If you step outside of yourself, even for a moment, you may see your life more clearly...
Allan Rayman sometimes speaks in the third person—not in a pretentious manner, mind you. He treats “genre” with impartiality, objectively co-mingling soulful vocals, hip-hop soundscapes, folk eloquence and a bit of rock bombast within an ever-changing palette. With over 150 million streams to date, “The Most Mysterious Man in Music” follows a five-year arc to his fourth full-length, CHRISTIAN [Universal Music Canada/Republic Records]. It pays off on the promise of the critically acclaimed triptych—Hotel Allan, Roadhouse 01  and Harry Hard-On  and the 2017 EP Courtney—as he ventures into new territory once more.
“Courtney, Harry Hard-On and CHRISTIAN are the three albums Allan went out into the woods to write,” he says. “On Hotel Allan, I set up this kid who has to make a choice to balance his personal life and his passions. Courtney is sort of grungy. Harry Hard-On is figuring out how to make a body of work. To break it down further, Hotel Allan and Roadhouse 01 are ‘Roadhouse Albums.’ The ‘Roadhouse’ narrator is telling you a story. Whereas Courtney, Harry Hard-On and CHRISTIAN are Allan speaking firsthand. They are ‘Allan Albums.’ There’s naivety and angst in CHRISTIAN. It’s a bigger range of emotions. It’s Allan’s first stab at a full body of work. It’s the most confident album Allan has made.”
This confidence could be attributed to the cult following he has quietly garnered since 2015. Between selling out tours across the United States and Canada, he entranced audiences at festivals such as Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Ohana andOsheaga. Not to mention, he earned praise from Billboard, Pigeons & Planes, Highsnobiety, Interview Magazine, PAPER Magazineand more and garnered a nod in the category of “Breakthrough Artist of the Year” at the 2018 JUNO Awards. Somewhere along the way, he traveled to Alaska, which he cites as “very important.” He also sequestered himself in Los Angeles for nearly six weeks to record what would become CHRISTIAN with GRAMMY® Award-winning producer Alex Da Kid [Eminem, Dr. Dre].
“Alex showed me a different world from the world I live in back in Toronto,” Allan goes on. “I told him it’s not really for me, but it helped in a lot of ways. He gave me more to talk about. I understood myself more. I’m a mellow guy, so a bit of L.A. loudness doesn’t really mesh with me. He provided me with an opportunity to see L.A. I realized I didn’t like it, so I came back. I wrote about it though.”
He teased out CHRISTIAN in 2019 with “Pretty Please,” “Stitch” and “6AM.” Directing the video for the latter himself, Ones To Watchwrote, “The visual represents the contrast and irony that is present in this particular part of this unfurling story.” Meanwhile, he kicked off 2020 with “Chief,” which EARMILK proclaimed “an infusion of rap laced with rock-inspired drums.”
Threading together this seemingly disparate pastiche, CHRISTIAN pays homage to one consistent inspiration.
“The movies I was raised on were a major influence,” he admits. “I’ve been re-watching Christian Slater films, mainly Pump Up The Volume. My mom first encouraged me to watch it in like 2003. His character really resonates with me to this day. It’s almost like I’ve followed the same path. I never imagined myself connecting this much.”
The single “Road Warrior” fortifies this connection. Airy guitar and a drum roll play against his raspy delivery. He tells a story of a woman who’s “got a lot to say but never says it all” before crying out, “I’ll marry this girl.” Written in an RV park in the Pacific Northwest and recorded at sessions in Abbey Road Studios and Electric Lady Studios, it bottles a manic energy within a boisterous chant.
“We parked the RV in an RV park in Oregon, and I wrote the skeleton of ‘Road Warrior’,” he recalls. There was something special about it. We flew to London for some shows in Europe, and Abbey Road Studios invited us to do work in there. We got a large chunk of the song done there. We went to New York for an Electric Lady session with Ben Lovett from Mumford and Sons, and we put the finishing touches on it. Alex added his touch after.”
About the lyrics, he goes on, “Like most of my songs, it’s about a girl—often the same girl. As a whole, CHRISTIAN discusses the intimidation of really caring for someone and how frightening that can be sometimes, especially when things actually start working out. Now you’ve got it, you don’t want to lose it for the life of you. You get what you wanted for so long and feel the terror of now having it. You either lose it, or it’s finite.”
On the other end of the spectrum, a lilting arpeggio and eighties-style beat offset his gruff intonation on “I Talk To My Cigarette” before a rousing guitar lead.
“I actually talk to my cigarette,” he grins. “They’re like little therapists. As unhealthy as it might be, it’s extremely healthy mentally. It gives you time to reflect and offers perspective. I think the whole record is me just smoking a cigarette and talking to myself.”
Through the cigarette smoke and maybe just a little removed from this world, Allan offers up a piece of himself.
“If the music makes you feel, that’s fine by me,” he leaves off. “I don’t want to sound like some arrogant prick, but I feel good. I’m happy it’s done. I’m just a quiet dude who loves to play a show and write music. That’s really it.”