Artist Spotlight: Deborah Allen - Still Making History

In this exclusive interview, our writer Chuck Dauphin catches up with country icon Deborah Allen as she gets ready to release a new project, which she hopes will join past classics like "Rock Me," "Oh, How I Miss You Tonight" and "Baby, I Lied."

If you were to take a look at the career of the lovely Deborah Allen, you might notice how it parallels the movie Forrest Gump. If you’ve ever been around Allen for more than three seconds, or remember her videos like “Rock Me” or the holiday classic “Rockin’ Little Christmas,” you’ll know that she doesn’t share the awkwardness of the character played so brilliantly by Tom Hanks. But, Allen has managed to carve out a career filled with so many diverse musical legends that have given her a front row seat to a lot of music history---and she’s managed to make quite a bit herself.

Seriously……can you imagine a more impressive resume? After moving to Music City, and getting a job at IHOP, she met Roy Orbison---who hired her to sing demos. Then, she landed a job at Opryland, and found herself on a state department tour of Russia starring Tennessee Ernie Ford. After that, she returned to Nashville and met legendary songwriter Shel Silverstein---who became her mentor. And, she might very well be the only person to have recorded with Jim Reeves, Prince, and Cledus T. Judd. In 1979, she was handpicked by Mary Reeves to overdub her voice onto tracks recorded by her late husband for a series of successful duets, including “Oh, How I Miss You Tonight.” She worked with Prince in 1987 for her album Telepathy, and in 2010, collaborated with Judd on the Christmas single “Redneck Christmas.” Throw in her 1983 multi-format hit “Baby, I Lied,” as well as radio winners like “I’ve Been Wrong Before” and 1993’s “Rock Me,” and she’s enjoyed one of the most diverse careers in the format…..and I didn’t mention her success as a songwriter! We’ll get to that later…..

“That’s true, and throw in George Jones on that list,” she said about her varied musical road---referring of her 1984 duet “Our Love Was Ahead Of Its’ Time” with the “Possum,” that appeared on his Ladies’ Choice CD. “I always say that I’ve worked with the Prince of Pop and the King of Country Music. I’ve been very fortunate, and the Jim Reeves things was very special, as that was the first time they had ever overdubbed the voice of someone living with someone who had passed away. I’ve always been adventurous, and always loved keeping my heart open, and gravitated toward people who have the same interests and love for music that I have. To me, that’s God leading you on your path. I have been so fortunate to have met and worked with so many incredible people.”

She has just inked a new deal with Delta Rock Records, and has a new single out at Country Radio, “Anything Other Than Love.” Her excitement level has never been higher, she tells Roughstock.

“It is,” she says. “I’m just so thrilled to be on Delta Rock Records. It’s a strategic partnership. It’s really an entertainment company with a publishing company, a production company, and a record label. I’m the flagship artist on it, so I am really excited. It’s really cool. We have some great partners that have helped us launch it. I’m so excited. I don’t know all the details myself. People have been asking me about the distribution on it, but I know that it’s going to be distributed through GMV digitally, which is great, and through Aristo Media.”

And, just like with songs by Janie Fricke (“Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me Baby”), Patty Loveless (“Hurt Me Bad”) and John Conlee (“I’m Only In It For The Love”), the new single comes straight from Allen’s pen. “It’s a song I wrote with my good friend Gary Burr, and it’s a fun, rockin, Country shuffle. I’ve always had fun singing it. I’m so glad to get it out as a single, but one morning I was about to go to town and write with Gary at a session. I usually sit down on a step, get my guitar out, and see what might come to mind—what I’m feeling that day. The phone rang, and it was my step-daughter Hillary. I told her I was about to go write a song with Gary, and I was trying to feel what I ought to write about today. I asked her what she thought I should write about, and she said ‘ Well, you’ve got a lot of love songs. Why don’t you write about anything other than love?’ I looked at her, and that was it. I told Gary that, and we ended up writing it.”

The track is the first single from her upcoming disc. She had a hands-on involvement in the album, producing all but three cuts. The remaining tracks were produced by frequent collaborator and recent Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Braddock. “I was so proud for him to be inducted. We go back a ways. We’ve written a lot of songs together over the years. To see him get the recognition at that level is pretty exciting, and nobody deserves it any more. I produced the album, and am super-excited about it.”

Though she loves performing, she admits that writing gives her a different sense of accomplishment, thanks to some advice from a legendary friend.

“My mentor was Shel Silverstein,” she recalls. “A long time ago, when I was eighteen and first came to Nashville, he took me under his wing and really encouraged me and inspired me to start writing songs. He let me know that when you’re up on that stage, it’s such a wonderful feeling. That was the beginning of my childhood dream---was to get to entertain and express myself through music. He told me that feeling from being on-stage goes away, but the song was something that lasts forever. That made sense to me, and has carried me forever. I think it was the backbone of what has made my career have so much longevity.”

In addition to the new relationship with Delta Rock, Allen is hard at work on many different projects, including producing new artists. “I’m working with a brand new artist right now named Margaret Phillips, and I’m doing an album on her and shopping her to the major labels. Hopefully, we’ll launch her career next year.”

Always one to look out for her next opportunity, Allen seemed to be intrigued by an idea I suggested. A few weeks ago, I was listening to a radio station in Georgia that played a different version of “Baby, I Lied” than Allen had a hit with in 1983. She re-cut the song for a “Best of” package that was released on Curb in 2000. Instead of the strings and vocal acrobatics of the original RCA hit, it was very much laid back---an arrangement that would make the song perfect for Carrie Underwood.   Would she love to bring that to Underwood’s attention?

“Hopefully, you just put it there,” she said with a smile. “That would be great! I feel so fortunate that “Baby I Lied” was my signature song, and a song I’ve never gotten tired of singing. When I was on Curb, it was mentioned to me about re-recording it. I thought how could you do that with a song like that. It did make an impact, but thc most fun way would be to do it completely different. “

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