From The Lone Star State To Lower Broadway: An Interview With Tori Allen

From her humble beginnings as a Texas Long Horn, to taking her God given multi-instrumentalist talents to Nashville, Tori Allen has put in the work necessary for success in the music business. 

Allen moved to Nashville as a teenager, fiddle in hand, and it was then she began her musical journey. She started playing on Lower Broadway, and then doubled up as a singer to boost her significance on the scene. With her charm, skill, and charisma, Allen made connections and worked her way up the food chain. Her dedication has led her to being the house utility player for the 2019 CMT Awards, to touring all over Europe, to consistently playing on Lower Broadway, and much more.

She grew up playing the fiddle and guitar, and discovered a natural talent of being able to hold down other instruments as well. She formed an act with fellow songwriter Corey Wagar, and they formed the duo Girlbilly some odd years ago. The two did several tours together, and still play together to this day, though Girlbilly has disbanded. Allen has set out to be her own artist, and is doing it in her own unique and colorful way.

Allen just released her first single, “Made in the Shade,” earlier this year, and her very first EP, “Colors” is set to come out later this summer. 

Music Mecca: So it looks like you grew up in Austin, Texas, another musically inclined city. What made you decide to come to Nashville versus developing your career there?

Tori Allen: I grew up my whole life playing music in Austin, and it was what made me so musical to begin with. However, I found luck at the ago of 19 working for a publishing company in Nashville on Music Row. I worked as a receptionist and office manager, doing things such a book keeping and demo bills. The Number One parties and events were just a perk! I worked for Full Circle Music publishing for 2 1/2 years. After moving to Nashville, I realized what little industry Austin had to offer versus the major pool I had lucked into being a part of. I also found myself gigging so often I just decided to not leave. I felt the contacts I had made in Nashville would be of much greater help to my success as an artist than if I were to return to Austin. Texas will always be home, but Nashville comes in as a close second.

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MM: How would you compare the Austin music scene to Nashville’s?

TA: The music scene in Austin is very rock and blues driven. But there’s always country music as well, or “red dirt music.” There is music everywhere, however, unlike Nashville, it can be almost impossible to make a living just on music. It doesn’t have the built-in tourism such as the infamous Lower Broadway in Nashville. Gigs simply don’t pay hardly anything in Austin unless you have a solid following! 

MM: You chose to start playing the fiddle at a very young age. What or who was your inspiration to want to pick up the fiddle? 

TA: I actually just started playing “fiddle” about 6 years ago. I grew up playing classical music. I am the youngest of 7 in my family and the only one who is a musician. When my older sister was 12 she begged my mom to buy a $75 violin at a garage sale, and she took two lessons and quit. When I was entering the 6th grade and had to choose an elective, I was actually forced into orchestra simply because we had a violin laying in the closet. I actually despised it because in the 6th grade orchestra seems to not be “the cool thing” like choir or sports were. But what kept me going was an AMAZING instructor when I switched schools in the 7th grade. I had a teacher named Mrs.Vandertulip who absolutely ignited my fire for playing the violin that eventually took me to Carnegie Hall at the age of 18 as well as a year at University of Texas San Antonio before moving to Nashville. I moved to Nashville as a solo artist at 19, and I always sang and played the guitar as well wrote my own songs since 15 years old. So when I got a job as a singer at Tootsie’s, I actually only ever switched to the fiddle because I knew it would help me get 5x the gigs than a lot of the other female singers who only just sang. I really did it so I could pay rent and eat, but now it’s my entire life.

MM: You just released your first single, “Made in the Shade.” What’s the inspiration behind this song?

TA: I wrote this song about a group of girls who used to be really mean to me down on Broadway when I first started. They would make fun of me and were just mean and immature. I had the title for four years before I ever finished it. I wanted to write about the “shady” negative people and write from the perspective of being “made from the shade” that people can cast on you. I believe it takes no energy to be kind to one another and love people. I believe negativity and bullying is a learned action. I want to inspire people to not listen to those types things and only surround yourself with peers that lift you up and support you, not bring you down for being different or yourself.

MM: When can fans expect your debut EP “Colors,” to be released, and what can you tell us about it?

TA: My EP will be released some time this fall 2019! I am so excited! I’ve wanted to share these songs for so long. My passion in my music is to spread love and kindness, to people to be as colorful as they choose, and be proud of who they are. No matter your language, color, origin, passion- we are all connected and we are all human. These songs represent that, and I think the world needs to hear more of that.

MM: You have played with a lot of bands as a background singer and fiddle player. What made you decide to become a solo artist? 

TA: I started writing music and performing live with my guitar at the age of 13 in Austin! I toured all over Texas during high school in college as a solo artist. I moved to Nashville with the intent of continuing that career. It was simply the fiddle that brought me to getting to play with so many different bands and musicians. I’ve learned so much from the people I’ve gotten the opportunity to play with! I was in a female duo called “GirlBilly” for 5 years after moving to Nashville. The duo came to an end in December 2017 when my partner resigned from the band to continue to be a writer and not an artist. She was also getting married and wanted to settle down. She’s still my best friend, and actually wrote my entire EP with me!

MM: You had the honor of being the utility player for the CMT Awards for 2019. What was that experience like for you? 

TA: The CMT Awards were so amazing! Oh my gosh. When I got the call I actually thought they were joking! I was very nervous because the musicians who play the CMT Awards in the house band have done the gig for many years, and don’t get replaced often. So I was definitely the new kid in the band, but everyone was so welcoming and kind- as well as kick ass musicians! We got very close as a band and knew we were going to sink or swim together, and that was an awesome feeling when you trust the people you share the stage with. I will say, this was the first arena show I’ve ever played, so when I sound-checked my instruments, I took out my in-ear monitors and took a couple solos on my violin to hear what that sounded and felt like in an empty arena. That was AWESOME!

MM: You’re currently on tour in Europe playing in Norway and Switzerland for a month. How did that get put together, and do you find it intimidating being gone that long in a foreign place as a young solo artist?

TA: I started playing in Switzerland four years ago, and I currently play there about 3 times a year, and have built up a great following. They LOVE country music, and it’s been a joy getting to play overseas. Just through the years of playing and meeting lots of people I met a booking agent who asked to book me for a week in Norway. Then I met another booking agent from Ireland. So when I was going to play for three weeks in Switzerland, I contacted the other booking agents well in advance and we set up a European tour for a month and a half. I love to travel! I’ve been to Costa Rica, Japan and Thailand by myself backpacking. So getting to tour and see the world at the same time, as well as get paid for it has been the joy of my life! It’s important to see the world and understand how different parts of the world live. I am truly blessed and so grateful.

MM: If you could pick one artist to play fiddle for, who would it be? 

TA: If I were to give up my solo career and just simply tour with an artist, the 90s baby in me would right away would say Shania Twain. THAT would be a fun gig! But if I had to choose a current artist, I love Cody Johnson and Jon Pardi, the fiddle parts in their music are really great. However, I am friends with their current fiddle players, so I don’t think those gigs will be open any time soon! 

MM: What do you find to be the best way to get yourself out there as a young artist trying to make an impression?

TA: SOCIAL MEDIA. Social media is the only life line we have in a dying record industry. I can’t stress enough how important it is to put yourself out there, day in and day out. Share your life with your audience, make them feel they know you and can trust you. Be kind to every single person you meet! Also, follow through on every contact you meet! There are millions of artists in the world, and early bird gets the worm. Make sure people don’t have time to forget you, and when they don’t email back, email them again! And no matter what, we are artists because of passion and we need it, don’t forget that. Your progress in industry has to be a bonus, it doesn’t define you or your work. Your heart and passion defines your work, not someone behind a desk who can’t create. So don’t ever give up, remember why you started and when someone tells you no, let it fuel your fire to keep going and remember you can be “Made In The Shade”! You got this!

For more info on Tori and her music, check out her Facebook page HERE.

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