BBR Music Group artist Jimmie Allen made history with his debut single, and he has big plans to expand on that success.
His debut single, “Best Shot,” punched up the country radio chart to No. 1, making Allen the first black artist to launch his career with a No. 1 debut single on country radio. “Best Shot” held the No. 1 spot for three weeks (including two consecutive weeks). Allen co-wrote the track with Josh London and J.P. Williams.
The song’s success has been a high point for the singer, who moved to Nashville in 2007, and has been open about his early struggles to balance supporting his family and chasing a dream—an ambition that found Allen at one point living in his car, so he could send the money from his various odd jobs back to his family in Delaware.
Now, heading into the ACM Awards, Allen is one of the five finalists for the New Male Artist of the Year honor, alongside Luke Combs, Michael Ray, Jordan Davis, and Mitchell Tenpenny.
“It’s a great feeling because you realize people in your same genre support what you are doing,” Allen says, calling from the set of his upcoming music video. “And to me, that means the most. Of course, I would love to win! Do I think Luke Combs is gonna kick our butts? Of course, I think Luke Combs is gonna kick our butts! But he’s a great guy. He deserves it. And if he takes it, I’m so happy for him.”
A win in the ACM category would make Allen the first black singer to win the honor.
“It means we’re going in the right direction as far as inclusion for everyone,” he explains what a win would mean for him and for country as a whole. “No matter your race, your gender, sexual orientation. We’re all different, and to me, music is supposed to be the thing that brings us together.”
While the earnest R&B-flavored “Best Shot” has become Allen’s signature, he’s eager to share a wider representation of his live show with his follow-up, “Make Me Want To.”
“In my show, I might have one ballad, and that’s ‘Best Shot.’ Most of the time, I’m jumping, running around, doing flips off the speakers, running through the crowd. I felt like going into the summer with a sing-a-long, up-tempo song.”
The song’s lyrics, which center on a guy who sees a girl in a bar, and, enthralled, begins contemplating a future together, are as dreamy as the production is sleek and animated.
“I’m pretty sensitive and a lot of times in relationships I catch feelings fast. That’s what this song is about. It’s about a guy that catches feelings, but he’s confident in his vulnerability. I feel like it’s very important, as men, we show that side. I think if you can show your vulnerable side that makes you cool, you know?”
Allen wrote “Make Me Want To” alongside Paul Sikes and Jennifer Denmark, approximately eight months after that same group penned Allen’s breakthrough viral track from 2017, “Blue Jean Baby,” a track inspired by an ex-girlfriend.
Only recently has he divulged “Blue Jean Baby” was about her.
“She knows now,” Allen says. “I told her like, I think six months ago.”
“Make Me Want To” draws from his early days in Nashville after relocating in 2007. Allen played his first Nashville shows at the now-defunct Fiddle & Steel Guitar Bar, and hung out at karaoke bar Lonnie’s Western Room (his favorite karaoke song: Ricochet’s “Daddy’s Money”).
“The second verse—you’re the center of the world on a bar stool—I pictured someone sitting on a bar at Lonnie’s, kinda laughing at her friends singing karaoke. I was trying to paint visuals ’cause I see a picture first in my head.”
Allen is constantly searching for and receptive to new song ideas—a magpie drawn to the brightest of intriguing phrases or melodies. He recalls watching multiple TV shows the evening leading up to a writing session, or listening to a mix of country, Christian, pop, and hip-hop on the way to the studio. Books also inform his ideas (his latest read? The Alchemist), and he takes inspiration from artists who have earned success by following their own unique paths.
“I admire how much love Kacey Musgraves has gotten. Her first album came out in 2013, she worked at it and never quit. I always call her the Katy Perry of country music. I’m a huge fan of her and her team, how they attack different avenues to get her music out. She’s everywhere and she’s done it by being herself.”
References to his life growing up in Milton, Delaware are littered throughout Allen’s debut album, Mercury Lane. He takes the album’s title from the street he grew up on. An album track, “21,” references his alma mater Cape Henlopen High School. The video for “Best Shot” features numerous family videos and photos, while the song was inspired by his late grandmother, Bettie-Ann Snead, who died in 2014, just months before Allen’s own son, Aiden, was born.
“She never got a chance to meet him, and that’s what crushed me the most,” he says.
Allen keeps in his back pocket the purple scarf Snead regularly wore, and his guitar strap bears her name.
“She was everything,” Allen recalls. “When my mom moved, I stayed with her as a kid, because I wanted to stay in the same school. I remember right after she died, I was in Los Angeles. My music wasn’t going anywhere, I had three jobs at the time, and my son was about to be born. I was frustrated and I was like, ‘Alright god, if you want me to keep chasing this music dream, give me some tangible sign.’ I walk in to the L.A. Kings game and they are celebrating winning the Stanley Cup, so as soon as I walk in, they gave me this replica Stanley Cup ring. I wear it to remind me that somewhere, there’s someone that needs to hear what I have to say.”
Despite an ever-increasing tour schedule, Allen remains deeply committed to his hometown.
Allen’s cousins are involved with youth basketball team the Delaware Phenoms. Allen also supports the team, helping to pay for the players’ shoes and uniforms. He’s currently in the process of buying the team a sprinter van.
Each December, he returns to Milton music venue Bottle and Cork to perform two benefit shows—an all-ages show in the afternoon, followed by a 21+ show in the evening—which benefits a different elementary school each year.
“I sell out bigger places in Delaware, but I want to keep it small and personal, so every year, each school is making the same amount. I don’t want anybody to feel like, well, our concert was at a smaller venue than this one was at a bigger one. The concert is my way of giving back, ‘cause I have so many friends that are still in the community.”
Giving It His Own Best Shot: Books, Movies And A Clothing Line
Allen is taking advantage of his burgeoning career and radio success to diversify his brand, with plans for books, a clothing line, and a movie already in place. He says the movie will begin filming this summer, with Allen portraying a military character. For this multi-hyphen creator, these plans are simply long-held dreams coming closer to fruition.
“Everything I wanted to do, I planned it like five years ago,” he says. “The clothing line comes out next year. I’m writing two books right now—one about my life and the other one is this cartoon character I developed.”
Ever the entrepreneur, Allen views each new output as a way to not only create revenues for his own family, but aims to create ways to enrich others.
“You have other families relying on you—my band, my tour manager, my crew. I feel like a lot of us musicians, we’re head of companies without even realizing. In a way, it really helps you push the envelope more because you realize, ‘What if I take this chance here? It’s not only better for myself but it’s better for everyone else around me.’
“I have a cousin that’s a great cartoonist. This is me creating a job for him. And it’s something that he can build upon for his family. So everything I do, it’s to start something. And hopefully, it trickles down, grows into this big empire. Not only for me and my family, but for every else involved.”
But first, Allen’s deep in the creative process for the next step in building what he hopes will be a second No. 1 single—the music video for “Make Me Want To.” Again, he’s taking the opportunity to do something a little different, showcasing two of his personal favorites.
“I’m a huge Disney fan and a huge Harry Potter fan, so the video is a mix of both,” says Allen, who wrote the video treatment himself and presented it to his label.
One thing the video won’t have—a performance segment.
“I didn’t wanna really do a performance spot,” he says. “Because I feel like that just takes away time we could get more creative with the video, and I’m like, ‘Everybody knows I’m not singing for real, anyways,’” he says, laughing.
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