Heartbreak has provided inspiration for endless songs and albums, not only because the topic is so universal but also because everyone somehow still has their own unique spin on it. For Nashville-based singer-songwriter Allison Mahal, a breakup was a catalyst for deep self-discovery and growth, as well as for her debut EP, Me Now.
The EP follows the emotional trajectory of a breakup: first, you get sad as you think back on the happy memories you shared with your ex, then you begin to cheer up as you remember why you broke up in the first place, and finally, you become more independent and aware of what you do and don’t want in the future.
After a brief drum intro, “Magic” sets the scene both sonically (think updated ’80s vibes) and thematically, touching on the healing power of music and name-dropping Sufjan Stevens. “After my breakup, I would dance in my room; I would rearrange my furniture and put on my favorite songs,” Mahal recalls. Lyrically, she reminisces on the things she misses about her ex – as well as her most desperate moments of post-breakup longing. With lines like “Looks like your magic is still wearing on me/I can’t shake it off in my sleep,” she puts a surprisingly negative twist on the idea of magic; here, it’s more like a curse than a blessing. “When I wake up in the morning and I feel you by my side/I’m so tired of this magic keeping us alive,” the chorus concludes.
With its upbeat percussion and electric guitar, Mahal describes it as the most heavily-produced of the collection. “I really wanted to make a song I could dance to in my room,” she says. “I didn’t want the production to emulate sadness because the lyrics were sad enough.”
Next comes the title track – a fun, deceptively breezy song full of plucky guitar riffs, where Mahal reflects on the ways she diminished herself to be in the relationship. “[I had] this revelation after repeatedly making myself small in relationships — small in the sense of being super agreeable and keeping shit bottled in because there was fear that who I was as a person and my truth would make people less interested,” she says. “I wanted to be confident in who I am, and I was dimming my shine just to be agreeable in relationships.” In the final lines, she belts, “All I have is me now,” acknowledging that she became more present when she wasn’t shrinking herself for anyone.
In “October,” a slow, contemplative song incorporating string arrangements and raw, emotive vocals, she reflects on what she could have done differently in the relationship as her ex becomes “a stranger who passes me by.” “Mustangs” finishes out the EP with a poppy reprieve, describing that feeling of hope that you’ll run into your ex whenever you see the car they drive, while simultaneously hoping it’s not them because you know you need space to heal.
Mahal started the recording process in fall 2019, using producer and guitarist Sam Roller’s home studio as well as the famous Ocean Way Nashville Recording Studios. She, Roller, and Van Isaacson, who also played synths and violin, produced the EP together, and “Mustangs” was the only song they kept the same after the first recording. They listened to the rest and thought, “we want to make them more indie pop, less studio version, more electronic, and incorporate weird sounds and take our time,” she remembers.
Mahal has been playing guitar and songwriting since she was 12 years old and studied music business at Belmont University in Nashville. In addition to her career as an artist, she works as a PR rep for musicians, which she loves but views as separate from her music. She released her first single, “Little Blue,” in 2018, followed by “Me Now” and “Mustangs” this year.
She was going to therapy while recording the EP, which helped her to process the emotions that went into the music. “I had a lot of unsettled pain I didn’t know how to deal with on my own,” she says. “I was writing these songs and realizing a lot about myself and what I want in relationships, romantically and platonically. I think I found growth through pain, through writing these songs, through recording these songs, through therapy, and through surrounding myself with people who encouraged me to be vulnerable, who don’t make me feel small.” She counts Roller and Isaacson among these people, so recording the EP was an especially liberating process for her. “I felt I could be my loudest and my truest self, and that was super healing,” she says.
“I had a tendency of being a chameleon to make people feel comfortable in a room, and it took me until the recording process of this EP to realize it’s okay not to be an agreeable person all the time,” she says. “You can be a very kind-hearted person and still disagree with someone. You can be vocal and confident. It’s okay to mess up with your peers and make mistakes in relationships and learn from it, and you don’t have to be this perfect shell of a human and as a female. I’m learning it’s okay to take up space.”