“I always had a really hard time figuring out how to tell my stories which are largely street stories,” says Allen. Allen will perform at Shoeshine Charley's Big Top Lounge on Wednesday, October 18 along with his fellow outlier country singer and friend South Texas Tweek.
Allen credits Tweek with helping him return to music after a self described dramatic break with his artistic ambitions. “I smashed my guitar and I had a really nasty relapse,” says Allen who is often forthcoming about his struggles with mental health and addiction through his songs.
“I grew up selling drugs and for some reason I thought that was a great idea to get back to it in my late 20s and had a lot of consequences heaped on me pretty seriously, I think worse than ever before. Everytime I put down my guitar and stop singing in my life everything goes. I kind of lose my compass,” he says.
Allen has led an openly colorful life in and out of juvie, jail and rehab since his teenage years, themes visited in his songs at times. Growing up in a predominantly black neighborhood where playing guitar was considered terminally uncool, Allen found ways to explore a variety of musical genres.
Allen describes practicing in solitude initially learning Heavenly Highway Hymns from his grandfather and then moving on to Hank Williams and Bob Dylan while also exploring rap and punk rock. All of these elements come through on his songs along his magnetic, manic street preacher energy and booming sound.
Prior to COVID, Allen was busy on the road touring and consistently trying to make a go of his music career. “When I’m doing that, it's easy to neglect a lot of self help things and health in general,” says Allen. After a while he became disillusioned with the whole thing and switched gears to driving a semi and cleaning up his act again as he fell in love and became a new dad placing his priorities in a new light.
“Numbers, market, promotion, it was really dehumanizing for me and totally lacked connection with the audience, myself and the songs,” he says of his career in the past. “This just feels way more natural and the bands that I love the most, rappers and all kinds of musicians and comedians, the ones that I loved more after seeing them was because it was person to person instead of business to consumer.”
Allen credits his friends South Texas Tweek and Danno Simpson for helping him get back on stage after they surprised him with a spot on their Colorado tour stop where they convinced Allen he needed to return to music and pushed him to take the stage.
“Numbers, market, promotion, it was really dehumanizing for me and totally lacked connection with the audience, myself and the songs.”
“Songs just started coming after that,” says Allen. “Once I started exercising the muscle, then I just got consumed again and obsessed with it which is kind of what happens and it makes it hard for me to work a normal job if I'm also doing the music thing because I get consumed by it for sure.”
Allen is currently working on recording a new album, his first featuring a full band, allowing him to explore a new approach to his typical one-man-band style. “I’m really excited for the new record I’m working on because it’s a lot more balanced, not quite so doom and gloom.”
Allen has been enjoying getting back on the road and looks forward to growing his fanbase in Houston with his perspective as a performer. “I have a bunch of fans from the past ten years but then it's like enough times they come and see you and you're so drunk that you’re falling off the chair, people are not going to come anymore and that's been an on again off again battle since I started playing music again seriously.”
His new goal, which seems to be working, is to play his heart out with the intention of a human connection, something his songs lend themselves to easily with their tone, and watch people leave the show only to return with a friend to the next stop in that town.
“The possibilities are endless from there and it's easier for me to wrap my mind around that and to feel purposeful in that,” he says, comparing the two phases of his career. “All I've done pretty much my entire life is make music, sell drugs and use drugs and there's only one of those that has a potentially happy ending.”
Casper Allen will perform with South Texas Tweek on Wednesday, October 18 at Shoeshine Charley's Big Top Lounge, 3714 Main, 8 p.m, $10-15.