There are thousands of inspirational quotes about personal growth out there. And to be frank, most of them make us want to scoop out our eyeballs with a melon baller and say, “That’s it, I’m leaving social media for good this time.” But, there’s a nugget of truth behind every Pinterest post that says “The Best is Yet to Come.” The potential for growth is what keeps an artist hungry to create, and one of the best ways to experience that growth is through introspection—a process Alexandra Sholler, known professionally as Alison Wonderland, underwent for her third studio album, “Loner.”
“I was writing this album and, at the very start, I listened to my last couple of albums and I’d never done that before,” Sholler says. “I was like, ‘Why are you always the victim? Why does this always happen to you?’ Then I realized the common denominator was me, how I was reacting to situations and how I felt about myself. I had to take a long, hard look in the mirror—which was embarrassing and difficult. I made a lot of changes to myself, rather than trying to change everything around me.”
“Loner” is commonly used to show sympathy for someone who’s a social outcast, but when Sholler looked inward she found power in the word. Sholler no longer wanted anyone to feel sorry for her, so she decided to make conscious choices that would alter her own reality. This process, although uncomfortable, lent itself to not just the title of the album, but a mindset that allowed her to create a project that acknowledges the darkness while emanating a message of hopeful optimism.
“I loved playing with ideas of polarity throughout this album,” Sholler says. “Extreme light is the same as extreme dark and extreme heat is the same as extreme cold. I really feel being at your extreme rock bottom allows you to bring out your best self, and that’s what I wrote about. I wrote about knowing I’ll get through this and I’m going to come out winning. Because if I kept going the way I was, I wouldn’t be able to get to where I wanted to be in life.”
It took a long time for Sholler to get to the point where she was able and willing to face her problems head on. During the time she was writing her second studio album, “Awake,” she found herself alongside people and in environments shrouded in negativity. “During ‘Awake,’ I was realizing there was some self-worth here and I think I was letting myself not be treated very well,” she says. “In my single ‘Church,’ I talk about how I should be treated, but I don’t think I’d done the full mental work to really evolve. There was still a bit of aftershock from the trauma I’d been through earlier, which I started actually dealing with before I started writing ‘Loner.’ Now I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from me and the next time something happens, at least I’ll be a little more equipped.”
The time away from performing during the pandemic gave Sholler the time to work on herself. Quarantine allowed her to sit alone in the quiet of her own home for days at a time, an experience she hadn’t been able to enjoy since she released her debut single, “Get Ready,” in 2013. Nevertheless, a member of her inner circle ultimately gave her the mantra that would not only help her heal, but would set the tone for her next album. “When I was really at my rock bottom and trying to work through things, I was crying in a Starbucks drive-through with my friend,” Sholler says. “I was bawling my eyes out because I was trying really hard to fix myself but nothing was going my way, as much as I tried. I was like, ‘Is it gonna be like this forever?’ and he looked at me and said, ‘It’ll feel like forever until it doesn’t.’ And when he said that to me, it completely changed my mindset.”
“It’ll feel like forever until it doesn’t” kept Sholler going every day and once she got into this headspace, everything began to align. She stopped expecting her life to change overnight and put in the work to make a lasting impact, which gave way to her album’s introductory track—“Forever.” The track sets the tone for an album that encapsulates a very significant time in her life—her rebirth.
“When I listen to each of my albums, I can tell you exactly what I was going through, who I was around, what food I was eating, what the weather was like—I could tell you everything,” Sholler says. “The bulk of the album, bar maybe two songs I wrote earlier, were songs I wrote in a short period of time, one right after another. I’m always telling a story with my albums and part of the reason I do albums is for me. Putting together random songs that don’t capture the essence of a moment feels like a Spotify playlist. And when I DJ, I also try to tell a story in my set with the mood and the energy.”
Throughout the album, Sholler touches on all the aspects of her journey, both the dark and the light. With “Bad Things,” despite the title suggesting otherwise, she penned one of the most positive and uplifting singles on the project. On “Cocaine” she paints the personification of the infamous stimulant—a figure frequently found in the electronic music industry. In “Fuck U Love U,” she addresses polarity most directly through the chorus “Fuck you love you, hate you want you,” which speaks to the opposing emotions that come from working toward a difficult goal. She then finishes the album with the title track, arguably her most vulnerable song of all time.
“That song is an open letter to my rock bottom,” Sholler says. “I still actually have a very difficult time talking about that specific song and I can’t listen to it. It started off as a poem and I’d read it to a couple of friends who weren’t emotional types—but even they shed a tear. I knew the words and the spirit behind them were very powerful. I wanted to tell myself that it was OK to be vulnerable and it was OK to cry about this, even when you’re trying to be so strong.”
In writing her albums, Sholler has not only focused on where she was, whom she was with and how she felt in those moments, she also picked up on signs from the universe. Like her namesake, who follows a white rabbit throughout Wonderland, Sholler began noticing another woodland creature around every corner while she was writing her second studio album. “I have a tiger tattooed on my arm, because when I was writing ‘Awake,’ I would see tiger statues, pictures or paintings everywhere I looked. Everywhere I went, they followed me. I’ll probably do the same thing when this album comes out, because I saw ‘333’ everywhere when I was writing ‘Loner.’”
Whether she knew it at the time or not, the universe was setting up Alexandra Sholler for success all along. In angel numbers, the sequence “333” indicates you’re on the right track, positive things are coming your way and a bright future is in store. And with a third album available to the masses, numerous festivals coming down the pipeline and a new outlook on life empowering her next move, we’re certain Sholler is looking at forever through a new set of eyes.