“Down Home” by Jimmie Allen – Billboard

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With his new single, “Down Home”, Jimmie Allen offers a glimpse into his personal story, giving the listener the feeling of a father who instilled some of the character that contributed to Jimmie’s current status as a nominee. at the Grammy Awards for Best New Artist.

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“Down Home” captures the traits of his father, Big Jim Allen, who passed away in September 2019, less than two years after his son burst onto the national scene. The song portrays Dad as an athlete (the “#15” reference in verse two reflects his baseball background), a prankster, an outgoing soul, and a bundle of positivity. In more ways than one, Jimmie seems like a chip off the old block.

“It was all about hard work, about not making excuses, and going 100% through whatever you wanted to do,” Jimmie recalled. “Whatever you have to do, don’t just go a little or halfway. Go all the way.

Allen did it with “Down Home”, although he did it in his day. After Big Jim passed away, he knew he wanted to write about his experiences, but getting over the loss of a parent takes patience.

“Emotionally, I wasn’t ready to write about it,” he says, recalling the weeks and months after Big Jim’s death. “I definitely wasn’t ready to go out every night and have to sing it. But, you know, now I am.

His friends helped him get there. Several of his frequent co-writers knew Allen wanted to broach the subject, though they were less patient about it. In the spring of 2020, shortly after the onset of the pandemic, Rian Ball sat down at his dining room table and composed a musical track that he hoped would remedy the loss while conveying a positivity . “We just wanted to write a song that, musically, would be really universal and didn’t have to be slow or downtempo,” Ball recalled. “We could write a song that was more of a celebration of life and less of a sad part of it.”

Ball, who plays the piano, used a plug-in to mimic the sound of an arpeggiated guitar and developed a musical bed that spanned two stanzas: a bright, ethereal verse and a mildly anthemic chorus. He sent the track to co-writer Cameron Bedell, who offered a suitable set of lyrics in a flurry of inspiration on April 17, 2020, imagining Big Jim’s soul in heaven watching his son “at home” on Earth. .

“I very rarely write on my own, but out of nowhere I felt like God had literally given me this song,” Bedell said. “I mean, I wrote what was basically the first verse and chorus on the spot in about 20 or 30 minutes.”

Much of it was tailored to what he knew of Big Jim, including his love of fishing. Bedell imagined Allen’s father dropping a line in a “golden pond” not far from the streets of gold. This line could also have subconscious roots in a Jane Fonda movie he’s never seen: Bedell has an album cover of the 1982 film’s soundtrack On the golden pond visible in his studio.

But it took Allen a while to react. They sent him their work, and after several months of no response, they played “Down Home” for another artist who wanted to finish writing it with them. They warned Allen that they could move on, and that’s when they got their answer. “Jimmie came back and said, ‘No, no, no, no, no way. It’s my song. Like, I love that song,” Bedell says. “We got together that week.”

Allen brought in his road bassist, Tate Howell, around September 2020. They tidied up a few places in the existing stanzas but focused on verse two, mostly focusing on how Allen was recovering from Big Jim’s passing. They referenced the wedding and the child Dad had missed, and that included a mention of listening to Charley Pride – Big Jim had introduced his son to Pride music as a kid, and Allen had already planned to sing with Pride at the Country Music Association. Awards in November at what turned out to be Pride’s last public performance.

When they were done writing, Ball used the existing tracks as the basis for a full demo. He brought Allen back to work on the voice, which was understandably emotional, and so made them stop several times. At the bridge, Allen riffed a new one. Instead of using it for a musical detour, he instead treated it as a pause before completing the sonic journey.

“Jimmie took the mic and I remember while singing he said, ‘Dad, don’t worry, everything, everything’s fine at home,'” Ball said. “Inspiration hit, and, just kind of a stream of consciousness, it went out right away.”

Howell and Allen went on vacation to Mexico with their wives soon after, and the impatience returned while waiting for the demo. “We were just stalking Rian every day,” Howell explains. “We would drink a few piña coladas and start calling Rian and texting Rian without leaving him alone about it. I think Rian mostly wanted to make sure the mix and everything was okay – but because we harassed him so hard, he was forced to send what he had. What he had was awesome.

It was good enough that producer Ash Bowers (Matt Stell, George Birge) only made minor edits to “Down Home” when they cut the final version circa August 2021 at the Sound Stage on Music Row in Nashville. Ilya Toshinsky’s acoustic guitar converted the programmed arpeggios of the demo’s first verse into a more emotional depiction of heaven, while Evan Hutchings’ fat drum sound and Justin Ostrander’s slide guitar established an arrangement that suited to an arena. “The core of it had to be just an organic band recording,” explains Bowers. “You just can’t get that sound without doing it with a band following it live.”

Cutting the vocals wasn’t as difficult as it might have been at an earlier stage. It had been almost a year since Big Jim’s death and at least eight months since Pride’s death. Allen gave it special attention, but not because it was painful. “He’s good enough to make two or three passes and it looks like it’s almost perfect,” Bowers says, “but on this one we took a little longer because Jimmie wanted it to be perfect.”

The first live performance of “Down Home”, however, was a challenge. He played it in a downpour on August 7, 2021, at the first Bettie James Festival in Delaware, and he had to stop and restart several times when “Down Home” acknowledged the professional hits Allen was enjoying. .

“I remember him singing this line, ‘I promise I’m working this guitar as hard as I can,’ and then these emotions wash over him, and then he gets back on the mic and sings, ‘I promise I’m working this guitar. guitar as hard as you can’ and then fall apart again,” says Howell. “I think we sang that line three times.”

Stoney Creek waited more than a year for Allen’s duet with Brad Paisley, “Freedom Was a Highway,” to hit No. 1 before airing “Down Home” to country radio via PlayMPE on March 7. It debuted at No. 50 on Country Airplay. and goes to No. 48 on the chart dated April 2. Since it presents listeners with a small glimpse of Allen’s father, it also indicates that Big Jim’s transition to the afterlife hasn’t changed his role in his son’s life.

“He was good at letting me know he was proud of me, you know; he wasn’t afraid to say it,” Allen notes. “That line ‘I hope I make you proud’ is more of a challenge to myself to always push myself and be the best and make him proud.”

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