Singer rediscovers talent, musical passion

John Allen, Alt. Country - a new branch of modern Rockn' Roll.

John Allen believes in fate.

When he was a child, he discovered music with the help of his brother-in-law, who was 10 years older. By the time he was 16 years old, he was taking his concert breaks on stage because he was not allowed in other parts of the bar.

Today, on the verge of 43, Allen sees fate through a new perspective. Just yesterday his debut album, "Loud and Clear," made its way from the publishers in New York City to the hands of the Muncie community.

But he never thought it would be this way.

"At first, my intentions for recording...I had no intentions of trying to promote a CD," Allen said. "My intentions originally were just to document and record a little bit of history for myself and be able to hand my daughter a CD one day and say, 'Hey, your old man did this.'"

Now Allen faces the predicament of distributing over 500 copies, rather than the 10 to 20 he originally planned.

It's a job he does on the side, however. By day, Allen works as a group leader for Ball State's moving department. Two nights a week, he practices with his other side project, Souled Out, an eight-piece rhythm and blues band in which he plays guitar and sings.

"The CD's a little departure from the band because I'm doing it myself," he said. "The music is quite different also. It's more of an acoustic sound - I like to call it alternative country because it's not exactly your standard friendly music, but it certainly has that flavor with a little kick to it."

In an attempt to get what he calls a regular job, Allen came to Ball State in 1989 after having sought out a career in the music business. Though he quit performing, Allen said he didn't give up music all together. His encouragement to record an album came from just about every direction, he said, including that of David Manship, the sound man for Souled Out. With the help of Manship and his recording studio Belltauar Studios, Allen started recording the album on June 11.

While he hasn't chosen one path over the other, Allen said life can sometimes get monotonous, but music is where his heart is.

"It's where my passion is of course," Allen said. "Again, realizing that it (the music business) is a very competitive arena ... I'm grateful to be employed by Ball State and just have the opportunity to delve into music. And who knows? But it's a struggle sometimes."

When times get rough, Allen finds encouragement in his daughter Brianna and fiancee Bethany. Allen said about halfway through the process he realized that he didn't know what he was getting himself into, and when he turned around, Brianna and Bethany were there. The hesitation, perhaps, comes from a time when Allen knew the distasteful aspects of the music business.

"At this point music is fun to me," he said. "I can remember a time where it wasn't. There is something to be said when you are playing music for your livelihood. It can sometimes be a little less rewarding because you feel like you're pushed to do it. It is a job.

"That never discouraged or stopped me from playing music all together. It may have thrown a stick in the spokes in terms of pursuing it as a career... Anybody that has a talent, it's a gift. A lot of times those of us that possess such a gift can at times take it for granted."

"Loud and Clear" features all original music by Allen, who draws his influences from Tom Petty, the Gin Blossoms, Neil Young and James Taylor. Allen said listeners can hear a little bit of each in his music. While some songs were written 15 years ago, Allen wrote the title track during the recording process.

"Every song on the CD speaks from a specific event or occurrence - it's all nonfiction," he said. "Each song does have a certain meaning to me that comes directly from experience."

When Allen sells his 500th CD, a burden will be lifted and the question of his future may become a reality. He said he hopes to record a second album, because his perspectives will have been broadened. Allen said at times he is his own worst critic.

"I have a lot of people that believe in me more than I believe in myself," Allen said. "...In this business, it's so competitive. A lot of things depend on fate. It sometimes comes down to the luck of the draw - and how the moon and stars are aligned."


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