Who Is Jimmie Allen? The Hard Work, Hustle and Heartbreak
Sure, now Jimmie Allen can laugh and explain why people doubt his country credibility. The "Best Shot" hitmaker and 2019 Taste of Country RISERS star is soaring, with an ACM Awards nomination, a No. 1 hit and a tour with Rascal Flatts adding a satisfying tail wind to a journey that's seen turbulence.
Truthfully, the "Make Me Want To" singer has always been comfortable talking about what makes him different. "They didn't tell me in so many words, they told me in those words," he says when asked if people in the music industry pointed to the color of his skin. "And I appreciate people like that."
"I'm from a small little country town," he furthers, "but I'm from the northeast so we're very blunt. A guy was like, 'Jimmie I love your sound, I love what you do.' At the time country was very traditional, so not only did I sound different, I looked different. He was like, 'I don't know who to market it to.'"
This is 2007, before Darius Rucker started to release hit country songs and before more progressive, genre-blending artists like Sam Hunt and Maren Morris got a foothold. Allen, who was just 21 or 22 years old at the time, kept his nose down and waited for the culture to shift. He waited and worked and tried out for American Idol and waited and worked some more.
A turning point came in 2014 with the birth of his son, Aadyn. At that moment he says he realized he needed to end a few unhealthy relationships and work even harder (writing, overnight stock at Walmart, middle school janitor) to feed his family and reach his goal.
"My mom told me years ago I got the patience of Job, so I'll stick something out for awhile," he admits.
That year passed and then 2015 did too. Finally, in 2016, he met producer and songwriter Ash Bowers, which put into motion conversations that would lead to a publishing deal, a record deal, the personal Mercury Lane album and a chart-topping, record-breaking hit. "Make Me Want To" is Allen's second single. Ironically, the song is about not waiting to tell someone how you feel.
"I'm a sensitive guy. A lot of times I catch feelings fast, maybe too fast," the Milton, Del., native says. "It's the song about a guy that meets a girl and catches feelings and he's not afraid to tell her."
Watch Jimmie Allen's RISERS Performance of "Make Me Want To"
Allen swears he hasn't changed since he moved to Nashville more than a decade ago, at least not musically. Raised fourth of seven kids, he grew up in a small town with small town problems. At one point the family's electricity was shut off, but his mother made the most of it, pretending they were having a living room campout. He describes her as a saint, partially in admiration of her strength and perseverance, but also her choice of Christian music.
“My dad, he’s the redneck of the family," Allen adds, chuckling. "He’s a small-town boy, country guy. Military, played sports, listened to nothing but country music. I'm talking like nothing — you change the dial on his radio and you'll get punched in the forehead."
Then there is his grandmother, perhaps the most influential person from his childhood — a woman for whom he wrote a song called "Warrior." You'll see her purple scarf on his belt loop during every show. It's her name, "Bettie," on his guitar strap. She was the one who inspired "Best Shot." Sadly, she died in 2014, before Aadyn was born and before Allen's country career started to take off.
It's impossible to dismiss how the often-jovial Allen's tone changes when he talks about the women in his life, especially his grandmother. He gets emotional sharing Bettie's struggles. "I just saw the strength that my grandmom had to kind of go through, all that plus work three or four jobs and keep food on the table for the kids," he says.
Allen is the second Taste of Country RISERS rising act of 2019. His three-month long feature will include multiple performance videos, an intimate interview and evidence that he might be the funniest guy offstage, as well. In becoming a RISERS artist he joins established hitmakers like Cody Johnson, Brett Young, Morgan Wallen, Runaway June and Lindsay Ell.
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