By Johnny Griffith
Life isn’t exactly fair, and it certainly is full of challenges, pitfalls, and plenty of circumstances that can be used as excuses for failure or opportunities to rise above those challenges and use them as stepping stones to where you want to be. Local East Texas singer/songwriter Jonathon Allen has certainly had plenty of those challenges along the way, and has decided to use those moments as inspiration for songs he hopes will provide others the same opportunity. With raw, passionate, honest music that is a mirror reflection of his personality, Allen pulls no punches, makes no apologies for being that way, and bares his soul through the lyrics and soulful delivery of his songs on stages around the area. He stopped and gave us a chance to get to know him better this month:
Johnny: Where are you from originally?
Jonathon:I grew up moving between Gladewater, Texas and a small town in northern Michigan called Cheboygan. My dad’s from here and my mom’s family is from Cheboygan but I call East Texas home these days.
Johnny: What got you started in music?
Jonathon: Well, I grew up in a drug-ridden area and almost everyone I was related to was doing meth or heroin and they would never listen to the kids, you know. I had noticed when a good song came on they would always be like “listen to the words, listen to the meaning,” so I thought to myself “that’s how I can get through to them.” When I was 14 I wrote a song called “My Demons” about my parents’ drug abuse. I walk in their room and tell them I wrote this song, and it’s the usual “Shut up get out.” Well, I said fine don’t listen to it, but it’s about your drug habit, and at that time they thought I didn’t know about their habits. My dad came and listened to it and went and got my step mom who came and listened to it, and a few weeks after that they were off drugs and stayed clean for 6 years. At a point I thought to myself, “If I can help someone that far into addiction with music then imagine how many other people I could help get through it,” and that’s a big reason why music is my passion.
Johnny: Who were your early influences musically?
Jonathon: Definitely Pantera because that was the band that I always gravitated towards. Eventually I started to get more into Tool and Pink Floyd because of the lyrics. I was infatuated with the structure of the lyrics and how they could explain what message they were trying to get across in the most efficient way so it would make the biggest impact on the listener.
Johnny: When was the moment you felt that you could do this as more than just a hobby?
Jonathon: I always wanted to. When I started it was my goal to support myself with music only, and try to make it as far as I can possibly go.
Johnny: You tend to do more rock than country during your shows. Was that just where you gravitated due to your personal preference in music or was it more of a conscious choice?
Jonathon: Yeah I’m more of a rock, heavy metal and blues guy. I like outlaw country but most of those country covers are the songs people wanna hear, and I’m a man of the people.
Johnny: What have been some of the biggest personal challenges in pursuing this as a career?
Jonathon: Honestly just building my name up. I lived in the woods for a while and started playing in front of Hastings in Longview and got myself out of the gutter by doing that, and shortly after Hastings shut down I met Donnie from the White Trash Wannabees and he helped me get my start in the local bar scene.
Johnny: What show has stuck out to you from what you’ve done so far?
Jonathon: Probably the show when I opened for Post Profit, They Were Giants, and To Whom It May. It was a pretty awesome show and the crowd was just awesome that night.
Johnny: Are you typically a one-man show or do you pair up with other musicians during live sets?
Jonathon: Most of the time it’s just me. Every once in a while someone will come up and jam with me but for the most part it’s just me, my voice, and a guitar.
Johnny: How many originals do you have? Do you have a favorite cover song you like to include in your sets?
Jonathon: I have about 13 originals that I still play. I have a lot more in the archives that I plan to reanimate. As far as covers go, I love playing “She Talks To Angels” by The Black Crowes. It’s just a fun song to play and people love it.
Johnny: If you could share the stage with any living artist, who would it be?
Jonathon: As of right now I would love to share the stage with A Perfect Circle, or Chevelle. I’ve been listening to those guys a lot lately and I love their sound .
Johnny: What kind of experience do you want people seeing your set live for the first time to go away with?
Jonathon: Well I love it when people don’t know who I am because my style is bluesy soul. I’m a powerhouse vocalist and it always catches their ears. I love when they aren’t paying attention and when I hit that right note they turn around and become a fan. Then they start listening to my originals, and they listen to the message because it’s important to me that people understand why I do this, and I think that’s what I want them to take away from it.
Johnny: Who do you listen to when you’re not learning a new cover or writing an original?
Jonathon: That’s a long list, but to shorten it; A Perfect Circle, Chevelle, Thy Art Is Murder, White Chapel, Otis Redding, Al Green, Sam Cooke and many more. I listen to a lot of different music. It just depends on what kind of day it is.
Keep track of upcoming Jonathon Allen shows at facebook.com/jonathon.allen.925.