Jimmie Allen is passionate about country music. The Delaware native grew up inspired by all kinds of music, of all genres, but especially Charley Pride. It was Pride who made Allen believe he could do what seemed almost impossible: be a Black singer in country music. Now, with a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, Allen is more determined than ever to not only represent the genre, but help make it the best it can be.
“A producer who’s worked with Drake and T Pain and a bunch of other people said to me, ‘Jimmie, think about this when you win or lose these awards – you’re bringing people together without realizing it. You’re letting young Black kids see that you can do country music,'” Allen tells Pollstar. “‘But, at the same time, you’re letting the world know that country music looks like you. In this genre of music that for years has just been associated with white people, to where certain artists of different color feel like they can’t be a part of because they’re not white — that’s not true.
“‘And as shown by this Grammy nomination, you’re a Black guy that has a Grammy nomination because of the success you had in country music,'” he continues. “‘You’re not nominated for a Grammy because you sold a bunch of pop records or hip-hop records up until your success in country music, a genre where people said you couldn’t do. You’ve managed to fit and succeed. And that story alone right there to motivate so many people.'”
Allen is proud to be firmly settled within country music, but he is also lighting a fire under those within the genre who are not doing what they can to make it something everyone can be proud of.
“We’ve been letting bad songs pass for years and we’re washing down the brand with lazy songwriting, and with lazy concerts.,” Allen maintains. “As artists, we’re the only ones that can save country music and it goes into our effort. And that’s why I’m so glad to see other artists do it. And I never look at other artists as competition. I look at other artists as ways to motivate each other when someone writes a great song. ‘Oh my gosh, that’s a great song. I need to go write a great song and keep the standard of country music at greatness’ … The fans want to hear great songs. That’s how you make country music diverse.”
The former Dancing With the Stars contestant is an advocate of the diversity in country music, celebrating artists who make country music in a different way than he does, while still respecting the genre.
“What I tell people all the time is all a genre is, is the delivery in how you communicate,” Allen adds. “Because when you look in different genres of music, if you were to pull back the production and the music and just read the words, we’re all saying the same thing, just in different ways. We all want to be loved and to be successful.”