moved from my hometown in Texas to Brooklyn and ended up coming out as a queer person. I grew up listening to country music, but as a teenager I wanted to rebel against being from my town and tried to be the “cool indie kid” that listened to Paramore and Imogen Heap. After I moved to NYC, I met my girlfriend and realized that I didn’t know how to process the emotions of being scared to come out and mourning the time I had lost. I wrote “Cowboy” to get some of those emotions out, and it just came out as a country inspired song. I was always trying to run away from different aspects of myself, and I guess it was time to live my truth as a gay cowboy.

“Harshest Critic” was written with my friend Adam Melchor at a time when I was terrified to release my music or even just be perceived by other people. I was a super shy kid that struggled with making friends growing up, and the idea of releasing my project was so scary. Somehow through everything, the urge to show people what I had made and the things I love always broke through that anxiety and fear.

“I Lied” with Lord Huron was so fun; I love Ben and the rest of the group. They really made me feel welcomed for my first collab, and not to mention, I hadn’t released any music when we recorded “I Lied” so they took a chance. “I Lied” is a song about divorce, but instead of a mourning song, it’s a song celebrating regaining your individuality done in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way. The first time I heard it, I recorded it within the hour because I was so excited. Congrats to the boys.

Allison Ponthier © Weslee Kate
Allison Ponthier © Weslee Kate

“Cowboy” is a very compelling introduction. I really resonate with the line, “It took New York to make me a cowboy.” Can you tell me more about this line and why you chose it to be your official debut?

Allison Ponthier: “Cowboy” is autobiographical. I was always hiding my quirks or the things that made me different growing up, and “Cowboy” wasn’t any different. I almost didn’t include it the first time I played songs for my managers. I thought it was too sentimental, too personal, too weird. They stopped me and said, “No, this is the special one. Because it’s your story.” I’ve been really touched at how many queer people have had similar experiences growing up in a conservative town and relate to “Cowboy” That’s kind of the whole vibe of the project now, “let’s get weird with it.”

It took New York to make me a cowboy
Now everybody knows
Even if I change my clothes
Familiar, but strange, like an android
From every gapin’ hole
A new garden fully grows from me
Wasn’t ready, I wasn’t ready
I had a foot in my mouth, oh
Saw the cutters through barbed wire
I didn’t know I could come out
Undoin’ the weavin’ of the old roots
My greatest enemy
Took up residence in me
I feel like a criminal with no history
Runnin’ from the law
Though I really loved them all
Wasn’t ready, I wasn’t ready
I had a foot in my mouth, oh
Saw the cutters through barbed wire
I didn’t know I could come out
I wasn’t ready, I wasn’t ready
I had a foot in my mouth, oh no
I know her everything by memory
I’m just a girl from the south

What was your experience like working with Ben Schneider and the rest of Lord Huron? Can you share a bit more about your take on that song, and how you came to duet with him on it?

Allison Ponthier: We got connected through someone that we both worked with, and I had heard they had been looking for a duet partner for a while. She sent it to me, but I knew it was a long shot because no one had ever heard of me. Upon first listen, I rushed to record a demo version on Logic and immediately sent it back. I guess they enjoyed it because they invited me to record it at Whispering Pines, and I fell in love with the band. They do so much themselves (visuals and music), and their studio is their happy place. I asked Ben why he chose me, and he never brought up some fanbase or industry reason, he just said “because it sounded right.” I really respect him for that. I’m a child of divorce, so the idea that this song celebrates happily moving on from a marriage was really attractive to me. I think when two people shouldn’t be together anymore, it’s okay to close the chapter. Sometimes, it’s what’s best for everyone involved.

“Harshest Critic” is a particularly searing self-reflection. How did this song come to be?

Allison Ponthier: The song was made in LA with my friend Adam Melchor. Honestly, the song feels like I blacked out and then came to with a map of my brain on the page. I left the session, listening to it, and I was like, how did we do that? It was co-produced by Adam and Mike Crossey.

How did you start writing songs, and what are some of the things you enjoy writing about the most?

Allison Ponthier: I started to seriously write after I got inspired by my friends who were songwriters in college. It was something I had always wanted to do, and I was tired of just watching other people express themselves instead of me doing it myself. I’m very inspired by movies, real-life things that have happened to me that I think about on my many walks, and I’m inspired by stories about people who find their own happiness by embracing their weirdness.

Who are some of your favorite songwriters, and what do you look for in a great song - whether it’s your own or someone else’s?

Allison Ponthier: Great songs to me have very personal details in them. I used to think that songs needed to be vague to be relatable, but songs that feel like a very specific place and time make you feel more invested. I want to be transported in a song the exact same way I am transported into a movie. Some of my favorite writers include Fiona Apple, Stevie Nicks, Erykah Badu, and Hayley Williams.

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:: stream/purchase “Harshest Critic” here ::
Stream: “Harshest Critic” – Allison Ponthier

— — — —

Harshest Critic - Allison Ponthier

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📸 © Lissyelle Laricchia

:: Stream Allison Ponthier ::



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