Interview with Allie Jean

Divine Magazine
Divine Magazine 16 Min Read

Born in a small town in North East Victoria, country life and country music have been a permanent fixture for Allie Jean. Living in various rural and remote locations around Australia including Booleroo Centre (South Australia, population approximately 400) before settling in the picturesque Victorian high country, country music has always been a part of her life.

How would you describe your music?

It’s actually really hard to come up with a single descriptor for my music at this point in time. I think, like a lot of first albums, there’s quite a wide range of influences, which you can hear across the different tracks. It definitely tends towards the heavier country rock and certainly my debut single “Gasoline on Fire” is really a true country-rock song. I am a massive fan of slide and electric guitar and also drums, which hold centre stage. We had some phenomenal muso’s record different parts for the track and in the end it became really hard-hitting and energetic which reflects the narrative perfectly.

What about your music is rebellious, unconventional, or unusual?

I like to think, everything! But in all seriousness, I think the authenticity of it, as in reflective of my specific experience, is what makes it unusual. So many songs by female artists seem to position themselves in relationship to men, or indeed other women and my music is intended to reflective either who I currently am or what I aspire too, it speaks to empowerment and honesty and sometimes that isn’t particularly pretty or obvious, but I think the rawness adds a dimension which (hopefully) appeals to the generation of listeners coming through now.

Which famous musicians do you admire?

There is definitely as few! It’s hard to go past Gillian Welsh, Kurt Cobain, Miranda Lambert and The Chicks. Each of those inspired me in different ways, but what they all have/had in common was their authenticity as songwriters.  Gillian Welch has the ability to carve out almost perfect songs, I really admire her commitment to the process, her albums and creative projects are often years apart because she refuses to compromise her standards. By absorbing her music it has really shown me the importance of shaping an album, beyond the individual singles.

 Each song represents a new concept and idea, which then sits alongside the other tracks to form a story arc across the album. Kurt Cobain might be an odd influence for a country type artist, but the rawness of his song writing and ability to take inspiration from not only his own experience but the world around him makes his music so relatable, also it never hurts to have a little bit of attitude!

Similarly with Miranda Lambert, it is so easy to connect with her songwriting – you might not have shared the exact same life experiences, but you can relate to the emotions and high and lows in a way which is so impactful and I think why her music connects with so many people.

Lastly, musically, The Chicks are a cut above their use of harmony and powerful instrumentation to find the perfect blend of rock, pop and country and of course to maintain musical momentum and innovation over such a long time is quite something else!

Allie Jean

What can we expect from you within the next 6 months? Any releases planned? Future gigs?

There’s a lot happening in the next six months! The promo campaign for “Gasoline on Fire” will run for the next month or so and then we will drop a new single in February of 2024, another one in May and the look to release the album in the latter half of 2024. The band is currently on hiatus coming into the end of the year, but we have a series of gigs lined up for 2024 that we are really excited about and looking forward to sharing more music.

Was anyone else involved in writing, recording, or producing the songs?

So many people! I was really lucky to work with a very talented collective right from the start of the project all the way through recording and production. Perhaps most pivotally, all the songs on the album are co writes between me and my song-writing partner Jase McCormick, he is really talented and has the ability to find his way to the heart of a song or story and construct really nuanced lyrics and music. Also, working with producer Matt Fell was a huge part of the creative process, Matt has a way of taking songs and really bringing them to life, he has an ear for bringing all the parts together in a way which is so seamless, he is quite extraordinary and I learnt so much from working with him.

Where was your current project recorded?

Well, to understand the recording it probably makes sense to just mention its inception. We wrote the album all over the place-in Melbourne, up in the Victorian High Country, and on the South coast of NSW. It took about a year. We’d been thinking about a producer and all the songs we heard which sounded great came from Matt Fell (producer). So we contacted Matt, and started sending him phone demos.  Luckily for me, Matt was pretty keen to be involved, but this was all happening, as Matt was getting ready to re locate from Sydney to Tasmania so we had to wait a little while.

So we just kept writing and demoing songs. We then recorded some decent demos at out house. I have the gear but not great at using it! We then demoed the album properly across 3 studios in Melbourne. The idea then was to fly to Tasmania and do pre production with Matt. We flew over in March 2022, which was right after Tamworth. I was getting really excited because we’d been watching all these country artists perform at the awards.  We arrived and I called Matt from my hotel. We were going to all catch up for dinner, then Matt called to say he wasn’t feeling great, and to hold off, and we’d see him the next day to start. Matt called the next day –really unwell-turns out he’d got COVID. We turned around and flew back to Melbourne. Apart from poor Matt being sick, that actually gave us a chance to go back and rewrite a few songs-tighten up the arrangements. The most significant change was made to (first single) ‘Gasoline on fire.’  We got the boat over to Tassie a few months later up in the hills outside Davenport.  We did pre production over a few days, which was amazing. It went so well we were able to begin recording guitars. By the end of the week we’d got all the instruments recorded. We came back again a few months later and recorded the vocals. Tim Crouch recorded fiddle and mandolin (for the song Wish) in the US.  Chris E Thomas was recording at Matt’s studio and did some backing vocals for ‘Gasoline on Fire.’  Likewise, Rod McCormick recorded the intro guitar on ‘Gasoline on Fire.’

AllieJean

Do you enjoy recording and production?

We learnt so much recording with Matt, to the point where I had mixed feelings when we were wrapping up. On one hand the album was read to go to William Bowden (Goyte, Silverchair) for mastering, on the other it was time to stop my hands-on work on the album.  The most valuable part was actually pre production and it was a real luxury to be able to do that with Matt in the room. He’d get us to play each song. He provides some thoughts, and we’d record a scratch version of the song, then and there. Because we had done some much prior to this stage, there weren’t a lot of changes, but the ones that were made a big difference. For instance, the last song we played Matt was the last song on the album (Last of the Wild Ones). We’d written it as a slow song. After we finished playing it Matt’s comments were-‘it’s great, but does it have to be slow-it’s almost a dirge. So we played it through much faster and it was so much better for it.

For the actually recording process we’d start with a song and record till lunch. Drive into town and take a break whilst Matt kept working, and bring him back a coffee. We’d keep working till about 6 then stop. Matt would usually come back in by himself and work till late. After about a week we had recoded most of the music. I came back a few weeks later and we recorded the vocals.

How do you go about writing a song? Do you have a melody in your head and then write the other music for it?

Jase sent my a really rough version of ‘Next Bus’ that he’d started writing about a girl stuck in a small town, with dreams of getting out to avoid what the inevitable course of her life would be if she stayed.  When we got together to play it we had to find the key that suited my voice, then look at where the narrative was, who the character is, and why they do what they do.

So, one of us will come up with an idea-either a lyric and melody with the chord progression-often it’s a part of a choruses, then we’ll talk it through based on what we think the song is about, then gradually fill in the gaps. But there’s usually a big idea to kick things off, some kind of hook.

The song ‘How Bout now’ probably took 6 months to write because musically it has tempo changes, and changes time signatures. Then there’s something like Wish, which I wrote in about 15 minutes. I think everyone will tell you that sometimes they come easy, and sometimes you can’t push it, or accept the first idea that you come up with. Jase and I work really well together because we can honestly tell each other if something isn’t working, or is ringing true. Neither of us will get up and storm out. Jase probably likes to get things set in stone a lot quicker than me, but if it’s not quite there, I can’t move on till we solve the problem. That makes things take longer but it also means that you know when something’s good. You hear it-a lyric or chord change and know that it’s what was hiding all along.

As a footnote, we actually wrote the album, lived with everything for a few weeks, and then made the difficult decision to scrap the songs that we didn’t think reflected the direction we were heading in. The songs kept getting better and better as the process continued, so we ended up scrapping half the album and starting again. Jase took a lot of convincing, but in the end it’s a choice that we often reflect was 100% the right thing to do, as each song had to prove its worth to earn its place on the album.

Gasoline On Fire by Allie Jean

Allie gets all fired up with her new single ‘Gasoline On Fire’.

Gasoline on Fire’ is the first glimpse from exciting new country artist Allie Jean from her hotly anticipated debut album ‘This Drink is for the Hard Times’.  Allie Jean has a sound distinctly all her own – defiant, empowered and laden with attitude. ‘Gasoline on Fire’, is a song about why revenge should sometimes be served hot, a soundtrack for not going quietly when someone’s mouth is getting the best of them.

Whilst initially respecting the traditional elements of country and bluegrass, Gasoline on Fire takes a turn as it changes gear with gritty slide guitars over propelling drums, with a sweet but powerful vocal building up to an anthemic country rock/pop classic as it hits the chorus. 

 “It’s a bit rock, it’s a bit country, but ultimately, it’s about upping the ante, saying to the person who is pissing you off, you think things are bad now? You have no idea what’s coming your way.” – Allie Jean

Produced by Australian Country Music heavyweight Matt Fell (Shane Nicholson, Brad Cox) and mastered by William Bowden (Goyte, The Church, Silverchair) Allie Jean is a different side to the country music coin. ‘Gasoline on Fire’ is high energy, revenge fest, country grunge at its best.

Gasoline On Fire

https://www.instagram.com/allie_jean_music_australia/

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