Jimmie Allen knows his worth. Never one to settle, Allen has overcome some of life’s toughest challenges to make a name for himself in country music, working his way to becoming one of the genre’s most promising up-and-coming acts.
His debut EP, Jimmie Allen, serves as a product of this steadfastness, as Allen set out to create a “motivational” project with the five songs centering around themes of love and standing strong in the face of adversity. It’s obvious when sitting down with Allen that he has no fear in achieving his dreams, stemming from his integrity in refusing to let other people’s opinions shape his identity.
“A lot of the times, artists, we want to be successful so bad, we tend to over-listen to people’s opinions of what we should be doing,” he explains to Sounds Like Nashville. “You’re too country; you’re not country enough; be more pop; add more R&B to your sound.” These are just a few of the creative boxes Allen found himself being placed in during industry meetings.
It was this feeling of being pulled in so many different directions that forced him to find his own path, one authentic to his artistry. “My dad was like ‘son, just grab your guitar and just write songs that you love and that best express you,’ he says. ‘Stick to it and eventually you will find the right team.’” And that’s exactly what he did. Forming a team of people who believe in him and his mission, Allen is on his way to becoming one of the most important young voices in country music.
Fans hear that in “Underdogs,” which acts as a personal theme song for Allen’s life, shining a spotlight on the “good guys,” “comeback kids” and “dreamers” – Allen knows what it’s like to fall into all these categories. With no money or place to live, Allen spent several of his early days in Nashville living out of his car. Though some may have abandoned their dreams for stability, it’s the passion for his lifelong goals that fueled Allen’s mental perseverance.
“The physical thing didn’t bother me,” Allen admits. “For me, it was more mentally tough because for years I’ve always known what I wanted and how hard I was willing to work. But my frustration came from other people not seeing it. It was more knowing your worth and knowing how much you’re willing to work and sacrifice and not having others believe in it and seeing people waste opportunities that I would give everything for.”
Though starving in a physical sense, Allen received nourishment during this challenging time through learning. Spending his days writing music in his car, the burgeoning artist also attended writers rounds and researched music and songwriting to gain all the knowledge he could to become a better artist. The lessons he learned during this time of struggle are now being transformed into songs to help inspire fans. “I have a lot more life songs. As you get older you learn from your mistakes,” he says of the songs he’s penning, such as “Secret to a Good Life” that encourages the art of appreciating life’s special moments while becoming a better version of yourself.
Not one to shy away from uncomfortable topics, Allen tackles the concept of being black in country music on a new track titled “All Tractors Ain’t Green.” Penned alongside Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Tim Nichols, Allen delivers a message that needs to be heard about the aspect of race in the genre. “A lot of times when people see you they’re like, ‘you can’t be country’ because society has placed these shades over us to think if you’re not white you can’t be a country singer,” he explains.
Allen and Nichols decided to take this perception head on, using the country mainstay of a tractor as a symbol of diversity. “All guitars don’t sound the same, can’t judge a whiskey by the bottle, might go against the grain of that country boy model, sometimes what you get ain’t always what you see, all fields ain’t corn and all tractors ain’t green,” Allen sings, enforcing the idea that you can’t judge one’s interior by the exterior.
The issue of the lack of diversity in country music has been a conversation for years, with Allen serving as one of the few African-American artists in mainstream country music. He believes it takes bravery from fellow artists to further stretch the genre’s boundaries and include more diversity. “I think it takes us as individuals that want to be artists to not be afraid to take risks,” he says.
“There’s different versions of everything. If you want to do something but you don’t see a lot of people that look like you, you might be a little hesitant. You’re quick to pre-judge the listeners before you even give them a chance to hear you,” he continues. But Allen hasn’t faced this type of judgment, feeling welcomed by the country music community. “They’ve embraced me with open arms and I’m glad I jumped and made it happen,” he says of fans’ reactions. “I just think we have to believe in ourself, love what we do, feel secure in it.”
Though Allen has faced his share of struggles, that’s where he’s learns the most about himself. “I learned that I was committed to continuing this dream that eight-year-old version of me had started years ago,” Allen reminisces of the lessons he gained while living in his car, hoping fans will absorb these messages of determination themselves. “Chase what you’re chasing, don’t quit, be a good person,” he advises them. “That’s all it’s about.”
Jimmie Allen is available now.