In just the past three years, singer/songwriter Jimmie Allen has emerged as a leading artist in country music who’s had a major impact. In 2018, his debut single, “Best Shot,” reached number one on the Billboard Country Airplay chart, and last year his single “Make Me Want To” also reached number one. This was a major achievement, particularly since Allen has been one of the few African-American artists to have steady success on the country charts. He is following in the footsteps of country legend Charley Pride and current star, Darius Rucker.
Now in 2020, Allen has just released a special 7-song EP of collaborations with top artists, called Bettie James (on Stoney Creek Records). Impressively, Allen sings duets with a wide range of artists, from contemporary country stars Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley and Darius Rucker, to legendary artists Charley Pride and the Oak Ridge Boys, to pop artists Nelly and Noah Cyrus.
With his excellent EP Bettie James, Allen pays tribute to two, close family members who have passed away: his grandmother Bettie Snead, and his father James Allen. His grandmother’s favorite group was the Oak Ridge Boys, and his father was a big fan of Brad Paisley, so it worked out perfectly that Allen was able to recruit both acts to join him on this project. Allen sings with the Oak Ridge Boys, Tauren Wells and Rita Wilson on the song “When This Is Over,” and he sings with Paisley on “Freedom Was A Highway.”
Perhaps the most notable collaboration on the EP is on “Why Things Happen,” which features Allen singing with Pride and Rucker. This song presents three generations of country Aftrican-American artists (Allen, Pride & Rucker) singing together.
Other key songs on this project are “This Is Us,” a strong pop ballad that pairs Allen with rising pop artist Noah Cyrus, and “Good Times Roll,” which is a fun, upbeat song that features hip-hop/pop star, Nelly. Another unique cut is “Drunk & I Miss You,” which is a duet between Allen and female country artist Mickey Guyton (who is Aftrican-American).
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Jimmie Allen. He discusses the making of his Bettie James EP, and he tells how he teamed up with this special array of artists.
Here’s the video of Jimmie Allen & Noah Cyrus’ single,
“This Is Us.”
DK: I like the songs and collaborations on your new EP. What inspired you to record this special EP?
Jimmie Allen: I’ve been wanting to do a collaborations project for a while, as a tribute to my grandmother, who died in 2014, and my dad, who died in 2019. I wanted to get some of their favorite artists and some of mine on the EP, and start to leave a trailway to legacy through my music. It was important to me to get Darius Rucker and Charley Pride on there, because those are two guys I’ve looked up to musically for so many years. You know, being black and looking like me, and [the three of us] being in genres where you don’t see too many black people. Darius was in Hootie & the Blowfish, and now he’s one of the biggest country stars out there. And Charley Pride was the first big black country artist. Then you know, my grandmother’s favorite band was the Oak Ridge Boys, and Brad Paisley was one of my dad’s favorite artists, and he’s one of my favorites. And I’m a huge fan of everyone else, from Tim McGraw to Nelly to Noah Cyrus, to Rita Wilson, Tauren Wells and Mickey Guyton.
DK: You co-wrote “Why Things Happen,” which became the collaboration with Darius and Charley. When you were writing the song, did you know that you wanted to reach out to Darius and Charley, to sing it with you?
Allen: Definitely. There was another song that I reached out to Darius about, and he was like, “I love that song but I don’t think that with you, me and Charley, our first song should be a drinking song. It would be the first time to have three generations of black country artists doing something together, so let’s do something that kind of cuts beneath the surface.” So then I played him “Why Things Happen” and he said, “Yeah, this is the song right here.” So then I reached out to Charley, and he said, “Yes.” I was thrilled that a song I wrote with my bass player Tate Howell, and with Cary Barlow and Brandon Day, [gave me the opportunity] to sing with Darius and Charley.
DK: I like your single “This Is Us,” with Noah Cyrus. How did you decide to record this song and sing it with Noah?
Here’s the audio of Jimmie Allen & Nelly’s song, “Good Times Roll.”
Allen: I heard and liked the song, and [we made it work] as a duet. So my management connected me with Noah’s team, and I recorded my part. They loved it and my label loved it, so we decided to make it a single.
DK: The opening song on the EP is “Good Times Roll,” which you did with Nelly. How did you connect with Nelly for this song?
Allen: I was in Nashville, and I was about to walk into a building for a meeting, and Nelly was walking out. I called my manager and said, “Hey, Nelly’s in town.” My manager found out he was in town writing, so we got together to write. We started vibing on something, and we said that we wanted to write a song that felt good. So we started talking about good times roll, because everybody understands about let the good times roll. So we said let’s write a song about it, about hanging out as friends and taking a road trip, and I’m glad it worked out for sure.
DK: I looked at the credits on your EP, and the list of artists is almost like a who’s who of country and pop music. So how does it feel to have all these artists on your EP?
Allen: Well, I couldn’t believe I got everybody to say, “Yes” (laughs). And then when you get somebody to say yes, getting somebody to actually do it are two different things. So it says a lot about [these artists] that they came through, and it meant a lot to me. For them to do a song with me, it means they respect what I’m doing as an artist. And these are my heroes…people I really look up to.
DK: Obviously, you’ve just released your EP. But are you also working on new songs for your next album of solo material?
Allen: Yes, we’ve been writing for that. Hopefully, we can put it out sometime next year. I’ve got a lot of songs that I’m super excited about…some songs that I wrote 3-4 years ago, and some that I wrote last week.