Pixey has had a scintillating 2021 so far. Having reannounced herself earlier with her first EP since signing with Chess Club Records, after being almost ruined by the music industry before, the North West native isn’t letting go as she gets a second bite of the apple.
Last month, Pixey – real name Lizzie Hillesdon – burst into summer in shimmering style with the euphorically baggy ‘Sunshine State’. Pixey has become an artist you can rely on for a pick-me-up, and her recent output sees her jumping for joy which has made for an enlivening topic this year especially.
Her EP, Free To Live In Colour, worked as the first Pixey 2.0, and ‘Sunshine State’ shows that this chapter is only just getting started. Hillesdon is blessed with a zestful lust for life which is infectious, and she’s ready to make up for lost time as she embarks on this exciting chapter of her career now things have finally clicked perfectly into gear.
Not only is she one of the most exciting indie-pop artists bubbling away in Britain at the moment, but Pixey is also a self-taught producer. Her new single saw her link up with former Vaccines drummer Pete Robertson, who also produces for Beabadoobee, and opening her eyes to collaboration has been a liberating experience. “It’s really interesting,” the artist notes about her experience of working with others over Zoom to Far Out from her home studio. “Because part of growing as a producer, you’ve got to let your guard down a bit and not be afraid to learn from new people. But at the same time, it’s also good to keep your grip on the songs and be sure about how you want them to sound. This (‘Sunshine State’) was an interesting little challenge of finding that balance between the two and like still having my stamp on it.”
The producing aspect is as integral to Pixey as the songwriting process, and for her, the two go hand in hand. “It’s the most empowering thing to sit at a computer and know how you can make the sound that’s in your head,” she passionately explains. “And then when you start to talk to other producers, they can take that and then use their even more advanced knowledge to bring it that level higher, which I feel like Pete did with this track.”
Earlier this year, a shocking study compiled by The University of Southern California trawled through the production credits of the 800 highest-selling songs from 2012-2019 discovered that less than 2% of producers were women. The visibility of women working in the sphere of production is an issue, and artists like Pixey can lead a revolution that helps bring equality to this area of the industry.
“There are not many role models in terms of women in the industry sort of being put on a pedestal and then being pushed forward,” Pixey comments in reflection of the damning study. “I’ve been in and out of LIPA (Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts), not because I went there but knew a lot of people there. I’d go in to look at the sound tech courses, and it’s heavily male-orientated. I think it can put women off.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a female producer,” she remarkably discloses. “It’s always been men. I guess when you look at an industry, and it’s very male-dominated, it can feel intimidating to make a jump into that and can feel quite alienating. I think maybe we just need more women coming forward and showing other women they can do it,” she added.
The story of how Pixey fell into both producing and music is entrenched in sadness with an improbable happy ending. In 2016, she was left hospitalised after a mystery illness took hold, leaving her unable to do anything, which inadvertently led to her starting her love affair with creating music. “In my recovery, I was basically in hospital for months and just sat there with my laptop. Then when I got into recovery at home, I got really into it, and I started looping things because I couldn’t play the guitar. I literally couldn’t play,” she laughs. “That’s why everything started getting looped, but then I realised I like that sound.
“That’s why my production is like totally off the wall,” she continues with a giggle. “Because I came up that way, I was experimenting with sounds, I guess in ways other people might not have thought.”
Pixey continued: “Then I started writing, and these tunes just came out, then it became a necessity to write. I didn’t know how I ever existed without it,” she says with sincerity. “It really helped me in so many ways. They say music shouldn’t be a healing thing, but it really helped me physically and emotionally.”
Pixey’s lack of traditional musical education has given her sound a distinct flair, making her tracks exhilarating, unpredictable, and keeping you on your toes as a listener. Although, it has been far from a fairytale story for Hillesdon since her recovery from the illness. It didn’t take long for her talent to catch the eye of a label, but things didn’t go as she envisaged, and Pixey found herself back at square one with music going from a full-time occupation back to a hobby.
At the start of last year, Pixey realised she was unhappy with her job and decided to give music another go. On the surface, the timing couldn’t have been any worse as the pandemic struck, but on an artistic level, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. “For me, it was like a bit of a blessing to be able to have that time to just not worry, and I really pushed myself. I wrote so much I wrote a lot of this EP and the last few things around that time,” Pixey notes.
Her new music caught the attention of Chess Club Records, which is home to emerging talents like Alfie Templeman and Phoebe Green. Additionally, the illustrious new music label’s alumni include Wolf Alice, Jungle, and Easy Life, who all went on to a path that doesn’t look out of reach for Pixey.
Despite the hardship that Hillesdon has had to face, she’s inspiringly never lost her hopeful spirit. Not only is Pixey’s music uplifting, but her triumphant story is too, and the future for her is kaleidoscopic.