Country Music People March 2019 - Page 59

J Breakout artist Jimmie Allen speaks to Duncan Warwick ahead of his C2C appearances this month. immie Allen ain’t no quitter that’s for sure. As one of the breakout artists of the past year he has enjoyed a #1 Country Airplay hit and a Top 5 Hot Country with his single Best Shot it comes as vindication for his never give up spirit. Arriving in Nashville in 2007 he was on the early stages of the same series of American Idol as Scotty McCreery and in his early days in town was homeless and living in his car. Recalling his time on Idol, Allen says, “When you’re creative and you’re an artist, a show like American Idol is really frustrating, you know, because you can’t create, you can’t work with a band as far as like break downs and chord changes and stuff like that, you’re kind of just stuck to a template. Idol was really focussed on singers, not really artists. Artists, we like to create, we have a vision… “I moved to Nashville in 2007 and worked every job you could imagine from a janitor to a school teacher to personal trainer and nutritionist. Anything just to keep the dream going,” says the modest singer and songwriter poised to play live in the UK this month at C2C on the Spotlight Stage and as part of the CMA Songwriters series. “Oh, you’ve got to be committed,” he continues, “and you’ve got to be confident in who you are and what you have to say, because along the way you’ll meet so many people who will say, ‘Well, you’ll be successful if you do this or if you do that’. If you turn into what other people want you to be just to be successful, you’ll get burned out, you won’t be happy, and your fans will start to see that it’s not really you, it’s fake. True happiness comes from just being yourself and doing what you love and you’ve got to have both of those things. I’ve found that if I stay true to who I am eventually I get my chance because I feel like life is all about opportunities. If you create your own opportunities from working hard and putting yourself in the position and around people taking notice of you and what you’re doing. 2016 I got a publishing deal. 2017, ten years after I moved to Nashville, I finally got a record deal and I’m so glad I waited because I feel like I can finally be myself and be successful now than if I would have conformed ten years ago.” Hailing from the New England state of Delaware, there must have been many a time Allen considered heading back home. “Oh, man, there were plenty of times I thought about it but I’m just not the quitting type. I feel like in order to be successful in anything you’ve got to be stubborn and I’m as stubborn as they come. If I’ve got my mind set on something there ain’t nobody going to take it, nobody. And I feel like that’s what helped me with chasing this dream.” Raised on 80s country by his dad, Jimmie Allen dismisses the idea that there are moves afoot to ‘diversify’ country music. “Nah, I don’t think so. I think it’s just finally people are having enough confidence to be themselves. People are no longer afraid to step out and be the only one and I feel like I’m from the generation of people who are being okay with accepting who you are and if they don’t like you or like what you’re doing then that’s tough for them.” However, because of the colour of his skin many critics and journalists like to throw the word ‘soulful’ around when describing Allen’s sound. “Oh yeah, it’s pretty funny. Soulful is another way for people to say, ‘he’s black’. ‘We’re not saying black’, that’s what it is. I think it’s funny,” he says with a laugh. “If you want to get into soul and country music, soulful is Chris Young. Soulful is Chris Stapleton. But I think when people always say soulful they just say every black person is soulful whether it’s soulful or not. They just don’t get it. “Country music came from blues. Black people started country music. I did an interview last week and they said, ‘Jimmie, do you think it’s great that black people are starting to get into country music?’ I’m like, ‘Starting to get into it? We created it. What are you talking about?’ We created country music. When you go back and ask George Jones who taught him a lot of stuff — a black guy. The banjo comes from Africa. Country music is nothing but the blues. What happened was, around the time Motown was getting started country went Western, so a lot of black people started to get into Motown and a lot of white guys and white families were getting into Western and bluegrass country music, and you listened to what your parents were listening to. I just think it’s great that people are not afraid to be themselves any more.” Previously Jimmie Allen has suggested that country music wasn’t quite ready for him before but early indications are that he will be one of the major stars of the coming few years. His enthusiasm is contagious and he could do well as a motivational speaker. “Oh yeah,” he asserts, “because when I first started I was told I was too pop for country and yet I was too country for pop. So I found myself just sitting around waiting and not really fitting in anywhere and now finally I’m in a place where everything’s better.” One of the tracks on Allen’s album Mercury Road is titled Underdogs, something to which Allen can personally relate. However, when it comes to Jimmie Allen it just makes him stronger. “People saying I can’t do something, it fuels me. It makes me work harder and I love it.” cmp Jimmie Allen: Mercury Lane is available now. MARCH 2019 - cmp 59