Country music star Jimmie Allen talks Delmarva roots en route to Hollywood Casino

Listen to our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Jimmie Allen at Hollywood Casino (Part 1)

He was just named Best New Artist at the Country Music Association Awards, and on Saturday, Jimmie Allen performs live at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races.

He joined WTOP to discuss his country music roots in the Delmarva area.

“A lot of people from the South, whether it’s Georgia or Mississippi, write about their style of country living. We have it too, but where we’re from, you’re out in the country but you’ve got a lot more chicken plants; you’ve got the beach — it’s just a whole different vibe,” Allen told WTOP. “We’re not talking about lake fishing; we’re talking about ocean or bay fishing.”

Born in Milton, Delaware, in 1985, Allen regularly visits home in between tours.

“I try to come up there at least four or five times a year during the summer for like two or three days each time, to get some fishing in and just hang out, get some crabs, get some scrapple,” Allen said. “When I eat, I go to Grotto’s [Pizza]; I hit Royal Farms while I can, I hit Wawa while I can … Big Fish Grill … I’m shoving my body with hometown stuff.”

What is his beer of choice while he’s got his toes in the bay?

“I drink a lot of Dogfish Head; they’re right from Milton,” Allen said. “The house I grew up in is literally three minutes from Dogfish Head Brewery. The field where Dogfish Head is now — man, we used to ride our four-wheelers over there, set fires and stuff — good living.”

He was even a guest at the Frederick High School prom in Frederick, Maryland, in 2004.

“Me and my cousin, these girls asked us to be dates to their prom … [dancing to] Tim McGraw, probably some Alan Jackson bumping; that’s when people could still listen to R. Kelly. … The playlist back then was cool. Sawyer Brown was still rocking … Little Texas.”

He played gigs in Delaware, mostly in the Dewey Beach area at places such as the Rusty Rudder and the Bottle and Cork. He decided to move to Nashville in 2007: “I just decided to just get up and go. I was like, ‘I’ve got nothing to lose, only something to gain.'”

He signed a publishing deal with Wide Open Music in 2016, followed by a record deal with Stoney Creek of Broken Bow Records in 2017. His debut country album, 2018’s “Mercury Lane,” featured the No. 1 hit single “Best Shot,” which was filled with beautiful visual storytelling: “When you smile I see the sun sink down on the coast of California.”

“That song worked because at the end of the day, people just want to be their best — whether it’s work, relationships, their kids or whatever, their intent is to be their best, to always give 100% no matter what you’re doing,” Allen said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re riding around all day driving a truck; shoot, I know buddies that are fishermen.”

The album also featured a second No. 1 hit with “Make Me Want To,” featuring a hook of falling in love amid pick-up lines: “What’s your name? What are you drinking? What’s your favorite song? …. Might be too soon to say I love you, but you make me want to.”

“I think of an idea and I try to go as deep as I can lyrically and just try to come up with the best lyrics that will really work to tie that song together,” Allen said. “For me, it was ‘What’s your name? What are you drinking? What’s your favorite song?’ A lot of guys ask that question, but what if the question is leading up to him saying he’s catching feelings fast?”

He delivered a third No. 1 with his Brad Paisley duet “Freedom Was a Highway” (2021).

“Brad Paisley has been writing songs since Davy Crockett was in high school,” Allen said. “It was fun working with Brad — he’s a super cool dude; I learned a lot from him. I’m still surprised that he said yes to the song and yes to the video.”

It all culminated with Allen winning Best New Artist at the CMA Awards last fall.

“It still don’t seem real because it’s something I’ve thought about winning — every new artist does — but to actually win it is just crazy,” Allen said.

He’s since appeared on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and will be a guest mentor on “American Idol,” coming full circle after auditioning with Scotty McCreery in 2010.

“I’m trying to get to the point where people are sick of seeing me on TV,” Allen said.

Last week, he released “Down Home,” a letter to his father, who died in 2019.

“Just telling him that we miss him,” Allen said. “Everything he taught us, we’re holding onto, and everything is still good down home.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Jimmie Allen at Hollywood Casino (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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