Jimmie Allen Explains Why 'Representation Is So Important' After Historic ACM Awards Win
Jimmie Allen is excited to be part of the changing face of country music.
The singer-songwriter became the first Black musician to be named new male artist of the year at the 56th Academy of Country Music Awards, and tells PEOPLE he once wasn't sure if he could ever get to this position in his career as a Black man.
"Growing up listening to country music, I loved it. It's all my dad listened to," he recalls during ACM Award rehearsals. "My dad was like, 'Well, you should be a country singer,' and I was like, 'Yeah, nah, they're all white. I don't know if they let people like me even sing country music.'"
Check out PEOPLE's full ACM Awards coverage to get the latest news on one of country music's biggest nights.
"Then he played me a song. It was "Kiss an Angel Good Morning," and I was like, 'I like this song, it's nice, but what's the difference?' And he showed me a picture of Charley Pride and that changed my life," he adds.
Allen, 34, has already seen the impact his success has had on younger Black country music fans who get to see someone like him receive acknowledgment on such a massive scale in an industry that is still predominantly white.
"I get messages on Instagram and Twitter from parents that tell me and thank me for getting into country music because their son or their daughter see me and they say I remind them of them," he admits.
"I feel like representation is so important, so to see artists like Mickey Guyton doing her thing, Kane Brown, Darius Rucker, Willie Jones, Breland, Brittany Spencer, Tiera — it's just so many that are starting to come to this genre of music, doing it their way, having their own sound, And I love to see it," he continues.
The "Makes Me Want To" vocalist has been "wanting to win this award since I was a kid" and he's still adjusting to the fact that it actually happened.
"I remember watching the ACMs growing up," he confesses. "I would start on the couch and when the winner won the category, I had to walk up and stand by the TV and give my acceptance speech. This is something I've wanted for awhile and it's pretty cool that it's here."
Allen's father, James, died in 2019, but the country star admits he was still the first person he tried to dial after his historic win.
"I actually tried to call my dad, but my dad died in 2019," he says. "And as soon as I started calling, it hit me. I was like, 'Yeah, let me hang up.'"
While his father was still on his mind, he did got around to the other close figures in his contacts list.
"Then I called my mom, called my fiancé [Lexi] — told her," he says. "I tried to tell my son, but he's 6 — he don't care, you know. I told my band, my friends from college, my grandpa, I made the rounds."
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Allen's family and friends flew in for the occasion, and he plans to take a rare chance to celebrate his achievement once the ACM Awards are over.
"I never celebrate anything like this. I've been trying to do this music thing for so long, I kind of got addicted to struggle, the grind, so typically once I reach some sort of moment, I'm like, 'Aiight, cool, what's next?' I'm ready to get back to hitting the ground running,'" he says. "But this time I'm actually going to celebrate! I had family fly in, some friends fly in, and I'm just going to hang out, have a barbecue."
"Just try to take the moment in and enjoy it because it's not something I want to ever forget. It's a big deal and I'm super thankful for it," he adds.
As for advice he'd share with a young Jimmie Allen who's just getting started in music: "keep going."
"Keep being you, be obnoxiously yourself, because I feel like that's what makes you special," he recommends. "There's only one of every artist we love because they're being who they are, and you're the only one who can be you. So instead of trying to compare yourself to other artists, find ways to do things the way you do it, because no one else can do it the way you can."
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