Jimmie Allen is a country music artist who has always dreamed of being a singer, performer, entertainer, and songwriter. Growing up, his grandmother told him, “It’s impossible to put 100% into two different things simultaneously. One day, one of them is going to suffer.” So he never had a backup plan. Instead, he stopped at nothing to pursue his dream of becoming a country music artist, even while living out of his car, working night shifts as a janitor, and everything in between. Then, in 2018, he became the first African American country artist to send his debut single to the top of the Billboard Magazine charts. After spending time with him, we saw firsthand his artistry and passion for country music.
What was it like when you first moved to Nashville to pursue music?
“It was hard. They say Nashville is a 10-year town, meaning it takes 10 years to really make it, and that was true for me. When I moved here, I worked odd jobs to get by, I lived in my car, and I didn’t know sometimes where my next meal was coming from. But along the way I built amazing relationships. Nashville is very relationship oriented. You need to be here: build those relationships and invest in Music City. It takes time but they will give that energy back to you.”
How have your experiences and the struggles you faced on the road to achieving your dreams shaped you as a singer-songwriter?
“I don’t take anything for granted. And I’m thankful for those struggles. I don’t know if I would appreciate the success as much if it had been easy. Everything happens when it is supposed to, as cliché as that sounds, and I’m mature enough now to handle the success.”
How did you stay motivated during the most challenging aspects of pursuing success in the music industry, from living out of your car to working nights as a janitor?
“My song ‘Underdogs’ is a song that gets the crowd fired up. I will usually run out into the audience during that one. I love the message in the song: ‘This one's for the underdogs, the good guys, the comeback kids and the long shots, the pinch third stringers, the for the fence swingers, keeping on keeping on…’ It was certainly my experience chasing my dreams in Nashville and I hope my story inspires others out there to follow their dreams too.”
Hard work and perseverance seem to be engrained in your DNA. Can you describe where your strong work ethic and belief in yourself comes from?
“My dad and my grandmother and their faith in me and their encouragement and support are huge factors in why I’m standing here today. I carry my grandma’s purple handkerchief with me during every performance to remind me of her and her belief in me. She went through a lot and didn’t have an easy road to walk. But she persisted and was always so positive and optimistic. That outlook shapes my approach to life every day. Be nice to people, be a good person. I want to be someone my family, my fiancé, my son, and daughter on the way are proud of.”
Which one of your songs means the most to you?
“As a songwriter, all your songs are your babies, so you don’t want to pick a favorite. Some songs are more fun to perform live because of the energy you get from the crowd. And some are personal like ‘Warrior’ which I wrote for my mom and grandma. ‘All Tractors Ain’t Green’ is a special one for me. It is really about celebrating our differences and loving everyone for who they are.”
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your passion for country music?
“When people think country, many think the South. But growing up in Milton, Delaware, I’d wager my experiences as a kid were just as country. It is a small country town, but it shaped who I am, and you see those rural experiences and the songs I grew up with reflected in my music today.”
What inspired you to become a country music artist?
“My dad introduced me to country music. I grew up listening to Aaron Tippin, Montgomery Gentry, Charley Pride, etc. I loved how real the music was. It tells the stories of the everyday man and woman. They inspired me and comforted me. Music is a unifier. It brings us all together to celebrate, to morn, to reflect. I wanted to do that.”
Do you have advice for aspiring music artists who may be afraid to risk it all for their dreams?
“You have to support the dream until the dream supports you. And be yourself; no one else can be you but you. So be the best you, you can be, and that authenticity will resonate.”