Pop Rocks: Elle Exxe interviewed
We speak to Edinburgh's rising pop talent Elle Exxe ahead of a busy summer
Elle Exxe’s big break came in 2016, when she picked up the title of Best Female Solo Act at the inaugural Unsigned Music Awards in London. Since then, the rising electro-pop star has released her debut album, Love Fuelled Hate, and has a busy summer festival schedule ahead – she recently took to the stage at Isle of Wight Festival, and has further appearances at Sziget Festival in Budapest, and closer to home, V Festival and Carnival 56, on the cards.
To get to know the upcoming talent from Edinburgh a bit better, we begin by going back to the influences behind her rock-inflected sound, which she explains was formed from a common source. “Like most people I guess, my influences came from my dad. He was listening to Supertramp, The Beach Boys and The Eurythmics, he would play those CDs all the time [when] we went on long drives,” she tells us. “My brothers got me into Queen, Foo Fighters and Marilyn Manson, stuff like that.”
Growing up in Edinburgh also exposed the singer-songwriter to an eclectic range of music that has further inspired her own compositions. “There’s quite a good jazz scene in Edinburgh,” she affirms, which she says enabled her to develop her skills at saxophone and piano. “Also, the only underage club in Edinburgh was called The Mission,” she adds, “and I was kinda into Rage Against the Machine, heavy metal and emo music, and stuff like that growing up!”
Elle Exxe has been singing and writing songs since the age of 15, when she would perform under the name Harrison (her real name being Linda Harrison). She explains that the moniker Elle Exxe marked a transitional period in her career and holds a symbolic meaning on several levels. “There was a combination of things that happened. I wanted to escape the singer-songwriter behind the piano [image]. I wanted to make a break from that, and one of the first things that led me to it was when I sign off an email, I sign off with my initials, which is L, and a kiss – so Elle Exxe,” she reveals.
“There were a few other associations I had with it, and I like symmetry, so the palindrome style of Elle Exxe was interesting to me,” she continues. “And also it was feminine, you know! I was beginning to embrace myself as a woman and with ‘elle’ meaning ‘her’ in French and the double xx chromosome in ‘Exxe’, there were just loads of things that came together. It just worked for me on every level!”
With this rebranding comes a discussion of the image-based nature of pop music, and the fact that the genre is often regarded as superficial by many music critics. What does she think it is that makes pop music meaningful? “It’s accessible to the majority of the population,” she responds. “If you’re making commercial music it’s because it appeals to most of the people in society. Once you have something that’s popular, you can attach your message to it.
“So, for me,” she continues, “I’m really passionate about encouraging people to love one another, rather than the message which I feel is being promoted which is to love yourself. Which of course is important, but I feel like people have forgotten about loving each other.”
Her debut album Love Fuelled Hate expounds upon this message – described by herself as “a story of love kind of turning to hate” – is a collection of 14 brightly-coloured pop songs. “My music, if you looked at it superficially, it might sound completely disconnected to my deeper message, but in a lot of my music you’ll hear themes of me fighting against people that maybe haven’t been treating each other with love. You can’t hate someone without loving them first!” she adds with a laugh.
Turning to her upcoming slots at a number of high-profile festivals, the singer says she is particularly looking forward to performing at one of Scotland’s newest music festivals, Carnival 56 in Dundee. She'll share the stage this August with acts including Mark Ronson, The Fratellis, White, Honeyblood and Be Charlotte. She exclaims: “It will be really interesting and Dundee is a great place! And the line-up is really strong. I love White… oh, and Mark Ronson! I’ve heard Rudimental are pretty good live so I’m looking forward to seeing them as well.”
Speaking of festivals, as the conversation draws to a close we ask her who she would most like to share a festival stage with? Without hesitation she responds with, “Freddie Mercury. If he could come back, even as a hologram, I’d be like 'right, I’ll support that,'" she laughs.
And which song would they sing? “Don’t Stop Me Now, because I’d be having such a good time." With that kind of enthusiasm and love for a true pop classic, Elle Exxe's performances should appeal to the guilty-pleasure pop fans in all of us this summer season.
Elle Exxe plays Carnival 56, Camperdown Park, Dundee, 12-13 Aug