Like many teenagers in the “fly-over states,” Allison Ponthier had big city dreams when she graduated from Allen High School in 2014.
Those dreams became realized in 2017 when she moved to Brooklyn with a limited cash supply and an insatiable desire to devote her life to music.
“I was really, really into my hobbies, and I found it a little bit hard to make friends,” she explained. “And because of that, I always had dreams of moving to a big city, but when I moved to the big city, [I was] completely starting over, and I did have a soft spot for where I grew up and where I came up.”
This feeling of homesickness was the subject of “Cowboy,” one of two songs currently released under her name. The 2021 single’s opening lyrics alone encapsulate the reconciliation of her identity as a Texan and a New Yorker with nine words: “It took New York to make me a cowboy.”
While New York gave Ponthier a newfound confidence to embrace her once-suppressed LGBTQ identity, she contends that through it all, she is a Texan first.
“I think no matter what it is, whether it’s being gay or where you grew up, you can’t run from who you are,” she said. “’Cowboy’ is supposed to be a marriage of who I am on the inside and being comfortable with it in every sense.”
Ponthier’s other single, “Harshest Critic,” takes on a less empowering, self-actualized tone in the way it documents insecurity.
“Who’s the harshest critic in the room? / It could be the studio audience,” she sings in the track.
This metaphorical studio audience notwithstanding, Ponthier achieved a benchmark rite of passage in her career last week when she made her late night television debut on NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where she performed alongside folk rock band Lord Huron for their song “I Lied.”
“I never thought I would get to do this so early in my career,” she said ecstatically. “It seemed like a really big bucket list thing, so I was extremely shocked when Lord Huron was like, ‘We would love to have you on for that performance.’”
Days prior to this, it was announced that Ponthier would be performing the first weekend of this year’s Austin City Limits Music Festival, whose lineup boasts headliners George Strait, Billie Eilish, Stevie Nicks and Miley Cyrus.
She is also working on releasing an EP via Interscope Records.
Ponthier credits the Phoenix Program at Allen High School for its conduciveness to the creativity behind her work, adding that it made her embrace her quirks and distinctive character.
As she continues her career in the national spotlight, she said she hopes to be an inspirational figure to other Allen ISD students with similar life experiences as her own.
“I really hope there are other kids in Allen or DFW who can kind of relate to what I’m going through, especially young queer kids,” she said. “I think it’s really hard for them to grow up in a place where they don’t see a lot of other people like themselves.”