Allie Colleen Talks Songwriting, Ashley McBryde & Her Debut Album ‘Stones’

Since she was eight years, Allie Colleen set aside six-to-eight hours a week to sing. She says, “It is my favorite thing to do. I feel pretty and confident when I sing, and it’s rare for us girls to feel that way. So I cling to anything that provides that encouragement for me,” Colleen tells American Songwriter in a recent phone call.

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Hailing from Owasso, Oklahoma, currently residing in Nashville, Allie Colleen came up through a country music legacy. Inspired by her father, Garth Brooks, and stepmother, Trisha Yearwood, the artist graduated from Belmont University with a degree in Songwriting and Music Business. Performing since she was 14 years of age, Colleen has carefully carved out a dynamic genre-blending space for herself.

On November 19, Colleen will release her debut album, Stones on all digital music platforms. Physical records went on sale on April 9 online. The 11-track project, co-produced by Joe Costa and Ben Watts, and recorded in Nashville’s Allentown Recording Studio, is an intentional collection of tunes that introduce a spirited artist with brazen vocal talent and dynamic genre-fluidity.

“I’ve never really met anybody or heard anybody that sounds like me, which is on some days really encouraging or cool being different,” says Colleen. “Most days, it’s ‘Okay, where the hell do I fit?’ or ‘What are they gonna do with me if I don’t sound like anybody else?’ So that’s just been a very interesting thing going forward with my music.”

While Colleen’s voice was still developing, Christina Aguilera’s stair-stepped vocals served as a gateway of inspiration into other girl-punk artists like Evanescence and Hayley Williams of Paramore. Looking back, early exposure to Celine Dion shaped much of Colleen’s sonic direction, but she has remained steadfast in her adoration of Jo Dee Messina. Wielding the combined fury of these female influences, Colleen is a post-modern storyteller with an indefinable sound.

“I’ve seen in a lot of artist’s careers, they’re still seeing that very first song from their very first album—you have to really love a song a lot to sing it for 20 years,” says Colleen. “So we’re very selective, in that we wanted to really care about it. So every single song on this album ended up being something that just moves me. And that I latched onto, hoping that in turn, the listeners feel the same way.”

In 2019, Colleen exhibited the breadth of her vocal talent and storytelling with her single, “Work In Progress.” The song was her first to release for digital streaming and what she felt was a snapshot of where she was as a young woman and a developing artist.

“It’s beautiful and sweet, and kind, and all those good things. But all I was told after that song was how ‘sweet’ I was, and that would make me so mad,” Colleen says. “Anyone who knows me—that’s not a word they would use.”

Album opener, “Stones (I Don’t Give A …)” was Colleen’s response to this misinterpretation. Co-penned with Sara Brice, De’Leah Shane, and Tony McVaney, the rebellious track was pivotal in her artistry. Colleen says, “It’s like, ‘Hey, I might be sweet, but I also don’t give a you-know-what’ kinda thing. It’s a song about the crap people continue to throw at us all the time.”

The oldest song from the collection is “Playin’ House.” Colleen co-wrote the song with Billy Dawson and Jason Matthews nearly three years ago, but the etchings had lived in her notebook even longer. Lyrically, the song details a familiar sentiment that no one wants to accept as reality. Several writers had passed on the pitch before Colleen sat down with Dawson and Matthews. As a team, they shaped a poignant song that asks hard questions.

“As artists, we all have a home song,” Colleen says. “And ‘Only Oklahoma’ is 100 percent mine.”

In a rare moment for the artist who leans heavily into co-writers in the creative process, her self-penned track, “Blame It On The Weather” was born. The song, she says, is “one of those that randomly hit me in the middle of the day, and I just sat down to work on it. I felt I was being pulled to write this song of self-worth for some beautiful little girl out there who needed it. And one day, I was gonna play a show, and I was gonna meet the girl who this was about.”

Colleen continues, “But, sitting in that writing process, and writing a song about self-worth at a time when I didn’t realize how much I didn’t have, once the last verse came around, all the pronouns switch to me. And you realize that the whole time, the narrator has been talking about themselves, and has been really working on advocating for themselves.”

For Mother’s Day, the artist surprised her mom with “Make Me A Man.” She co-wrote the single with Eric Dodd as an emotional tribute to the single parents working hard to raise their children on their own. The song comes from Colleen’s perspective, having “the amazing opportunity” of watching her parents fall in love again and welcoming new loved ones into her familial circle.

Stones closes with “Pink Lemonade”—the only song on the album that Colleen did not write. The Nora Collins / Nick Donley / Matt McVaney-penned track spoke directly to the artist with its tongue-in-cheek approach to tabooed topics for female artists to cover.

Among her greatest contemporary inspirations is Ashley McBryde, who Colleen describes as “a pissed-off version of Jo Dee.” The artist cites the last track, “Styrofoam,” from McBryde’s 2020 album, Never Will. While attending one of her live shows, Colleen recalls, “She led in saying, ‘Typically, the last song on your album is gonna be your big monumental, life-changing, emotional song, so here it is.’ And then she proceeded to play ‘Styrofoam.'”

The playful song is a clever reprieve from the heavy-hitting lyrics of the preceding tracks. It speaks to the invention of the substance and the various roles styrofoam plays like keeping Natty Lights / Nice and cold.

“At that moment right there I thought ‘Alright, my last track is going to be goofy or maybe just unexpected,'” she continues. “And ‘Pink Lemonade’ is such a sexy song and a song that women haven’t gotten to sing in country music yet. We don’t really get to be sexually exploitive, and if we are we’re killing a dude. ‘Goodbye Earl’—that’s a little far, right? We’ll just use something a little more dangerous—our sexuality.”

Purchase a physical copy of Allie Colleen’s debut album, Stones, here. Check for updates about the digital release and tour dates on her website.

STONES Track List:
1.     Stones (I Don’t Give A …) – Sara Brice / De’Leah Shane / Tony McVaney / Allie Colleen
2.     Playin’ House – Billy Dawson / Jason Matthews / Allie Colleen
3.     Don’t Give Your Heart To A Cowboy – Eric Dodd / Allie Colleen
4.     Vagabond Angels – Steven McMorran / Allie Colleen
5.     Wildflower – Billy Dawson / De’leah Shane / Sara Brice / Allie Colleen
6.     Only Oklahoma – Matt McKinney / Allie Colleen
7.     Blame It On The Weather – Allie Colleen
8.     Good As It Gets – Carly Rogers / Kelli Johnson / Allie Colleen
9.     Well Enough Alone – Kimberly Atwood / Allie Colleen
10.   Make Me A Man – Eric Dodd / Allie Colleen
11.   Pink Lemonade – Nora Collins / Nick Donley / Matt McVaney 

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