Where Jimmie Allen Finds Truth on ‘Tulip Drive’ [Interview]
Jimmie Allen will talk about the pop superstars on his new Tulip Drive album, but he'd rather talk about the guest vocalist you've never met. Jennifer Lopez brings fresh attention to the project, but if he's made a good gamble, a Nashville nurse will help craft his legacy.
This is an example of Allen's unique, two-handed approach to the music business. While his left hand is constructing bigger and better opportunities and waving new fans to their seats (metaphorically), his right is sculpting to ensure those new fans don't leave feeling wheedled. He's all show, all go in a way very few in Nashville can keep up with — at any given time he'll list two albums, two television shows, two bands, two small businesses and two festivals as things he's working on.
Neon Union were surprises on Bettie James, Gold Edition (2021), joining Allen for a straight-forward country effort called "Livin' Man." For Tulip Drive, it's Katie Ohh, a woman Allen met as a demo singer.
"You shouldn't be surprised when you end up the places you've prepared and put the work in to go. Think about this: No one works hard to fail. When you put the work in, you're expecting to be successful."
"The problem with Nashville sometimes is if you do a bunch of demos, people place you in that pigeonhole as a demo singer," he tells Taste of Country Nights. "So people stop seeing you as an artist. She came in to sing the song ("Broken Hearted") because we were gonna pitch to someone else and I heard her singing and was like, 'Oh, no. We're keeping Katie on the record.'"
There are 17 songs on Tulip Drive and one or two more will be chosen for radio airplay before his next album cycle begins. So it's impossible to predict if Ohh will get her time to shine nationally, but at least Allen raised her profile like he did for Neon Union, a duo who just signed a record deal and have new music dropping very soon. As his career reaches new heights, so will theirs.
"I wouldn't be where I am without people giving me an opportunity and a platform. I feel like that's what I should do for other artists."
Talking with Taste of Country Nights' host Evan Paul, Allen quickly set aside the show in favor of a few meaningful statements about his new record, contributions in country music and his dreams. During the full interview (heard at Taste of Country Nights, On Demand) he also touches on the upcoming Carrie Underwood tour, which begins in October. Tulip Drive (Stoney Creek Records) is available and digital retailers and streaming services now.
Taste of Country: What is the most personal song on Tulip Drive?
Jimmie Allen: "You Won't Be Alone." The last song that I wrote about my son (Aadyn, now 8 years old). I wrote it about three-and-a-half, four years ago. It's a song about telling my son no matter what he goes through, he'll never be alone. I'll always be there for him, like even when I'm no longer on this earth. The memories we had, everything we shared, he can hold onto it.
What was his response when he heard it?
Oh, he don't care. I'm gonna play it for him again because he just turned eight. So he might care now.
There are songs on this album that are about past relationships. Is it weird for your wife to hear those?
Not at all, because I don't tell her the girl's name. I look at it like this: It's part of my life, I wouldn't be who I am without those past relationships and it's music. It's art.
I have songs about my ex, and she might still go to restaurants in Delaware that she went on a date with her ex. What's the difference?
Jennifer Lopez was one of the judges when you tried out for American Idol in Season 10. Did you form a friendship then that led to her appearing on the new record?
No. A friend of mine that works with J.Lo reached out and said that she wanted to do a remake of her song ("On My Way") and he sent it to me and was like, "Do you wanna do it?" I was like, "Of course, what kind of question is that?" I recorded it the next day and sent it back.
What would 15-year-old Jimmie say if you told him you were going to record a song with J.Lo?
He'd say, "I believe it." Because my mentality and kind of how my parents raised me ... you shouldn't be surprised when you end up the places you've prepared and put the work in to go. Think about this: No one works hard to fail. When you put the work in, you're expecting to be successful.
Everything that I'm doing, I saw myself here. I'm still thankful. I'm full of gratitude. When someone works hard to go to school and get straight As, and they get straight As, they're not surprised they got straight As because they know the work they put in to get straight As. That's the same way I look at my career.
Are people starting to share stories of losses they've had now that "Down Home" is on the radio?
They are, man. For me, that's the coolest thing in the world. When I write music and perform it, I never say I wanna write this song to go No. 1 or I wanna write this song to win this award or that award. For me, my awards come from when people write me messages ... that my song touched them and my song helped them move past a situation they were struggling with.
Again, I'm thankful for the awards. They're cool. But at the same time, man, that's not real. It's a thing that sits and collects dust. But how your music can affect someone to change their life and hopefully they can take what they took from your music to someone else, to me, that's the real award.