In the five years since the release of his debut single, “Best Shot,” Jimmie Allen has earned a reputation as one of country music’s most industrious figures.
He has piled numerous high-profile TV roles — including stints on Dancing With the Stars, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve and Celebrity Family Feud — on top of what’s typically the most exhaustive period of an artist’s career, while also launching several businesses and establishing a family, to boot.
Part of what has propelled him is a seemingly indefatigable energy, a can-do-it disposition that fueled his upward mobility from a rough period when he was forced to sleep in his car. Most successful people have some period of dues-paying, and while Allen never seems to complain about — or solicit sympathy for — that part of his past, he acknowledges it in the opening stanza of his new single, “Be Alright (15 Version),” which honors the foundational character the hard times inspired.
“It was important to tell that story,” he says, “because a lot of people want to run from the struggles. But you have to get into it.”
Appropriately, “Be Alright” was forged in the aftermath of a difficult period. Allen never grew comfortable writing songs over Zoom during the pandemic, and he only did it twice. As the world began to open back up, he booked a full week of writing in Los Angeles, and returning to that kind of in-person connection tapped into his animated spirit. The bookings included a session with Jason Evigan (“I Should Probably Go to Bed,” “Talk Dirty”), songwriter-producer Gian Stone (Meghan Trainor, Jonas Brothers) and Castle, a trio that Allen was meeting for the first time.
Allen didn’t have much time for pleasantries. When he entered the studio, set with a sleek wall logo that gave it a mild Star Trek vibe, he announced he wanted to write a song with an upbeat affirmation that everything would be all right. Atypically, they dived into work in the first five minutes.
“When you start a session, especially when you don’t know the other people, there’s like 30 minutes, an hour, hour and a half of easing into writing a song,” Stone says. “You talk and you kind of get a background, and you do all this stuff. And in a weird way, that kind of happened two hours into this. We jumped in right away.”
Evigan had received a rather elaborate cigar-box guitar for a birthday present, and he used it to craft a twisty opening riff that matched the cheery tone of Allen’s theme. Evigan and Stone concentrated on the musical elements, while Allen and Castle enthusiastically tackled the message. “Castle has like, crazy, wild energy,” says Evigan. “He just keeps the room going, and then Jimmie is the same way. I mean, he was preaching. He’s really well spoken and has just so much to say. So we’re kind of sitting back like kids, taking notes.”
They endeavored to balance the track’s sonic positivity with a healthy level of depth, following a blueprint laid out by multigenre duo Louis York. “Claude Kelly, the amazing songwriter, and Chuck Harmony, they have this phrase called ‘deep-fried veggies,’ ” Allen says. “The ‘deep-fried’ part is it feels good. But the ‘veggies’ part, when you listen to it, is something that’s good for you.”
The second verse neatly used the casual phrasing established in the first verse. The first word, “patience,” is followed by a pause, cleverly making the listener wait (“That was intentional,” Allen says), ultimately encouraging persistence before segueing back into the chorus. That singalong section is a relentless parade of speedy phrases, seven lines that embrace life’s unpredictability with a tight rhyme scheme: “roll with it,” “flow with it,” “go with it.” The L.A. writers suggested doubling that part, though Allen was adamantly opposed.
To wrap the process, Allen sang over the day’s programmed tracks, and he broke into yet another hooky idea — a simple repetition of “alright, alright, alright” — during the final take.
“We loved that,” remembers Stone. “He did an ad-lib track at the very end — doing the vocal, a lot of times, we’ll be like, ‘Hey, can you just try to add some ad-libs and see if you hear anything?’ I think he started doing that in the end, and we were like, ‘Wait, that should be a whole part of the song.’”
It became a post-chorus — “We called it a ‘super chorus’ when I was growing up in bands,” Evigan recalls — when they dropped it in place after Allen left. But they also renewed that thought of doubling the “roll with it” section by simply repeating that seven-line passage twice. They did that on both the first and third occurrence — the second one remains the original length — and Allen ultimately approved as the song’s structure became more clearly defined.
“There was a lot of science that went into it afterward,” Evigan notes. “When he left, I remember us both being like, ‘What is going on with this song? It’s all over the place.’ ‘I’m gonna roll with it’ — was this a chorus? But once we doubled it, we kind of knew it’s got this rolling thing. It just feels good.”
Allen positioned “Be Alright” as the opening track of Tulip Drive, which Stoney Creek released June 24, 2022. Even as the album arrived, Allen already had an alternate version in mind that would be more suitable for airing on country radio.
“They play what they play, and I’m all about respecting where you are,” says Allen. “If I want to be played on country radio, I need to give them something they want to play.”
Allen and producer Ash Bowers (Matt Stell, George Birge) recut it on July 5 at Front Stage on Nashville’s Music Row with a live band. Allen changed two lines, too, altering the chorus’ opening phrase, “Smoke it and roll with it,” to “You gotta roll with it.” They had Evan Hutchings play a bigger, hotter drum part, and Allen re-sang the lead vocal to fit the new version.
Allen hoped to get Matthew McConaughey to guest in the video — the “alright, alright, alright” post-chorus seemed tailor-made for him — but the actor was out of the country.
In the meantime, Allen designated the new version “Be Alright (15 Edition),” to pay homage to his late father, a baseball enthusiast who wore the No. 15 on his jersey. Stoney Creek released it to country radio via PlayMPE on March 21. He is optimistic that its positive message will have an impact on the country fan base.
“I feel,” Allen says, “like this is what the world needs to hear right now.”