Along the Way with Allie Colleen
Country singer-songwriter Allie Colleen wears her heart on her sleeve – literally. The colorful tattoos that span the length of her arms are reminders of the things and people that she holds most dear – her faith and family. Allie explains, “Every time I look down at my arms, whether I’m playing guitar or shaking someone’s hand, I get to see these things that mean a lot to me, and they kind of keep me in check.”
Many of the tattoos have a number that is a reference to a Bible verse. A tree branch is inscribed with 5:17 to remind Allie of the scripture from 1 Thessalonians that says, “Pray without ceasing.” The clock hands are set at 3:01 for the verse in Ecclesiastes, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” Allie admits to struggling with that concept. “I know God is smart and really knows everything, but my timing just makes so much more sense in my head!” Her sleeves also include a flower tattoo for everyone in her family as a symbol of the relationships she cherishes.
But it was the relationship with her best friend that was the inspiration for Allie’s latest single, Along the Way. Allie says she and her childhood friend Emily both have “gypsy souls.” When their lives took different directions after high school in Owasso, Oklahoma, they learned to support and encourage each other from far away. “Along the Way is about having the courage to love somebody and let them go, and just pray to God at the end of the day… after they go climb those mountains and face their fears… they still come back to you.” Allie says, “It’s a narrative love song that can be about anybody - a significant other or a friend.” Or, it can be interpreted as something Allie thinks God might tell us: ‘Just go and live and love and live in kindness and find your purpose, but at the end of the day, you need to come back to Me, and settle for Me.’”
Watch the music video that tells more of the story behind the song.
Allie describes her music as “falling between contemporary country and what the 90’s females did… going more toward that narrative story, songwriter country sound.” Her passion for storytelling began when she started writing poetry in grade school. “I loved the structure of poetry. It was like piecing a puzzle together with words, with only so much room to say what you want to say.” When she was a freshman in high school, Allie started playing the guitar that her parents had bought for her five years earlier. Now, instead of spending hours every week singing songs by Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, and Michael Jackson, “I could finally start putting melodies to stuff I had written.” She had discovered her calling.
Allie got her first paying gig at the age of 16 when a local venue (Trails End BBQ) hired her to play on weekends (she had been singing the national anthem at rodeos and other events since she was 12). “I sat by the saddles and didn’t have a microphone or anything. I just played my guitar for three hours every Friday and Saturday night, and it was awesome!”
At the start of her senior year in high school, Allie submitted four of her original songs as part of the application process for Belmont University in Nashville. Allie had her heart set on attending Belmont since she was in 8th grade. “I didn’t look anywhere else. Anyone who knew me back home knew that I was moving to Nashville as soon as I got out of high school.”
She had been spending summers in Nashville with her parents (father, Garth Brooks and bonus-mom, Trisha Yearwood), who had offices on Music Row, right down the street from Belmont. “Belmont was always like the Disney castle of 16thAvenue. It was white and beautiful, with columns. My deal with my parents was that I would get their blessing to pursue music if I got a degree, and I thought songwriting would be a good way to spend four years.”
Allie says in some ways, attending Belmont was like being in High School Musical, with kids singing on the lawns and stairwells. She was in awe of the talent around her. “They were so far past where I was. You discover you’re not the best kid in your town anymore.” She earned a degree in songwriting and music business. “At Belmont, I realized this was a business, as opposed to a hobby that I wanted to do the rest of my life.”
Allie made a decision early on in her career that she wasn’t going to use the family last name. Instead, she uses her middle name after her grandma, Colleen, who was also a singer. Allie learned at a young age that it would be hard to earn her place in the music business if people perceived that she was using the family name and connections to open doors. She recalls studying for a spelling test in grade school, only to have a classmate tell her the only reason she got an “A” was because of who her dad was. “I never wanted that to be the case with my music. I know every night when I go to sleep that I’m working my butt off and I’ve earned my own success - as long as those lines are never blurred for myself.”
Allie has another reason for her independence, which speaks volumes for her character as a role model. “It’s important for me to be able to tell young girls that come to my shows that they can do this. If I used my family name, I don’t think I’d be being honest with those girls.”
Now that she is recording her own music to release into the world, Allie is applying some of the things she learned studying the industry side of the music business. “All of us artists in town, we work so hard on getting our music out, but often don’t really think about the follow up. You can’t just release a song. You need to have a press schedule and a touring schedule for months afterwards.”
Allie was in the process of doing just that. Following the release of her debut single Work in Progress in July 2019, Allie released Along the Way in late September. She was busy playing live shows and putting together a full band, with plans to play more original music. Her 2020 tour schedule included stops in California and a country music cruise. Numerous media outlets were covering her new release after she did more than a dozen interviews at the annual Country Radio Seminar in Nashville in February. And then suddenly, the Corona virus and “shelter in place” orders brought the music industry to a grinding halt.
Like other songwriters and musicians, Allie has had to find ways to adapt to the lock-down. When her April 3rd show at Open Chord in Knoxville had to be cancelled, Allie performed an acoustic show from her living room that aired live on that venue’s Facebook page as well as her own social media platforms (note: that show is rescheduled for August 1). While sheltering at home with her husband Jonathan and two rescue pit bulls, Allie is working on a lyric video for a new single, with fans contributing photos to the project. She has out-of-town gigs booked for June through the end of the year and is optimistic about getting back on the road.
Whether she is performing or writing songs, Allie says her goal is to make people feel the way Taylor Swift made her feel when she was a teenager. “Every song she wrote, I felt like she was writing it for me, just me…. I want to write songs for people that make them feel seen.” Allie estimates that she has written 400-500 songs over the years. She says that her relationship with God is at the center of her music. “If I’m doing it right, my love for God and our relationship reflects in everything that I write.”
As she continues to pursue her career as a singer-songwriter, Allie is guided by words of wisdom from her father. “No matter if it’s math homework or soccer or singing, my dad always had one piece of advice: ‘Just put your head down and run.’” He taught her the value of working hard to bring dreams to fruition. “Worry about your own race. It’s so easy to see other women doing better than you or vice versa, and either getting discouraged or becoming prideful…. I’m only running against myself.” She adds that it’s rewarding to occasionally look up and see how far she has come – something that wouldn’t happen without the team around her. “A lot of it is camaraderie and putting your head down and running -- and finding those people who will run with you.”
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FUN FACTS AND TRIVIA
The first song Allie learned to play on guitar was Travelin’ Soldier
Song she wishes she wrote: Love Triangle by RaeLynn (Songwriters: Nicolle Galyon, Jimmy Robbins, Raelynn)
Concert: Miley Cyrus (Bangerz tour)
Restaurants: Maggiano’s Little Italy and Fleet Street Pub (for fish ‘n chips)
Movie: Dinner for Schmucks
Song to play with a full band: Don’t Stop Believin’
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