We’ve been down the Casee Allen road before. It was back in 2020, during the pandemic, and things weren’t too normal. Actually, the music industry was a hot mess. Even though things were miserable, Allen was chugging along. He had just put out an acoustic album called Hindsight 2020, and was busy helping his son through his virtual school days. As dark as that time period was, something special was waiting in the wings for Allen, and on August 19, 2022, he took a big old Sharpie and drew a checkmark on his bucket list.
If you aren’t familiar with Casee Allen, here’s the rapid rehash of his life so far. He was born and raised in Coshocton, Ohio, pretty much smack in the center of the Buckeye State. He had a stint as a cage fighter and was good at it, but he picked up a guitar at his Uncle Tim’s house and fell in love with it. Got better at guitar, opened up a show for Kip Moore, who gave him a piece of advice. He told Allen if he wanted to get better at music, he needed to go to Nashville immediately (where he would be ripped to shreds on the daily, but hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, or so they say) and jump in with both feet. Allen listened. Somewhere in the middle of this, a baby boy was born, and the lie detector said, “You are the father!” (Okay, I made that part up, but it is true that baby Jace entered the world and Allen would soon gain full custody of him). He kept writing and playing music and now he has a single with none other than country star Neal McCoy. Now you’re up to speed. Sort of.
If you really want more details, you can read our previous interview from April 2020 right here.
This is where I’ll tear open my phone and let you “hear” our conversation. Allen is an enthusiastic storyteller and I’d love to include the entire interview, but it would then become a novel.
PM: You had an early childhood experience with Neal McCoy. That was kind of life-changing, wasn’t it?
CA: It was very life-changing, and ironically enough, that same year that Kip told me to move here, Neal wasn’t doing a meet and greet at a country fair. He was playing at a fair about an hour from my hometown and I would not let the guy leave. I stood in front of the bus with a newspaper clipping from 1998, I was a second grader. When I was in second grade, a guidance counselor at school just took me under her wing. She said if I got A grades the rest of the school year, no more fighting, no more trouble, no more issues at all, she had a connection somehow with Neal, and that was my favorite singer. She said, “I’ll make sure he sends you an autographed picture,” and at eight-years-old, that’s gold. So, apparently I fulfilled my end of the deal and he did one better. He not only sent me the autograph, but he sent me his albums, he sent an album that wasn’t released, a meet and greet for a show near my hometown, and even better than that, he called me over the loudspeaker in the principal’s office for the entire school to hear it.
PM: How badass is that?
CA: Yeah, right? It didn’t even make sense. I didn’t even want to be a singer. At that age, I probably wanted to be Brett Favre. Country singing was the furthest thing from my mind at that age, but as far back as I can remember, I loved music. It spoke to me in a way that I knew I was different from all my friends and my family. Just things I understood that other people didn’t and I did, I didn’t understand why, it was a God thing. The phone call, if I’m being honest with you, didn’t speak to me musically at all. I thought it was a prank. The guy introduced himself over the loudspeaker and I’m like, “Yeah, right.” Like I literally said that.
PM: You thought it was the janitor calling you?
CA: Yeah, I thought it was a joke. I remember it like it was yesterday and I was my son’s age now, I was eight. I made the guy sing to prove it, and sure enough, he did.
PM: That is so darned cool. What song did he sing?
CA: “If You Can’t Be Good, Be Good At It,” it was his new single, and you can’t mistake that voice for anyone’s. In my opinion, he was always the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). You can ask people, as long as I’ve been alive I’ve said he was the Greatest Of All Time, the best performer, the best human and a phenomenal singer. From an entertainer’s standpoint, a vocalist’s standpoint and a human standpoint, he’s the GOAT.
PM: So, he’s like the Tom Brady of country singers to you.
CA: You know, I’d describe him more as an Aaron Rodgers, he doesn’t have the seven rings. In my opinion, he’s the most gifted. Aaron Rodgers doesn’t win all the rings, but he’s way more gifted than Tom. He’s the underrated GOAT, in my opinion. He’s the best of all time and nothing will ever change my mind. I mean, Garth Brooks up there for me too and probably everyone else. I think I surprise people when I say that because the go-to answer for most people will be Garth, George, Tim, Kenny, Alan.
PM: It’s good to hear that someone can have something different.
CA: He’s still out there and killin’ it. The guy’s been radio silent forever, but he’s still just slammed with work. It just goes to show you that once you hit the spotlight and you perform the way he does, you can work forever. That guy wrote the book on entertainment.
PM: I’ve never seen a full Neal McCoy show. I’ve seen compilation-type shows with multiple performers where he might do one, two, maybe three songs and I thought he was fantastic.
CA: You have to. If you’re a Neal McCoy fan, it’s a must-see. If you’re a performer and you claim to be a good one, or that you are a good one, and you’ve not seen him perform, you’re doing yourself a major injustice. That guy wrote the book on entertainment. He could make a picnic stand up, with no lighting, no lasers. He could put a picnic on their feet in a matter of seconds, he’s that good.
PM: Let’s move on to why we’re even talking about Neal McCoy. Tell us the big news and I want details.
CA: Well, it started in 1998. Fast forward through the years, whenever he performed in Ohio I would try to go. What’s funny is the first few times I came back he maybe remembered me. At 13 he remembered me, but after I started to grow up a little bit, I could tell he didn’t remember. I wouldn’t bring the newspaper clipping that I had laminated and I still have in my guitar case. I’ve had it in there since the day I bought it. So, I stopped bringing it. I guess I took for granted that he’d remember me. At 19 he saw him again and then I moved here. Well, I took a bunch of my friends back to Ohio to a country fair he was at, stood in front of the bus and security came and tried to remove me from the situation. I handed the security guy the clipping and I said, “If that guy in there can read that clipping and not walk out here, knowing that kid is a grown man now and he helped inspire his career, he’s not the man I ever thought he was.
PM: That was good!
CA: Well, a few seconds later he comes walking out in his Dallas Cowboys pajamas and Crocs, walks behind the bus where nobody can see him and he didn’t believe it. He’s like, “There’s no way. No way that’s Casee. That little boy was in dire need of a haircut, in dire need of new clothes, in dire need of love and attention. There’s no way that that little boy is you. I swear to Jesus that’s what he said.
PM: That’s wild.
CA: Then he said, “I don’t remember it fully. I do remember the story and I remember calling you because it was a special moment for me, but I don’t remember all the details.” Then he said, “So, what are you doin’ with your life now?” I told him I stopped cage fighting since the last time we talked. He said, “Oh, I remember now! I said, ‘He’s either gonna be a cage fighter or a drug dealer, one of the two.’” After that I told him I moved to Nashville and he gave me the opposite advice of Kip. Now you have to understand, Neal had never seen me perform, and not that I’m bragging, but he had never seen me perform. Then he looked at me and said, “Can I talk you out of it?”
PM: By then it was too late.
CA: I said, “What do you mean, talk me out of it?” He goes, “Nashville’s a tough town, a cruel town. You can perform for fun on the side. Don’t go down that rabbit hole.” I was like, “No, my mind’s made up.” He said, “Well, you’re either good, or really dumb, one of the two.” Then he went on, “Just to survive in that town, if you are surviving, if you are actually paying your bills and working in the music industry for a living and doing nothing else, you’ve made it. So, you must be alright.” I just said, “I like to think so.”
PM: He lives in Texas, right?
CA: Yeah, he lives in Texas. I guess just being the prideful, cocky young boy with a chip on my shoulder, I said to him, “You know what? Don’t be surprised someday when you roll up on that bus and you see my name on the marquee with yours at some point.” He said, “You know buddy, I hope you’re right. I really do hope you’re right.” Then I told him, “I started to write songs now, so I’ll keep you in mind,” and I started laughing. Fast forward a few years later and he rolls up on his bus, and he knew about it because I saw him post on social media with my face on the picture, then he sees us roll up in our Sprinter and he stops the soundcheck. “Whoa, whoa!” and walks off the stage. He comes over and he’s like, “Holy shit! You said it was gonna happen. How did this even happen? I saw the name Casee Allen on the sign and I was like, ‘There’s no way that kid friggin’ did it. There’s no way.” I said, “I told you. I told you I didn’t know how long it was gonna take, but I told you.”
At this point I was curious as to how Allen got booked on that show. Who was the booking agent that set that up? Unfortunately, he wasn’t positive, but thought it was William Morris. I was amazed that the cards stacked up so perfectly for him. He attributes it to his second single and third singles doing really well for an indie artist, well enough to make him relevant and open for major acts. Brad Paisley and Jake Owen were two that he mentioned. He was then granted the opportunity to choose who he wanted to open for, depending on who was available.
CA: When I was given those options, the first words out of my mouth were, “Look, all these guys are really cool and a great platform for me to use, but if I’m being completely honest with you, there’s only one name I’m really interested in.” The guy says to me, “Look man, Garth does his own booking.” I said, “I’m not talking about Garth,” although that would be a dream come true as well, but I told him I’d like to open for Neal McCoy. He was like, “We can make that happen. That’s realistic, you’re there now.” I was like, “Oh, my God. I would literally die, you would make my dream come true. That would be one thing off the list.” So, I did the show and Neal brought me on stage and we sang “Billy’s Got His Beer Goggles On.”
It was after that show that an interesting conversation took place between Allen and McCoy.
CA: I told him, “I believe I told you the next thing was something to do with my songwriting.” He was like, “Shit no. I don’t do that radio thing anymore.” So, then I sent him this song a while back, maybe two years ago. It was a song that any teams that I worked with, they always shot me down and said, ‘Casee, it’s a live song. That’s why when you’re performing, you get excited because fans all over the country, when they come back to a show, are singing the song back to you.’” “Shot of You” was the same way. I was like, “No man. I think we just produced it wrong.” (“I Blame It All On My Roots” was recorded previously, but never released, it was only performed live.)
After moving on from the team that wasn’t interested in giving the song any attention, Allen went ahead and re-recorded it. Neal McCoy began to develop a new respect for Allen as an artist after he opened his show.
CA: You know, he’d already done enough for me, I was so grateful, I still am, but he’s been there for me. As a performer, when things are really bad, he reminds me of the little things. When things are really good, he just tries to keep me on the right track humility-wise. He’ll say, “Hey, don’t let it get to your head. It’s just this, and this will fall off and the next thing comes.” He’s a really good mentor in that way. He’s just a really special human and I sent him the song, and honest to God, it was just to pick his brain in the beginning. Of course, I had some stuff cookin’ in my brain too. I wanted to get a Neal McCoy cut. If anybody were to bring Neal McCoy out of radio silence, I wanted to be the guy to do it. That was my mission, but that particular song, I didn’t think he’d cut on his own, I just really wanted his opinion. I said to him, “I’ve been told this isn’t a radio song, I’m not really getting it and I might be wrong. We’re about to find out. If I’m wrong, I’m fine with it. This is the biggest bucket list checkoff in my life, so right or wrong, I’m excited about it.
CA: But the guy responded back 24 hours later and I thought he was gonna say the song sucked.
PM: Were you afraid to hear what he was going to say? That he might say it was terrible?
CA: He would never insult another human being. What I do know about him, and he probably doesn’t even know I know this, but what he does is pay close attention. If Neal doesn’t like something, he’ll say, “That’s good. That’s good buddy,” and for him, that means it sucks, but he’s too kind to tell you that. But if he gets excited and he’s laughin’ and hoopin’ and hollerin’, you know you’re onto something. When he called me back he’s like, “We had that damned thing playin’ all night on the bus, to the point where some of my guys had to walk out because I just love that song, it’s so much fun. I think it’s hooky, catchy, I think you did a great job writin’ it, but we need to rewrite the second verse. I’ll help you if you want me to, so the lyrics will be from my perspective talking to you, rather than you talkin’ in general, but I’ll cut it with you.”
This was a pivotal moment. Neal McCoy just told Casee Allen that he’d cut a song with him. His lifelong idol just said that! Suddenly out of breath, Allen was thinking, “This is not real.”
CA: I said, “Neal, this would be the biggest thing ever…” He looked at me and said, “Come on man, there’s much bigger fish to fry than me.” I just said, “Man, people said that about Garth too, but he finally got to cut a song with George Jones.” I think Garth meant it when he said that cutting a song with George Jones would trump everything and Garth was already on top of the world selling out arenas. I think he had that humility that he was still so grateful for that opportunity.
PM: Who’s credited as a writer on this now then?
CA: Me and Jerry Jacobs. Jerry and I rewrote the verse. Jerry and I started writing together when I first got here and we’ve probably written 150 songs together. I called Jerry and I said, “Hey buddy, I got my first cut,” and he’s like, “Holy shit, but you don’t sound excited.” I was like, “Well, you got your first cut today too, but the thing is, either I or we need to sit down and rewrite this second verse from a Neal perspective, as an older man talking to our generation. Jerry was all, “Oh my God, that’s crazy!” It needed Neal’s perspective as if he’s talking to me, so it was very difficult to write. We rewrote the second verse, sent it over to Neal and except for one line he asked us to switch around, the first time through, boom! Here we are.
PM: That’s incredible.
CA: What’s really ironic is I was just talking about Garth and the song is like, all Garth references. Obviously the title of it is “I Blame It All On My Roots,” which is the intro line of the most famous song in the history of country music. Then the first line of the chorus is, “Blame it on the line in a Garth Brooks’ song.” The bridge references “Ain’t Goin’ Down (‘Til the Sun Comes Up).”
PM: That’s cool.
Allen described the song as “throwbacky” with a train beat feel, but it also rocks. In the chorus it goes from train beat to like, straight-up modern rock, with sort of a Shania Twain “Any Man of Mine” type chorus. Without having heard the song yet, I feel like it’s going to be a song that appeals to both 90s country and today’s country fans. It sounds like it has just that formula when he describes it.
“I Blame It All On My Roots” was recorded during those weird days of the pandemic when not much was happening with real people inside studios. It was a whole lot of home recordings being sent off to studios for engineers to work their magic. Sometimes those recordings were sent back and forth multiple times before things were just right. Of course, that didn’t stop the quality music from happening. It just created a trend of distance creativity. Remember, this was a re-recording of a song that Allen did years before, so he was out to make it a whole lot better by fixing prior mistakes and obviously adding McCoy’s vocals. Allen was quick to point out that they arranged the vocal parts so it sounded best. There were no egos, and during certain portions of the song Allen’s vocals come through louder, but that was only because they fit better, and to use Allen’s own words, maybe they were a little “punchier,” whereas McCoy’s vocals are just “sick and melodic.”
As long as we’re on the topic of vocals, and Neal McCoy’s vocals specifically, I want to share a small part of our conversation where Allen explained how special of a person he feels McCoy is and what sacrifices he made to help out a young artist. Back when McCoy was trying to make some traction in the music business, eventually a bigger artist lended him a hand and Allen said he knows that McCoy is just paying it forward now.
CA: Neal was workin’ his ass off and not getting much. His wife was behind him, but she was getting discouraged. They had kids. Then along comes Charley Pride, takes Neal under his wing and it changes his life.
PM: I love that.
CA: I know that’s why he’s doing it. He’s a good human being to begin with, but I know that’s why he’s helping me, he’s just paying it forward. Not to mention the fact that he wouldn’t come all the way from Texas just to record with some kid from Coshocton, Ohio.
Livin’ the dream. That’s what one might say about Allen’s latest stroke of good luck, which only came to him with a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but yes, things seem to be going well. He also has a guest role in an upcoming TV series and a part in a Lifetime holiday film starring Jana Kramer and Mario Lopez (release date TBA).
Hard work and persistence. Even when things looked bleak, Allen kept on trudging through. Playing Broadway gigs and doing whatever necessary to stay relevant. Not bad for a little kid from Ohio that might still be stuck in second grade if it wasn’t for a caring guidance counselor.
The new song is here. It features a true country star in Neal McCoy. The session musicians on it are impressive to say the least. They include Grady Saxman on drums (Luke Combs, Uncle Kracker), Philip de Steiguer on keys (Blake Shelton), utility player Tim Galloway (Little Big Town, Ingrid Andress, Bailey Zimmerman), lead guitarist Sol Philcox-Littlefield (Adam Sanders, Luke Bryan, Cole Swindell, Dierks Bentley) and David LaBruyere on bass (Peter Frampton, John Mayer, Lindsay Ell, Kelly Clarkson).
While there’s still a long road ahead for Allen, he did sum things up pretty quick when it came to the big picture. Everyone has their own idea of what “making it” is. He did too, until his son was born. “That’s when I knew I made it, when he came along.” All the career success in the world will never replace the relationship he’s building with Jace and that might just be the main reason Allen really is steadily working his way up the tangled vine system that is Nashville’s music industry – he has his priorities straight and he has reasons to keep moving. Supporting his child and setting the example that no matter how many times you get kicked, you keep getting up and doing it again. Plan B doesn’t exist when you truly want something.
“I Blame It All On My Roots” is now available on Apple Music/iTunes, Amazon Music, Spotify and more. Go grab it today! Keep up with Casee Allen on his website at CaseeAllen.com where you’ll find links to his music and social media sites.
*Featured image courtesy of Casee Allen.