Jimmie Allen Is Not Afraid of the Hustle
Jimmie Allen knows more about the price of dream-chasing than anyone walking through heavy doors on Nashville's Music Row. The newcomer's recent success is the product of equal parts talent and hustle. Actually, hustle may have the edge.
Allen, who hails from Milton, Delaware, moved to Nashville in 2007 and was told he was too pop for country and too country for pop. But he didn't give up. He led two rock bands, a pop band and multiple solo efforts. He even did stand-up comedy!
"The only reason I did it was because I would travel to do talent shows and you make more money if you’re in two categories," he tells Taste of Country. "So I would be in the singing category and the standup category. And I won both a few times."
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"Everybody can say, ‘I wanna do this and I’ll give up everything for this’ when they have everything. But when it’s literally taken away from you and you have no place to live and you don’t eat for a couple of days, do you pack up and go back home or do you stick it out?"
$500 here, $500 there ... a straight job here, a side gig performing there. Good months, bad months — the decade between Allen's arrival in Nashville and signing a publishing and then recording contract featured several tentpole moments that molded who he is today. A song called "Underdogs" pays tribute to those who've felt a million miles away from their dream. Allen has been there. For nearly four months he lived in a Chevy Malibu after his landlord sold the trailer he was renting and he couldn't afford to move. He says he wants to find that old car. It's not clear if he's kidding, but he sure is smiling.
"I think any struggle you go through either builds your character or breaks you," the forever optimistic "Best Shot" singer says. "I feel for me, it was a good test because you really see how bad you want something."
"Everybody can say, ‘I wanna do this and I’ll give up everything for this’ when they have everything," he says, "But when it’s literally taken away from you and you have no place to live and you don’t eat for a couple of days, do you pack up and go back home or do you stick it out?"
In 2016, Allen went to cancel a gym membership he couldn't afford and a friend working the snack bar gave him a producer's phone number. That led to an invite to perform at a songwriter's night ($200 and free dinner), which led to an introduction to an artist-turned-publisher and manager named Ash Bowers. Bowers liked Allen's songs — specifically one called "Back of Your Mind." A week later, Allen had a publishing deal.
“My dad used to say, 'Always make yourself available,'" the country singer says, telling the story. He called off work at both of his jobs to take the gig.
Another iconic moment? When his son Aiden was born. The now 4-year-old little boy is starting to fill up his father's Instagram page, and Allen gets a little more serious when he talks about his son. Aiden was there the first time Allen heard "Best Shot" on the radio.
"He's inspired my career," he explains.
“Right away, I eliminated everyone and everything from my life that was taking away and not putting back in," Allen says. "People can emotionally drain you where they ask, ask, ask and you give, give, give but they never put anything back in. Not just financially, but time — emotionally. For me, my son really helped me focus."
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The drive, the music and the oversized personality all come together on stage. Allen played the Taste of Country Music Festival and Country Jam Colorado this month. Both times he opened the day's lineup, making new fans with music reminiscent of Thomas Rhett, Matchbox 20, One Republic and old school Usher. Oh, and he brought jokes. He's as well-rounded as any newcomer in Nashville, but what separates Allen is his drive, perseverance and willingness to hustle. He appreciates true grit.
"For me," he says, thinking back on those dark months sleeping in a parking lot, "it was about making a mental choice and saying, ‘Alright, this is what I want to do. This is just another patch in the journey that I just need to get through.’”
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