Iowa native Jay Allen has called Nashville home since 2013 and is an artist that is really starting to go places both metaphorically and literally as he makes his first trip to the UK in August for a short tour which kicks off with an appearance in North Wales for Party at The Porth for the Cymryd Rhan charity.
Allen may not be a completely new name to many country music fans as he is married to UMG recording artist Kylie Morgan and last year, he appeared on Season 22 of The Voice where he received chair turns from both Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton. However, it was back in 2018 where he first gained attention with his hit single “Blank Stares” which was written in tribute to his mother who had battled early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. He is a prolific Alzheimer’s Association advocate who has performed at numerous galas and events raising more than a hundred million dollars for charity.
The trip over is centred around the performance in Caersws (after prior clarification from a friend win North Wales, we both had a go at the pronunciation KAI-UR-SEUS) so I asked Jay how did the whole tour come to life? “A couple of years ago starting with COVID where I make my living on the road and as a philanthropist, I have to be playing events non-stop to raise money and raise awareness for Alzheimer’s. People had to get really creative and for me I feel like I performed more during more during COVID than I ever have just because people were accessible to me and do all of these Zooms. My label at the time said why don’t you utilise you social media platform and put it out there that if people wanted me to put on a private event for you in your backyard because everyone was craving live music, I’ll come to you and I’ll play literally on your back porch. It exploded as I had so many messages which I went through all of them one by one as it was before I had a team and narrowed it down to who was serious, then directed them towards the email and took about seventy or seventy five phone calls personally, which turned into this crazy tour schedule. I kept doing that and I decided to do it again last year where I think Party at The Porth reached out. Getting over there is really expensive and I’m always hopeful, I have high hopes and low expectations as how I kind of live life so I kind of just handed it off to my manager with the UK has reached out before but we’ve just never been able to make it happen, keep me updated, then she made it happen. It was a perfect fit, perfect timing and I think there is a following over there, a need for someone like me that is younger and has a platform to bring awareness to it so the timing couldn’t be more perfect.” When we had been initially chatting about the weather and flight over, we had touched upon the fact that Kylie had a very brief visit in March 2020 (that didn’t quite go to plan) and that a lot of their friends had been over here to play shows so I asked about his expectations for the trip from what he had heard about the UK audience and whether coming over had been a priority to try and achieve once he knew that the opportunity had some potential. “I can’t tell you how many messages that I have received saying that people would love to have me over in the UK, different parts of Europe and even Australia. “Blank Stares” went number one in Australia so we are working on that now as well, so it has been one of those things where I thought gosh, there is a desire to come over and see you guys but I just didn’t know how to accomplish it. Every single one of my artist peers that have been over to the UK have had nothing but a positive response and want to go back so it was all about timing for me and here we are.”
I went on to talk about the radio culture and the access available to fans over here where people listen to songs that they want to listen to opposed to in the States where country radio almost tells people what to listen to and that everything that people say about shows over here is very true. “You’ve got me pumped up man. That’s why I signed with this label called ONErpm because they are more cutting edge and futuristic as far as their approach to music business goes. It’s nice to hear that over there, here we have just brought on a radio team because everything is so focused on you have to get a single on country radio. For me, like I said I have been more of a philanthropist and not really concerned about that until now where we are just starting to entertain that which you guys will be one of the first to hear that. I became friends with RaeLynn then her and I wrote a duet together which we’re releasing in September as we’ve just finalised the plan for it. We were talking about how do you get a song to country radio as that is how you catapult your career to the next level but it is nice to know that it isn’t necessarily the case over there.” Jay had mentioned he has an upcoming collaboration on the way with RaeLynn who is an artist that first came to light after appearing on The Voice which brought the natural opportunity to talk about his own experience when he participated last year and what the biggest thing that he took away and learnt from the process. “Yeah, to be honest and very frank, I never thought I would be on The Voice, I never thought I would be that guy. Now that I’m out of contract, away from the show I can talk about the nitty gritty stuff and they have a casting agency that approaches artists that have stories as it is a storyline focused show and I didn’t want to be a part of it. That was until last year when they called me and I thought you know what, at that time I kind of felt like I had hit a roadblock where I had taken the fight against Alzheimer’s as far as I could and my music career was at a little bit of a standstill so thought what better way to put more eyes and ears on this cause and story than to go on the Voice. I pleaded my case with the producers and said let me sing this song “Blank Stares” that I wrote for my mother that has raised all of this money and they said yes sir. They got behind me in a big way and that really was my main intention of going on that show and they expressed my story and told it in such a beautiful way that I believe I never could have. It created so many beautiful opportunities and I also found out as far as the money we had raised, I thought it was a certain amount and found out it was a lot more.”
“The show made us do a fact check so before they aired my blind audition, the attorneys called me and me attorney to say before we announce that you have raised fifty million dollars, we need to make sure you actually did that, then my attorney dug in and called me to say Jay, you’ll never believe this but you have raised more than double that buddy! It was a good feeling which kind of rejuvenated me and reinspired me, it reminded me that all the hard work has paid off and we are making a dent in doing something good in the world. It was a beautiful experience and beyond that, I got close interactions with Blake and of course Gwen Stefani, which was bigger for me. I came back and I told my wife I’m sorry babe, I have a huge crush on Gwen and Kylie said, that’s fine, I’ve got a crush on Gwen too! It was awesome and I highly recommend it, just have a plan going in and a plan going out, then you’ll do just fine.” From describing the process, the opportunity not just allowed him to raise his profile as a performer but also a platform to get across his message in the fight against Alzheimer’s which is a cause that is deeply personal to him and has raised monumental funds towards. “My cause behind it has evolved over time. It started with me being angry where I have a sick mother who doesn’t deserve to be sick. She was the most selfless human being you would ever meet and if I was in her shoes, she would have done anything for me. It was out of the fierce anger that this was happening to her that I went to war and wrote this song that predestined really important people would hear it and get it around the world. After mom died and I started going through the grieving process, I found myself on the road in scenarios where I would be the last person to leave a venue as I have a line in front of me where strangers lay their head on my shoulders and tell me their heartbreak stories so we’ve kind of created a safe place for people to talk about their shit. I’ve really grown a heart for caregivers, we just performed at an event at the US Capitol which was the first ever concert performance inside that building for a movie called Unconditional which was directed by a friend of mine from MSNBC called Richard Lui. His dad had Alzheimer’s so it followed his experience for seven years where he would work in New York filming at MSNBC and then fly back to San Francisco to take care of his dad full time. He filmed that and his producer at MSNBC got behind it and convinced him to film other peoples stories and they filmed two other people’s stories which they told it all as this film called Unconditional and they invited me to come and perform a song that I wrote and specifically released for the film called “Break from Broken”.
“I really agreed to that because I have heard these stories over and over again. I always say that doing life for yourself is all fun and dandy but at the end of the day when I lay my head down at the end of the day, I want to know that I’m doing things that are bigger than me, the are helping others, benefitting others and trying to make the world a better place. I’ve started speaking up for people like that and go under the radar, I had to watch my little sister do and see things for my mother that a daughter should never have to do. My dad lost the love of his life and had to sacrifice everything for those two and a half years, again doing and seeing things that a husband should never have to do and see. They were caregivers and people don’t talk about caregivers because caregivers don’t talk about themselves as they are selfless and that has really become more of my passion and more my heart to shine a light on people like that which we are starting to do. The funds that I have raised are not going strictly towards finding a cure or treatments but we have shown a lot of progress recently with Lecanemab which is awesome. I’m sending more funds to organisations like the Lynden Legacy in Utah which strictly supports caregivers and it is being spread out in many different directions but that really is my heart. Now I’ve signed a record deal, we’re starting to release really fun songs, have fun on the road and I’ve got a five-piece band covered in tattoos who love to party and have a good time with a party show but I’ll always come back to this because this is my heart and I’ll always talk about this like I promised her on her deathbed. I’ll always sing the song and share the story on every stage that I’m on which I’m proud to say that I’ve done.” In terms of releasing music, Jay released a track called “Jello Shot” in June which follows on from two other songs that he put out earlier in the year so I asked what the plan for the rest of 2023 was looking like and if there was potentially an extended project somewhere on the horizon? “The label was like ok, you have all of these heartfelt songs and we know what you stand for but there is this really fun side of you which if you know me, you’ll know I’m always trying to have a good time, everyone around me is having a good time and if you’re not then I’m not doing my job. They said what is the most fun song that you have ever written? As a joke, I shared “Jello Shot” and thought they would laugh at me but they all heard it and loved the song so we put it out with a hilarious music video and my manager got a little kiddie pool which she filled with five hundred jello shots for the cover art and they put me in a rhinestone tuxedo, lay in all of these jello shots. It was hilarious and I’m so glad that we did it because I don’t honestly care how other people see me but I saw myself in a different light, I can be happy and should show off that side of me.”
“The next thing that we’re dropping on August 4th is a song called “Heart Ain’t Gonna Break Itself”. I’ve taken a lot of pride in the past that I write all my songs that I release but this one I didn’t. On The Voice, I performed “’Til You Can’t” and I was really pumped about that because my friend Ben Stennis wrote that and I reached out to him before the show and he was pumped too. After the show he started sending me a bunch more of his songs and asked what was I looking for so I said if I’m going to release an outside song, it needs to be a banger, really fun and upbeat so he sent me “Heart Ain’t Gonna Break” and I fell in love with it. We cut it and it is coming out next Friday, then we have the RaeLynn duet in September and I think people have been waiting for the next radio thing from her so I think this is perfect timing for both of us. She is fun to be around and so feisty, authentic and what you see is what you get. It is a song that her and I wrote together called “Good For You” which from me, and not a lot of people know this but I was married once before I married Kylie when I was young and really got my heartbroken where I really had a hard heart towards my ex-wife for a long time until recently. I caught up with her, she is remarried, has children and is happy and I am genuinely happy for her so the positive message is that where most people hate their ex’s, you could actually be happy for them and wish them the best. That is coming in September and then we are probably going to do a Holiday cover release before I want to do a full length record for maybe early spring next year and I just want to drop as much music as possible so it’s all coming together at the right time and I’m having a fun time now.”
Before letting him go, I thought we end with a little bit of fun and extending a chain a little. I first became aware of Jay Allen in the same way that a lot of UK fans will have come across him to the extent that when his tour poster was shared in the largest UK country music group on Facebook, he was referred to as “Mr Kylie Morgan” which he loved and found hilarious.
I initially came across Kylie in 2019 after interviewing Walker Hayes (who we both agreed should be the king of the world because he is the nicest and most interesting man on the planet) who was talking about his upcoming projects where he said about this new girl called Kylie Morgan that he had written a song with called ‘I Cuss a Little’. As Walker introduced me to her music, when I first spoke to Kylie six months later, I asked her to keep the chain going and give me some other artists including some guy called Jay Allen who she supposed was all right. From this, I gave Jay the turn to give me a name or two for who else I need to have a listen to. “That’s a good one. There are so many. There is this pop band called Kid Politics who are that group that when you see live you think why are they not superstars? They are two guys but play as a three piece band who are not only the kindest human beings but their live show is just epic, it’s so big and so fun. They just haven’t gotten a chance and because I’ve always been the underdog my whole life, I’m always going to talk about the underdog. They are dudes that literally deserve a major record deal, deserve to be all over pop radio and could easily have a top forty if given a shot so I would say Kid Politics. Then, Scott Stevens is one of the most talented and funniest dudes that you’ll ever meet so he would be another one for me. I’m sure there a thousand more that deserve a shot and deserve to be heard but those are the two that come to my mind immediately.”
We look forward to seeing Jay and catching up in person at his show in London on Tuesday August 8th at The Pheasantry in Chelsea in just over a week. “Yeah man, it’s coming up fast. Kylie is mad that she isn’t coming, she tells me every day.”
I replied to say that he needs to tell Kylie to get her ass back over here because she only got to play an industry showcase back in 2020 and there are a lot more people that would love to see her too but fingers crossed his first trip is a lot smoother than hers. “I think it’s going to go well and I think next time we’ll come back together maybe for a joint tour. It could be the “Mr and Mrs Kylie Morgan Tour”.
Jay Allen makes his first trip to the UK in August with all shows listed below and ticket details are available on his WEBSITE. His latest track “Jello Shot” is out now and available HERE whilst you can keep up to date with Jay socially on INSTAGRAMTIKTOKFACEBOOK.
Saturday August 5th: Party at The Porth - Caersws Sunday August 6th: The Cavern Club – Liverpool Monday August 7th: The Six Six – Cambridge Tuesday August 8th: The Pheasantry – London Cymryd Rhan are a charity based just outside of Wrexham who were “formed in 1986 to promote and assist people in Wales who are vulnerable and disadvantaged by reason of their learning and/or physical disability, mental health or age.” You can find more information about the charity along with their upcoming Party at The Porth event from their WEBSITE.
True country music is honesty, sincerity, and real life to the hilt. Garth Brooks