Allie Hughes
Gig Seeker Pro

Allie Hughes

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | SELF

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | SELF
Band Pop Alternative


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music


"Our Pop Future: Allie Hughes"

Who is she? Allie Hughes is what happens when musical theatre nerds are left to their own devices. A former contestant on CBC Sound Of Music-reality show How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, Hughes started her own band with vanguard students from U of T’s Faculty Of Music in 2008. But don’t let her background fool you, Hughes is way more cerebral and twisted than her pretty façade might imply. Having collaborated with many local luminaries (including Austra and Gentlemen Reg), her recent show at the El Mocambo was a homage to Carrie’s doomed prom night, complete with a bucket of fake blood dripping down the singer’s grinning face.

What does she sound like? With a voice that can go from Mariah-dolphin squeak to a sultry blues solo, Hughes is a gifted performer who immediately infatuates a crowd. She also likes to get weird. Her signature tracks include a swinging ode to hiding in the bushes of a guy who spurned you (“Chad”), an operatic heavy metal burner that spaces out into Of Montreal-psychedelia (“Damaged Nail”) and a confessional heartbreaker that transcends Avril Lavinge-style pop to poetry (“Rolling Days”). Her committed session band (performing in everything from dashikis to space suits, depending on Hughes’ musings) adjusts the sound to meet the song, but excels at a dreamy jazz-pop fusion. Stay for a frenetic, Glee-ful cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic.”

Where can I see her play? At NXNE, obviously. Allie Hughes plays Wrongbar tomorrow, Thursday June 16, opening for F-cked Up. Her debut full-length will be released this year, so steel yourself with Hughes’ debut EP. -

"THe Scene: Shows That Rocked Toronto Last Week"

ALLIE HUGHES at the Drake Hotel, Wednesday, February 9. Rating: NNNN

Musicals are a pretty divisive genre, despite the inexplicable popularity of Glee. Allie Hughes has been associated with the art form, but judging from her over-the-top Valentine Wedding Spectacular at the Drake, she’s not worried about being lumped in with the theatre crowd.

There were costumes, characters, skits and a plot line about being stood up at the altar by Chad Leonardo Von Galen II, played by Sweet Thing musician Nick Rose. Despite the distractions, Hughes’s commanding vocals were the centre of attention. Her newer songs have a bit of a Queen-inspired stadium rock vibe that allowed her to show off the more powerful side of her voice and the versatility of her tight backing band.

Yes, the extravaganza was goofy at times, but also incredibly entertaining. When so many performers seem reluctant to put on much of a show, it’s refreshing to see someone hold nothing back.


"NXNE 2011 Allie Hughes"

ucked Up aren’t the only act in NOW’s NXNE showcase experimenting with larger narratives in their music. In the case of self-described “weirdo pop princess” Allie Hughes, though, it’s more about wrapping stories around her existing songs.

“There is always a bit of a storyline in my mind, just because of the underlying themes of the songs. But when I put a show on, I like to create a through line for the entire evening and incorporate the rest of the bands and audience into the story.”

Her headlining shows are more like oddball musical theatre, but with a musical focus. At NXNE she won’t be able to tie the whole evening together, but Hughes does promise some surprises and “antics.”

She’s now backed by a six-piece band that allows her to rock out a lot harder than she ever did as a solo performer. Keep an eye out for her debut album. She’s currently wrapping up recording, and it comes out this year. - NOW

"NXNE Thursday: Dodos, Deerhoof, Allie Hughes, Anagram and Fucked Up"

I've already covered Allie Hughes in the past, and after Thursday's performance, my earlier impressions of her talent and appeal still hold true: that is, Allie is a great performer, one with a keen sense humor and with the musical chops to back up her theatrics.

That being said, when I had seen Allie perform in the past she was mostly without her backing band. On Thursday night, she brought her whole band with her to Wrongbar. And not only is everyone in her band a great musician, but more importantly, they're great supporting actors. Each band member helped enhance a portion of Allie's performance, but they did so without ever taking the spotlight away from her. - Blog TO

"NXNE Four Fine Acts"

Allie Hughes, at Wrongbar: Pop cabaret princess Allie Hughes addressed her fans in German, sent some operatic top notes right through the low club ceiling, and at one point knocked all her band members insensible to the floor just by pointing at them. She sang the hell out of her well-made ditties, which fuse the ethos of Tin Pan Alley with that of a proto-rock club in the Weimar Republic. “Why you want to break my heart?” she wailed, in one well-choreographed sequence, and in spite of the show’s campy artifice, it sounded like she really, really meant it. I think she may be the reincarnation of Judy Garland, but more fun. - Globe and Mail

"Allie Hughes' Prom Night"

I spent my Saturday night inside of Allie Hughes’ dream—and it was fabulous. The Toronto-based singer was hosting her latest revue, Allie Hughes’ Prom Queen Dream, at the El Mocambo, where a classy crowd gathered, dressed in suits and puffy dresses. Hughes is known for wrapping her songs in stories and transforming her shows into a cabaret, and, for this event, prom night—that marker of maturity that conjures warm memories and adolescent awkwardness alike—set the narrative theme, allowing Hughes to play out her ideal high school–dance scenario.

At 10:30 p.m. sharp the “school principal” stepped on-stage to welcome us to our prom and introduce the opener for the night, Chad Longfellow (a.k.a. Gentleman Reg), a talented senior who set the mood with a set that was dreamily nostalgic (partly thanks to the absence of a rhythm section). The venue was a bit less than half full at this point and though people were crowding the stage, they were still too timid to dance. The night commenced with the announcement of the prom queen—the principal called out Hughes’ name and she took to the stage sporting a beauty-pageant smile, informing us that this was her dream, so “everything is happening according to me.”
It’s astonishing how easily Hughes can switch from sweet, breezy vocals to opera-like arias; her songs are simple, catchy pop creations, but embedded with rich storylines. As such, her music becomes the framework for various anecdotes and sets up her show’s plot points, like the duet she sings with her long-time crush Chad that culminates in Hughes’ crushing realization that Chad is gay, as he makes out with a random policeman.

By the end, Hughes has “killed” her band and cries bloody tears, before performing her standard cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” a rare case where the cover is better than the original.

To close the night, local cover band Dwayne Gretzky— starring as the in-house prom band, Pop Salvation—played a wonderful selection of songs by artists such as Elvis Costello, Marvin Gaye and The Beatles. Even though the venue had cleared out quite a bit by this point, the remaining crowd of about 60 people danced the night away. - The Grid TO

"Nine Acts that stood out from the pack"

Allie Hughes, Friday, Sneaky Dee’s: The smile-inducing set by zany local indie-pop diva Allie Hughes was by far the most fun of all the shows I caught at this year’s CMW. Melodramatic and theatrical, Hughes and her forceful, operatic voice took the bewildered audience on a bizarro trip through her multiple stage personas, slipping just as comfortably into a bright pop duet as a rocking power ballad. In less than half an hour, the young singer channelled Freddie Mercury, Elton John and Björk, with a punchy set that concluded with a fierce rendition of Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” Her eccentricities as a performer might be tedious if she wasn’t so damn good. A courageous, free-thinking record label could make her a big-time star. She just needs a few million bucks to stage a travelling opera that can match her imagination. - Toronto Star

"Ross Petty to Present Beastly Holiday Panto"

The music that night was courtesy of the astonishing Allie Hughes. You could call her a counterculture Katy Perry or a literate Lady Gaga, but she’s even more impressive than that. And her band (“The Boys”) rocks. - Toronto Star

"Allie Hughes, S/T EP"

If you haven’t yet heard of Toronto’s Allie Hughes, let me introduce you to her marvelous self-titled four-song EP.

If the music on Glee were this fantastically original and diverse, I would be a devoted fan.

“Headmaster” begins with a frilly piano intro and whimsical Broadway stylings, before transforming itself into a more straightforward pop song. And then back again, and back again, eventually adding in violins and multi-tracked harmonies to create a magical journey.

Ms. Hughes’ voice is completely delightful; it should come as little surprise that she once sang her way into the top ten finalists of How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?, a summer reality show on CBC which aimed to find a Maria Von Trapp for the Toronto production of The Sound of Music. But she’s not just a pretty voice: she also plays piano, among other instruments.

Ah, so you think you’ve got Allie Hughes pegged now, don’t you?

The EP takes a bit of a radical turn with the bizarrely ambitious “Damaged Nail,” where heavy guitars and a rousing polka beat introduce themselves with much fanfare and Hughes shows off some wonderfully absurd Kate Bush-by-way-of-Sparks vocals. This is the song that will separate the wheat from the chaff; you’ll either love it or hate it and even if it’s the latter, it will (like Kate Bush and Sparks) likely win you over despite yourself.

Then we have the more straightforward, but still capricious (whistles and kazoos?), “Not The Stars,” where Hughes pairs up with the Meligrove Band’s Darcy Rego. The song not only showcases the impressive vocal talents of both singers, but also proves that said vocals go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Somewhat more somber, but still achingly good, “Rolling Days” is a fitting closer, with a hypnotic refrain and more lovely vocals and intriguing lyrics.

If you are looking for something unique and incredibly engaging, please check out Allie Hughes. I’ll bet that you will find these songs stuck in your head when you least expect it, in a way that compels you to listen to them over and over again.

Be sure to also check out a couple of Allie Hughes videos (”O Chad” and “Should I”) on the Southern Souls website.

Allie Hughes’ self-titled EP was released on September 28. For more on Allie Hughes, visit her website or MySpace page. - Popshifter

"Cross the Stream"

As far as I can tell, Allie Hughes' self-titled debut exists only in the pages of her official bio. From my limited research, the only way most people can hear it is via her site, and even then you can only listen to a stream of the EP's four tracks.

Now, for the most part I don't like to recommend streaming albums. I'm only able to listen to music that way on my home computer, which makes it horribly inconvenient for me -- and, I assume, many other people. In Hughes' case, however, that inconvenience is far outweighed by the fact that her debut EP is outstanding, and that she's clearly a very talented artist (as if that wasn't apparent from her stint on CBC reality show How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria).

Surprisingly, the latter part of that last sentence isn't what makes the EP worth hearing -- though, obviously, it doesn't hurt. No, Hughes' debut is worth checking out because she doesn't try and confine her talents to one narrow genre of music. She's got an obvious willingness to try out new things, and that manifests itself in the form of an EP that finds her going from Death Cab For Cutie-esque pop (on "Not The Stars"), to radio-friendly electro-pop ("Headmaster"), to complete insanity ("Damaged Nail") in less than fifteen minutes. It makes it impossible to tell how her full-length debut -- due out next year, apparently -- is going to sound, but it also makes for an absolutely riveting listening experience. - i(heart)music

"Best EP's of 2010"

I still have no idea whether Allie Hughes' self-titled EP actually exists, or if it's streaming-only, or if it's supposed to be a secret (though the fact others are now writing about it gives me cause for hope). What I do know, however, is that her four-song debut shows that she's not only got a whole lot of ambition, but a whole lot of talent, too. - i(heart)music

"Born Ruffians Whip Fans Into Frenzy"

The first opener was the theatrical Allie Hughes and her band, made up of some great musicians including the busy violinist Randy Lee and no-less busy guitarist Jordan Howard (who we would later see in The Magic). The band was dressed up, though apart from a bride (Hughes) and groom (keyboardist Johnny Spence) there was no apparent theme. In this, and in Hughes' clear comfort on stage, her musical theatre background shone through. (In 2008 she was a contestant in the CBC television series, How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria.)

The audience warmed up to Hughes and her band's unique pop tunes fairly quickly, appreciating her impressive vocal chops and somewhat outlandish on-stage behaviour. Just after the half-way point, Hughes performed a number ("Headmaster") on keyboard with only her bass player (Bram Gielen) accompanying her. But her "groom" was on stage, too: she had called him back and told him to hold her microphone for her! It was pretty funny. The surprising "Damaged Nails" received big cheers. But the highlight of the set for me was the final number, "Not the Stars," for which Meligrove Band bassist Darcy Rego came up for a spirited vocal duet with Hughes. The song — the band's "pop hit" we were told — ended a too-short set. - Sticky Magazine

"My Picks From Bellwoods (NXNE)"

Allie Hughes‘ presence is unquantifiable, she immediately radiates the kind of grace, and strangemess that leaves you plainly- infatuated with her. Everything she does, her cabaret-style song and dance, her bizarre yet beautiful vocals, or her general comical disposition. Everything about her is a performer. With the help of an accordian, guitar and drums, Allie introduced us into a new realm of performing (authentic. fun.) She was an absolute delight, one of my favs. - Friends With Both Arms

"NXNE 2010 : Show Picks: Canadian Buzz Bands"

Allie Hughes
Midnight @ The Garrison
You might recognize her as a finalist on the How to Solve a Problem Like Maria TV show, but don’t let it skew your opinion on her singer-songwriter abilities. I generally have an immediate hate-on for musical theatre-style artists, but it’s impossible to not like her. -

"Born Ruffians' Super-Packed Show Makes For Tough Viewing"

The night began with openers Allie Hughes and The Magic.
Hughes, dolled-up in a bride costume, dazzled the crowd with her outrageously entertaining theatrical flare and Broadway-bound voice.
- Chart Attack

"Her Favorite Things (Sarah Liss)"

Being a song-and-dance man (or woman) may be an asset in getting you a gig hosting the Oscars, but it rarely proves helpful when you’re trying to make it as a respected working musician of the singer-songwriter variety. Too often, artists who attempt to cross over from musical theatre to independent rock or pop suffer from an excess of theatricality.

Though many artists with a background in performance bring meticulous technical training to the table, it’s rare to see someone straddle the line between soft-shoe entertainer and viable troubadour without channelling nightmarish memories of Corky and the Juice Pigs. When a musician pulls it off with grace, it’s cause for celebration. So we should celebrate Toronto’s Allie Hughes, who’s currently balancing a stint in the production of “zany” musical A New Brain at the Berkeley Street Theatre with a month-long weekly residency at the Drake, which wraps up Monday (March 2).

“Credibility is a word that definitely springs to mind when it comes to crossing over,” laughs Hughes, who is refreshingly frank about the pitfalls that await musical theatre geeks who aspire to be rock darlings. She’s about to list some particular gong shows she’s witnessed, but stops short, scolding herself for being openly critical of “my friends’ projects.”

It’s not just Hughes’ ability to juggle an exhausting onstage schedule that deserves kudos; her songs are charming and free of cheesy High School Musical kitsch. She writes in a sparkling pop style with slight elements of jazz and cabaret that betray her pedigree, and her vocals often bubble over into striking classical and operatic runs.

She also has a keen storyteller’s ability to write narratives that suit her smart hooks. Perhaps the best testament to her indie bona fides, though, is the fact that her band is made up of remarkably talented players from the local indie scene: Thom Gill, Steven McKay and Bram Gielen, whose credits include Bruce Peninsula and Katie Stelmanis’ backing band (of which Hughes was briefly a member). She credits Stelmanis with helping her curry favour and broaden her contacts within the indie community.

“I do know there’s a theatricality to what I do,” she admits. “The word ‘quirky’ gets used a lot — pretty much every time I do a performance. But I feel like as a songwriter I still have a lot to learn and a lot to listen to and be influenced by. I mean,” she giggles nervously, “not to say my songs are bad. I think they’re pretty good, but….”

Hughes has an innate critical candour, which seems like one of the more productive results of her background. (She graduated from Sheridan’s Musical Theatre program.) Experiencing constant blunt rejections on the audition circuit certainly forces artists to be realistic about the scope of their skills. In Hughes’ case, some of those critiques happened in an even more public forum: she was one of the aspiring rogue nuns in last summer’s CBC reality series How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

Naysayers would see that line in her CV as yet another strike against Hughes’ credibility, but she feels differently. She’s sanguine about her participation in the series.

“The first two episodes, the documentary segment where we went to ‘Maria School,’ felt really sketchy. I almost quit. I was in Katie’s band, and we were about to open for Basia Bulat on tour, but I ended up staying because the producers said Andrew Lloyd Webber was interested in me.

“At least in the preliminaries, the people who were casting were the same people who do the auditions for all Mirvish Productions shows, so it seemed to have a… legitimacy that, say, Canadian Idol doesn’t.”

I’d tend to agree. It seemed like the triple-threat requirements of Maria tended to attract competitors of a higher calibre than the Canadian Idol wannabes. Though the Idol franchise may have succeeded in producing a handful of successful prefab personalities Stateside (and a fair number of washouts), the Canadian version has way more alums who became painful pop punchlines. Very few have managed to meet even the basic goal of the show — maintaining a TV-generated fanbase who’ll buy enough records to please the affiliated major labels and big-time producers.

It’s no surprise that CTV put Canadian Idol on an indefinite hiatus this year. The franchise is all about locating human investment opportunities that will pay dividends down the road, and, in our current recessionary climate, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to sink a chunk of cash into an untested kid with an uncertain future. The show itself always struck me as a very expensive marketing campaign for an album that hadn’t been written or recorded yet.
That, it seems, was a large part of Hughes’s motivation for trying to Solve A Problem Like Maria.

“Okay, [to be] diplomatic,” she begins, “it wasn’t training-intensive, but I did learn a lot in terms of being able to put material up in a week on television and having things be clean and polished. There weren’t many downsides to it, other than not making any money. It was definitely one of the most nerve-racking things I’ve ever done.

“If I’d ended up getting the part, I would’ve been locked into a two-year contract, with seven or eight shows a week. They basically own you. It was terrifying to think about winning. I never actually wanted to be Maria,” she laughs. “It was mostly helpful in getting exposure.” - Eye Weekly


EP Allie Hughes


Feeling a bit camera shy


If you're planning to catch Allie Hughes' live show in the near future, consider bringing a comrade for emotional and physical support. You might start crying and questioning your sexuality or you may forget to breathe, causing you to fall to a heap from lack of oxygen. In true trendsetting form, Toronto’s freshest weirdo pop princess has created a perfect hybrid between genre-bending alt-pop and the most engaging elements of a budding musical theatre career. "You could call her a counterculture Katy Perry or a literate Lady Gaga, but she’s even more impressive than that. And her band rocks." (Toronto Star). From her unique performance style, abundance of good press and insanely versatile voice, Allie Hughes is a name that has quickly become a staple of the Toronto music scene. In the past year she has shared the stage with The Born Ruffians, Avi Buffalo, Mother Mother, Zeus, Woodhands, Fucked Up, Sweet Thing, and Chromeo. She has co-written with songwriting legend Ron Sexsmith, Broken Social Scene founder Brendan Canning and is always excited by new collaborators and innovators that inspire new thoughts and impulses in performance and creation. Her debut LP is being recorded with Damian Taylor best known for his many years of work with Bjork and recent success with Austra’s “Feel It Break”. How does one classify Allie Hughes? The only way to really find out is to go to see her play live before she gets big and starts shooting laser beams from her fingers.