Jimmie Allen Quietly Breaking Down a Trio of Country Stereotypes
Jimmie Allen has a song called "All Tractors Ain't Green" on his new Mercury Lane album, but don't try to stereotype him. Or, go ahead and try, and he'll find a way to bust through that one as well.
Most weeks there are more songs from women inside the country music Top 40 than black men or women, which says something about the format's lack of racial diversity. Allen has heard all the "You can't" talk his entire life, but it took the guy who wrote Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying" to get it in a song.
"I wanted a song that only I can sing," Allen tells Taste of Country. "For me, it was cool to do because there's a stereotype that, 'This is where country singers come from and this is what they're supposed to look like.' For me, it was important to kind of say, 'Hey, I might look like this or be from here, but we kind of do the same thing.' For me, it was also about ... women who get told, 'Hey, that's a man's job' or men that get told, 'Hey, that's what women are supposed to do.'"
"All guitars don't sound the same, can't judge whiskey by the bottle / Might go against the grain of that country boy Bible / Sometimes what you get, ain't always what you see / All fields ain't corn and all tractors ain't green," he sings at the chorus of a ballad that swells to a catharsis (with the help of a choir of angels) to close his 15-track album.
Veteran writer Tim Nichols and Brandon Hood co-wrote the song with him. It was Nichols who first approached the Milton, Del., raised singer with the idea. Which brings up another stereotype.
"Where I'm from, people are like, 'Is there really country in Delaware?' I'm like, 'Have you been to Delaware?'" he says, laughing. "I say, 'Y'all write songs here for people from where I grew up. Y'all need to go.'"
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Allen's debut album stays true to his debut single, "Best Shot," but songs like "Underdogs" and "Warrior" tell his story, the latter by focusing on his mother and late grandmother.
"For me, that was the hardest song to record," he says of "Warrior," adding, "We just had a special bond. We went fishing together all the time. We went and picked strawberries. Every Thursday we'd play that game Sorry, that board game."
"When she died it was out of nowhere."
The hardworking country newcomer will take these songs on tour with Scotty McCreery later this year, which brings us to the third stereotype: that singers that come from reality television can't find success on the radio any longer. Allen and the Season 10 American Idol winner first forged a friendship when both made the Hollywood round in 2010. While McCreery would go on to win and enjoy the peaks and valleys that come with a career in music it'd be a long road back to the top for Allen. Back then, a stigma against reality television stars had already started to form, but through patience and perseverance, Allen survived. It's a cliche question, but we asked Allen how he'll know he's "made it" to end our interview.
"I can't answer that question," he says after a long, long pause. "Every day I always set another goal ... there's just so many things I wanna accomplish. For me, I'll have made it when, I get to heaven?" he says with a laugh. "When I die?"
We'll call a fine debut album and a Top 10 single close enough.
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