Highway Mile: Track By Track With London Singer/Songwriter Aaron Allen

Aaron AllenIt’s been a big year for London singer/songwriter Aaron Allen — and he’s not taking a single minute for granted.

In early April, Allen released the much-anticipated six-song EP, Highway Mile, packed full of some of the musician’s most popular tracks, alongside some fresh, new material.

And the artist couldn’t be more excited.

“It just feels great,” Allen said with a smile, adding while the finished product ended up coming out a lot sooner than he expected, when inspiration strikes, you just can’t ignore it. “I just went down to Nashville and was writing with a lot of amazing songwriters, and they were just great songs. Honestly, with that kind of momentum, we just kept going.”

While many country fans got their first taste of what the musician has to offer thanks to the ever-growing number of spins on local country radio, Allen is hardly a newbie. In fact, he’s been putting out records, playing shows and touring for over two decades. The only difference is, now he’s laying it all on the line, and part of that shift comes thanks to CMAOntario and CCMA Award-winning producer Jeff Dalziel.

As a result, Allen has explored a whole new side of himself with Highway Mile, allowing his songwriting to come from a very personal place.

“This whole record is so special because it really digs deep into what’s going on in my life,” he explained. “It’s all about how much I appreciate what I have, right now; getting older and looking back at things. I’m just really thankful, and I think you can hear that in the album.”

It’s the kind of relatable inspiration that has continued to pay off for Allen, as the EP’s first offering, Where Music Comes From, has hit over 1,000,000 streams on Apple Music — so far.

And the industry is taking notice.

On April 22, CMAOntario announced their nominees for this year’s awards (currently scheduled to take place on Sunday, Oct. 4 in London, Ontario), with not one, but two shout-outs to the hometown hero in both the Rising Star and Male Artist of the Year categories.

“I’m extremely happy and grateful and really blown away by both nominations,” he said. ‘How cool is it to be nominated alongside a Canadian icon like Jim Cuddy and so many other amazing artists? It’s going to be a great night.”

Far from your average Canadian country cowboy, by day Allen has made a living as an owner/artist at The Taste of Ink, a tattoo shop on Wellington North, which no doubt had a little something to do with the inspiration behind Good Tattoo.

But, just to make sure, let’s take a closer look — track by track — at what makes Highway Mile so personal, in the artist’s own words.

Where Music Comes From
That was a really cool one because it was my first single, and the idea for that song came when my second daughter was born.

We like to play music when the kids are coming into this world and with my second daughter, I put on a record called The Free of forgiveness by John Prine. I did that because we all have a soundtrack to our lives, whether we know it or not, and I think most of the time that’s created unconsciously. Sometimes those right moments happen to a song on the radio, and some moments happen when a certain song makes you think about somebody else. But I deliberately wanted to put John Prine on so when I hear him, I’ll think of my little daughter, and the idea for Where Music Comes From was to write a song about that experience. And where does music come from? It’s in our bones, and in our blood. We feel it deep down in our soul. It’s our life coming through the stereo.

Highway Mile
That’s a song I just wrote by myself about my relationship with my wife, and how we have kids. I’m trying to do music and also be a tattoo artist and life is busy. We don’t get a lot of time to spend together. But, you know, we’ve been together 20 years, and I think it’s important sometimes to just get in the car, take a break, and remember what it’s like to just have the two of you there. I wrote highway mile as a song to remind me, hey, man, appreciate your wife. You know, appreciate what you got.

Can We Go Back
That one was from when we were in Nashville, and one of my co-writers was talking about this girl that he really loved. They weren’t together, but he never stopped loving her even when life took them both in different directions. It made me think how cool it is to keep those special memories and carry that on forever. It made me wonder if you can ever go back to that time, so I went back to my hotel room, and started writing a song.

Mine All Mine
That’s essentially a song about my house. No matter what kind of day I’m having, I pull up in my driveway, see my house and smile because I know inside there’s a lot of love waiting for me. There’s my wife, my kids and my dogs and that’s what makes my house a mansion in my eyes. It’s modest — it’s not a humongous place with a pool in the back — but to me, it’s everything that I need and more. It’s more than I ever thought I would have.

Superman
That song came about while I was putting my oldest daughter to bed one night. You know how kids are, they ask a million questions at bedtime, and she’s very curious about the world. So that made me think — right now she thinks I’m Superman, but one day she’s going to gain enough knowledge and figure out I’m not perfect. And then I wondered, even though I try to live up to the best version of who my daughter deserves, what’s going to happen if I ever let her down? I just want to do my best and I wrote Superman to be a song she could dance to on her wedding day, to remember when her dad was perfect.

Good Tattoo
I had been having a really hard time writing, and I was trying to write a love song. I called Jeff and told him I had nothing to write about, and he said, ‘Why don’t you write about tattoos?’ I had honestly never thought about it before and how do I make that a love song? Well, a tattoo is permanent, and so is love. Or at least, it’s supposed to be. Really, it was kind of a cool thing.

Photo: Kevin Vyse
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