It’s difficult not to know who Allie Sherlock is if you’ve heard of and/or watched the musical part of YouTube, or tuned in for episodes of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” in 2018. When she was about nine, Allie started busking on the streets of the Douglas suburb in the Republic of Ireland’s second-largest city, Cork. By 11, she also had a weekly street performance on Grafton Street, one of Dublin city center’s two main shopping streets.

Those who couldn’t witness her singing and playing her guitar, ukulele, and rarely the piano, could see and hear her on her eponymous YouTube channel. Her father created it on 26 December 2014, filmed all her videos, and managed PR (public relations). Allie has amassed over 5.75 million subscribers as of early July 2023, primarily performing covers of well-known songs, typically slower numbers from Ed Sheeran, Adele, Lewis Capaldi and Billy Joel, and collaborating with other YouTubers, musicians and recording artists.

Allie can be heard on four albums released between 2017 and 2023, two EPs (extended play albums) in 2022, and several singles. However, many people don’t know about her life behind the scenes, including that she left public school, and that her mother’s death affected her profoundly. We investigated Allie’s early days in the music industry, to see if bullying was the only reason for her home-schooling as a pre-teen.

Allie left school for multiple reasons

She revealed that she was 10 or 11 when she left the mixed public school, stated that the time was challenging, especially because her mother had died a year or two before, and the wounds on her heart were fresh. Moreover, Allie didn’t leave her original school; she previously attended an all-girls school. That meant she was the new kid in the mixed one, which only worsened her bullying.

Her father, Mark Sherlock, learned about her issues, but his intervention produced no results, and she still felt isolated and stressed. That’s why he transitioned her to home-schooling and became her teacher. That allowed Allie to stay on top of her education, yet made her feel relaxed and safe. Simultaneously, she started busking, and her music took off locally before she began performing in Dublin. As her career progressed, she competed in the “Britain’s Got Talent” TV show, posted YouTube videos with her father’s help, and in 2018 signed a recording deal with Ryan Tedder, the OneRepublic band frontman,.

She said that bullying wasn’t physical

Allie moved from an all-girls school to a mixed primary school because it was closer to her house. Despite having some friends in both schools and friends in her area, Allie admitted that going to the new school as a newcomer proved stressful. She wasn’t bullied physically, but in a subtler, craftier way, which was hard to prove to herself and her father, and caused constant worry. Allie also admitted that it caused her to sweat profusely during sixth grade, which made the bullying more harmful and recovering from stress more annoying.

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In hindsight, Allie thinks that the children are a bit jealous, and she quickly overcame it with her father’s help, who saw the warning signs early and stepped in. When Mark realized that he couldn’t change the situation at school, he decided to homeschool his daughter. Allie could also hang out with friends that she made in two schools and locally, so her social life didn’t suffer. Later, she advised everyone who felt similar to tell someone about the bullying, and to believe that the situation would improve.

Mark also posted on Allie’s Instagram, @alliesherlock, and Facebook, @alliesherlock2005, on 23 June 2017, telling the bullies to leave her alone, mentioning Scoil Nicholas by name; he was particularly nasty and mean, and didn’t stop taunting Allie after she switched to homeschooling.

Her mother’s death affected her deeply

Allie’s mother Michelle passed away when she was nine, which was a sorrowful time, and every anniversary got harder. However, she said that having her father by her side made a crucial difference. Mark suggested writing about how she felt, putting her thoughts and feelings down on paper, many as song lyrics. That helped her get through the challenging period.

Allie also felt pleased knowing that people who read or heard her lyrics can relate to her pain, even if they aren’t in the same situation. She later said that she believed that her mother would be very proud of her achievements. Allie wrote a song, “The Night Before,” about her experience of the day before, and the day of her mother’s untimely passing, released on 5 February 2018 on YouTube.

Allie had her father’s support

Allie’s busking efforts took off, and she was happy to perform on the street. However, she admitted that this had a dark side, too; guys, often in their 40s, would touch her inappropriately under the guise of asking for a photo. That started when she was 14 or 15 and continued about once every two weeks. She also struggled with hate, such as comments from passersby trying to shake her confidence.

Luckily, her father, who was her music manager from the get-go, would always follow her around to ensure her safety, while recording her performances. Mark was aware of fellow father managers such as Joe Jackson, who managed his sons’ pop band, “The Jackson 5,” and Mitchell “Mitch” Winehouse, who famously left singer Amy Winehouse when she was nine, but reappeared at the height of her career to reap the benefits.

Therefore, he knew what not to do. Mark put all the money that Allie earned into a special bank account, and gave her an allowance. Moreover, he forbade her from using her YouTube account outside of community posts or special announcements, to shield her from negative comments. Mark was in charge of managing her followers, including banning troublesome viewers. He said that people’s ability to hide behind a non-descript image bothered him more than her.

Allie needed more time to experiment

Being homeschooled and protected by her father gave Allie a significant advantage in the music industry and the right amount of authenticity. She told The Sun Ireland magazine that going to school would take up her entire day, seven and a half hours of school attendance and up to four hours of homework, leaving little time for music.

Mark said that record labels approached Allie very early about recording music, but he only allowed her to do fun and appropriate items. That allowed Allie to avoid going on long tours, away from her father’s watchful eye, and start and stop recording music whenever she wanted. From the get-go, she said that she’d only pick out originals, or songs that tell her story the best.

Moreover, Allie admitted having problems keeping her ego in check when she started. According to her, when people told her she was amazing, she became a brat, started arguing, and got herself into trouble, forcing her father to set her straight.

She signed with Ryan Tedder

While protecting her image and childhood, her father helped her organize concerts at the Cork Opera House in December 2016, shortly after she left public school. Allie also reached the second round of the 12th “Britain’s Got Talent” series in 2017, and a year later, signed a five-year contract for several albums with Patriot Records, whose owner, Ryan Tedder, is the lead vocalist of the well-known pop band OneRepublic.

Again, her father protected her from burnout by having her sign a 50/50 record deal. That meant that the label gets half the profit from her albums’ sales in exchange for a large upfront sum for promotions and other expenses. She released four albums, “Can’t Let Go” in July 2017, “Allie Sherlock” a few months later in November, “A Part of Me” in June 2020, and “Allie” in April 2023.

Justin Bieber cyber-bullied Allie

Allie was a big fan of Justin, and stated that the two had exchanged pleasantries via Instagram in the past. At one point, she was supposed to have a songwriting session, but Justin couldn’t fit it into his schedule, and nothing came of it. Despite not collaborating, that connection would end well if Justin hadn’t posted scathing comments in June and July 2020. At the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, Justin unexpectedly left her a provoking Instagram comment in reply to her question, ‘What’s one thing you can’t live without?’

He wrote, ‘It hurts me that you would ignore or be silent regarding the racism that fills this globe. Fighting for black lives isn’t political; it’s FIGHTING FOR HUMANITY!’ He then doubled down by commenting, ‘I can’t live with you having a platform and not using it #BlackLivesMatter.’

Allie attempted to defend herself, saying that she previously mentioned racial inequality, but deleted some posts due to negativity. She also seemingly refused to conform to the trend of posting images of a pitch-black background or the organization’s logo, and raised awareness in her own way. Shortly afterwards, Allie realized that his comment left her in a precarious situation. She couldn’t win; some followers commented that she could’ve joined other celebrities and mentioned the organization and the movement; others were against using the standard way, and wanted her to demonstrate how and what she learned about the topic.

People criticized her tipping method

As her career grew, so did people’s displeasure with some of her traits and actions. Allie was publicly crucified for putting up a sign that said ‘Allie Sherlock. Tap card to TIP €3’ during a street performance on Grafton Street in Dublin in January 2022.

People were outraged that she would dictate the price, calling it contactless extortion, many commented that she should be grateful for any amount as a busker, but some defended her, saying that it came down to one euro per person, as she performed with two band members. After an avalanche of negative comments, Allie responded online, saying that she didn’t take any money and that the total amount went to her bandmates. Furthermore, she reminded everyone that tipping was voluntary.

Allie’s schooling method was the right move

Whether people agree with the quality of education through homeschooling is irrelevant. It saved Allie from bullying at school, and her father, Mark, proved the severity of the mistreatment when he was forced to call the bullies out publicly, using Allie’s social media profiles. On the other hand, leaving public school was a blessing, since it gave Allie time to enjoy her teenage years, busk on the streets, and record songs that she wrote, or cover tracks that she valued.

Allie’s music career succeeded because she was much happier and her schedule was flexible. After all, she had no pressure of taking classes and doing homework in one location, especially since it made her sad, anxious and angry, impeding her creativity. More importantly, it allowed her to travel to the USA to sign a contract with Patriot Records, and guest star in Ellen DeGeneres’ daytime comedy talk show.

Additionally, she used that time to collaborate with fellow singers and musicians on YouTube, such as Zoe Clarke, Filipe ColaresFabio Rodrigues, and John Mahon. Allie also worked with bands such as The3buskteers and established recording artists such as Charlie Puth.

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