Amy Allen: Forging a successful career in music

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Photo: Josefina Santos

The ’90s began with a cultural embracing of grunge music, a style which emphasized a raucous sound that was a drastic alternative to ’80s synth-driven pop. By the end of the decade, the antithesis had become the mainstream obsession, catalyzing the rise of pop superstars like Britney Spears. Somewhere in the middle was perfection, artists with phenomenal songwriting chops who kept it real, but weren’t afraid to polish up their sound a little bit.

Amy Allen grew up in the ’90s, but she was raised on classic rock. Her songs are a dazzling amalgam of the best that music has offered us over the past several decades. Allen’s latest single is an effervescent track called “Chasing Jenny.” It is a song that almost didn’t make her upcoming EP, Get Me Outta Here!

“When I first started writing this record, I was living in Boston,” Amy told Entertaining Options. “I wrote ‘Jenny’ the same week I moved to New York. I wasn’t originally thinking that it was going to be for this record because I was in a little bit of a different mindset after I got here. I was looking forward to getting out of Boston because I’d been there for six years for school and I felt like my life was going to restart once I got here. So, I wrote ‘Jenny’ from a totally different mindset, a way happier one.”

Initially, Allen went to Boston College to study biochemistry. She ended up dropping out and going to Berklee College of Music.

“I only spent three years at Berklee, but I graduated. I took summer classes and I got all of my credits. My joke is, ‘Usually, the good ones don’t graduate.’ I hope it doesn’t bite me in the butt that I did! But my parents wouldn’t have been very happy if I had dropped out of biochemistry and then didn’t graduate music school,” she laughed.

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Photo: Josefina Santos

But Amy is one of the good ones. One of the best. Her music shimmers with highly addictive hooks that instantly catch your ear. Beneath the surface, the emotions driving her lyrics run deep and the current is strong, making it easy to fall for her and get swept away. She’s a rare love-at-first-listen artist who quickly becomes a sonic soulmate.

The aforementioned single, “Chasing Jenny,” is an infectious, upbeat track about comparing yourself to an ideal.

“Even when I was in Boston,” Amy recalled, “I was looking for this somebody, somebody that I felt like I was never quite going to be. I was always feeling like I needed to be better than I am.”

“Music is still a very male-dominated industry,” she continued. “Every single writing session I go to, it’s always all guys. My band is all guys and I have a lot of guy friends. We’re just friends, but maybe he develops feelings or maybe I develop feelings? It’s just been this ever-present theme in my life where I feel like I’m always chasing to be someone who’s always a little bit out of range. Also, I think the idea was spurred by watching two of my favorite movies back to back: Tom Hanks’ That Thing You Do! and My Best Friend’s Wedding.”

But there is more to Amy than her artistry. Recently, Allen was interviewed by CBS Small Business Pulse. In the article, she offers advice to other small business owners.

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Photo: Josefina Santos

“I never thought I was going to be an artist for my career, so I carried a lot of the business stuff with me,” she explained. “I do writing for other people, which is a huge business aspect of my life because I’m dealing with schedules, agreements, co-writing sheets, and everything else that’s involved with running a business.”

“When I first started, I never even knew that writing for other people existed. There’s this naïveté when you’re growing up — I never realized how many people do not write songs for themselves.”

The person responsible for first opening Amy’s eyes to writing for other artists was Kara DioGuardi (American Idol), one of Allen’s instructors at Berklee. “She has written hits for everyone (Carrie Underwood, P!nk, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, Theory of a Deadman, Cobra Starship), so it became very apparent to me that writing songs for other people could be a lucrative career. I thought maybe it would be a good business move to learn how to write music for other people and have that in my back pocket as part of my skill set.”

If you’re looking for a business parallel for Amy’s career, Bebe Rexha might be a good comparison. Bebe is a rising superstar who took a similar path. Before breaking as an artist, herself, she was writing some of the biggest hits on radio — like Eminem’s “The Monster.”

When asked if she writes with other artists in mind, Allen responded, “The industry is so interesting because a lot of times they’ll do camps… Maybe they’ll do a Nick Jonas camp? His publishing company will set up a camp and fly in writers just to write for Nick. A lot of times, it will be super specific like that, which is cool, but most of the time I prefer to just get into the session and try and write a great song. At the end of the day, artists want to be cool and they want to be different, but they also want to have a song that is meaningful and emotional to them. Usually, I just try to focus on writing a great, cool song. I try and focus less on who it’s going to be for because artists are always wanting to change their sound. You can’t really be chasing what they’re doing now because by the time the record actually comes out, it’s going to be at least a year later, so you always have to be ahead of the curve.”

Photo: Josefina Santos

Getting back to Amy’s own upcoming release, Get Me Outta Here!, Allen revealed one of the reasons this project was so much fun for her was because of the production. Each song, in some way, reflects something that has made an impact on Amy’s artistic development. Following is a rundown of the songs on Get Me Outta Here! along with her cited inspiration/s for the production:

1. “Get Me Outta Here!” – Pat Benatar
2. “Chasing Jenny” – The Cure, Tears for Fears, and the movie My Best Friend’s Wedding
3. “Whatcha Do” – The Zombies, the movie That Thing You Do!, The Kinks, and also a little Katrina and the Waves for sure!
4. “I Had You” – We were trying to channel heartbreak at prom in the 80’s a la 5. “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and “Forever Young”
6. “Heart In Your Hands” – Everclear (one of my favorite bands of all time), Siouxsie and the Banshees, No Doubt, and Garbage
7. “On + On” – Springsteen, Carpenters, and Judee Sill

Besides continuing to co-write, Amy plans to keep releasing singles throughout the summer so she can have the whole EP up by late August. Additionally, Allen will be releasing a video for the title track of her EP and performing throughout the northeast region of the United States.

In conclusion, Amy expressed, “What has made all of this doable are the two guys who have been in my band since day one, Manuel Ruiz (drummer from Lima, Peru) and Vinny Da Silva (lead guitarist from Londrina, Brazil). “They went to Berklee with me and have been by my side through everything. Another one of my friends, Kaylee Bugg, graduated valedictorian of Berklee’s business school, and she’s been helping me with the business side of my career.”

“I believe the crux of being a successful independent artist is surrounding yourself with an infrastructure of great, great people that you trust and who believe in you and want to be part of your team, people who are as excited about the music as you are.”

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