Here’s a spoiler for our end of year lists: My Midnight Heart’s Nightlight is going to feature in the top three tracks of the year. The brainchild of Escort-collaborator and impossibly gorgeous Angelica Allen, it’s a stop-in-your-tracks, bravura moment of power balladry, the likes of which you simply don’t hear any more. If you haven’t heard it yet, you’re a fool – in fact, we’re going to refuse to continue until you hit play on the widget below.
Bloody brilliant, innit? In fact, the last time we heard something as gut-wrenching as this was on the album of a certain Ms Mariah Carey (imagine if this were her next single instead of The Art of Letting Go. IMAGINE). Following the excellent Chest of Hearts EP, there is literally nothing stopping Allen from re-treading those hallowed steps; as a result we did everything in our power to sit down with a lady who has managed to turn every moment of personal fragility, of soul-baring vulnerability, into high art. Presenting My Midnight Heart: eloquent, intelligent and, undoubtedly, a future star.
Firstly, who is My Midnight Heart and what do you stand for?
My Midnight Heart is that secret place inside myself. Writing and playing this music is ripping my heart out and putting it out there for everyone to weigh and judge. It’s a very vulnerable piece of myself… My fears, my doubts, and ultimately, my hopes and optimism. I’m trying to connect with people by showing that side of myself. Because of this Facebook/Twitter world we live in, we’re always projecting idealized versions of ourselves. This is me with all that stripped away.
It’s certainly connecting – speaking of which, congratulations on Nightlight. Are you aware of how damn Mariah it sounds? (FYI if anyone ever asks you, our favourite Mariah song is Everything Fades Away.)
Ugghhhh that’s a good one! She is the ballad QUEEN. I’m absolutely aware of how Mariah it sounds! It’s a My Midnight Heart indie homage!
So where did the song come from?
I really wanted to write a song that we don’t hear too much anymore. It’s definitely a power ballad. It’s definitely Mariah Carey’s “All in your Mind” and “Vision of Love” mixed with “Dreamlover” and George Michael’s “Father Figure”. I pretty much only listened to Mariah Carey’s first three records on repeat for the first 10 years of my life. I mean it. She taught me how to sing. And even though I’ve broken away from that musical aesthetic, I’m less inclined to change how I sing. So for this song I was like “why don’t I just go with it and make a song that matches my voice for once?”
We couldn’t be more supportive of this decision, given the quality of your voice. Now, not to push the Mariah thing as it’s a great song in its own right but… Ever thought of sending it to her / writing for her?
If I had even the remotest inkling on how to actually do that I would be ALL over it. If you have any suggestions…?
Actually, we do. We’ll make a few calls. Basically the campaign to get this to Mimi starts NOW (#mymidnightmimi, if you will). Moving on… Nighlight has got a bit of a different feel from (the also excellent) Chest of Hearts, hasn’t it? It feels more vulnerable. We cried a little bit the first time we heard it.
I wrote this in of a moment of complete self-doubt and disillusionment. I had been working as a vocalist and songwriter in New York for a while and I just felt totally like I was taking one step forward and two steps back. It’s vulnerable. It’s defeated. But then there’s this “me-choir” of hopeful voices that are backing the song up and they really just lift it up. I think the choir thing is abused a ton in pop music, but there’s a place for it. It belonged in this song to keep it from being so dark. It’s that moment where you finally glimpse the sunlight.
What we’ve heard from My Midnight Heart so far sounds a lot like nocturnal longing. The sort of covert conversations you have with yourself in the dark, hoping that no one else would hear. Discuss.
Completely. That’s the whole aim of the project. All these songs are definitely written at night – at least mentally. It’s everything I want to hide from people. Honestly, there’s something therapeutic about this project. It’s selfish almost. Once it’s out there it’s just like, “Okay awesome. This isn’t mine anymore. Now it’s yours. You deal with it.” It’s very “The Red Shoes”, but not nearly as tragic.
A lot of people might not know that you’ve done some time elsewhere with Trans-Siberian Orchestra and (most recently) Escort. Did working with both of them influence My Midnight Heart, in both their positives and negatives?
Working with those two bands is like exploring opposite sides of myself which is helpful for songwriting. During TSO I was on a bus for months constantly surrounded by people, noise, energy, and motion. To combat that, I definitely went inside myself. I became super introverted, because it was such a long-term thing and I needed to find my own space to stay sane. I needed to write; to feel like I was still me. Those moments really birthed My Midnight Heart. Escort is completely the opposite. I love every single person in that huge band and we tour in short spurts. It’s like “OK now we’re in Europe, now we’re playing the show, now we’re partying, now we’re home.” There’s no time to think. And the shows are just crazy fun. When I have a date booked with them its just like a designating a weekend to drink whiskey, sing great music, and dance my ass off.
That sounds like our kind of party. You’re also the creative force for your own videos, so what’s in mind for Nightlight?
I’m not really sure what’s going to happen with Nightlight yet. I’ve been doing all the teaser videos myself, but I just started working with this amazing artist I discovered called Doctor Robert. I’ve collaborated with him on a couple remixes and he also put together the music video for “Chest of Hearts” that just premiered. So I’m not sure if it’ll be something I put together myself, or hire him to help. Either way, it’s going to be something very special and I’ve got a couple ideas swirling around my head so… I will totally, totally keep you posted.
Tell us a bit more about the EP: why these three tracks, why now, and what can we expect afterwards?
We originally recorded five tracks for the EP, but the other two just didn’t seem to fit as well so I decided to hold off on them for a bit. Maybe that will be a 7″ or something. I’m not sure yet. As for what comes next, another EP before a full-length for sure. We have at least seven tracks that are ready to go that we’ve been performing live for over a year. Those belong together and need to come first. We’re going to start recording those next week. The rest that are newer will go on the album, but that’s all I’ll say about that for now. We’ll be touring in and around New York and then probably go underground again to start/finish the album sometime next summer. I’m hoping the newer EP will be out in the Spring.
Some influences seem obvious, some not so much. Who would you say has brought you to this juncture today, musically or otherwise?
Musically? Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, Prince, Radiohead, Cocteau Twins, Mariah, of course, Serge Gainsbourg, and Bjork are probably my biggest direct influences. Visually and aesthetically, I’m super, super into Surrealism and Art Nouveau so Kay Sage, Frida Kahlo, Alphonse Mucha, Gustav Klimt, Man Ray, Maya Deren, Lénor Fini, and Salvador Dali. I don’t try to lift anything from anyone directly, but I definitely believe that as artists we’re meant to borrow ideas from other artists and expand on them and transform that into something “new” and our own. Have I ever created something that’s just “Angelica”? I doubt it. I don’t think that’s possible.
Who are you listening to these days? Any potential collaborations in store?
I’m always listening to a billion things at once. I absolutely love the last records by Chairlift, St. Vincent, and iamiamwhoami, so those are constantly in rotation. Those are mixed up with Francoise Hardy, Serge Gainsbourg, Visage, Thomas Dolby, Talk Talk, and a ton of my constant faves like Kate, PJ, and Cocteau Twins. And honestly sometimes I need a break from everything Indie so then I turn to Drake, Charli XCX, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga. There’s nothing planned for collaborations at the moment, but the potential is there and I’m definitely open to it. We’ll see.
My Midnight Heart: thank you. We could not love you more. Please come to the UK. That is all.
I love you back! And yes, we will come to the UK as soon as humanly possible.
My Midnight Heart’s Chest of Hearts EP is out now and you can buy it here. Which you should do immediately, if you have a lick of sense.