Featured Photo Credit: Julian Buchan
Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Allison Ponthier has unveiled her most personal and vulnerable EP yet, Shaking Hands With Elvis. The six song project provides listeners with a front row seat, as the alt country artist wrestles with identity and loss. During a press conference hosted by 1824, Ponthier shared more of her musical exploration and how it informed the vibrant and vulnerable EP.
Ponthier’s musical and personal journey began in her home state of Texas. It was there that she developed her John Prine meets pop sound that blends country, pop, and her University of Texas jazz trained vocals.
Although her Lone Star State roots provided a foundation for her music, her hometown stifled her growth. “I really thought that life started and ended with the opinions of my hometown,” she said. “and to know that there are so many different ways you can live and still be happy is really important.”
Ponthier’s move to New York was pivotal as it helped to shed her hometown perspective, evolve as a musician and and finally accept her queer identity. “I didn’t come out or feel safe to come out until I moved to New York,” she shared. “Being somewhere where you feel safe in yourself is a priority. That was something that was a huge lesson to me. I didn’t realize how much it would affect my quality of life.”
Her New York inspired realization is where the EP begins. The first track “Autopilot” expresses “the anger and resentment I had toward being different and screaming it out loud in a rebellious way,” Ponthier said.
The EP continues chronologically with “Chasing A Feeling” and “Hardcore.” Both songs carry on Ponthier’s cathartic evolution. Eventually at the EP’s midpoint, the single confronts “the line between celebrity and person,” with “Hollywood Forever Cemetery,” a nod to the storied Los Angeles resting place of Marilyn Monroe and peers.
The single is accompanied by a music video directed by Jocelyn & Dawn through Biscuit Filmworks. The surreal and psychedelic video plays on the theme by featuring caricatures of celebrities.
This new video and her previous videos provided a platform for Ponthier to express her many artistic talents pull inspiration from the dioramas at the Museum of Natural History where Ponthier was once a social media manager.
Following “Late Bloomer,” the project concludes with “Shaking Hands with Elvis,” which Ponthier considers “the most evolved version of myself” and “the period at the end of a sentence.”
The track’s inspiration comes from the passing of Ponthier’s friend, and plays off the death euphemism ‘shaking hands with elvis.’ The glittering track envisions, “An afterlife that resembles a rhinestone Graceland,” she explained, featuring her “friend because he was a piano player…being in a band in the afterlife.”
Originally hesitant to delve into her grief, she found the process of writing “Shaking Hands With Elvis” to be cathartic. “ When we started writing it it was very easy to write in the sense that I had so much to say, but it was hard to write in the sense that it wasn’t something that I was great at talking about. The song really did help me process it because I had never processed it before, and to be honest it still really hurts.”
Starting with her debut release “Cowboy,” to Shaking Hands With Elvis, Ponthier has continued to express herself and her identity through authentic and relatable writing. “A big part of your identity is acknowledging your faults and weaknesses. In my real life, I’ve noticed that saying your problems out loud can actually be more relieving and be more empowering.”
Ponthier hopes that listeners of her six tracks will find, “that there is something interesting , fulfilling, and celebratory about talking about things you struggle with or your weaknesses, or your own faults.”