From Vernon to L.A. and soon Ethiopia, Andrew Allen has had quite the ride since he was a student at Kalamalka Secondary School and fronting bands with his trademark voice and spiky hair.
The voice and hair are still there, but more than a decade later, Allen is now living the dream in L.A., and trying to make a difference.
While his career as a singer-songwriter is soaring, Allen never forgets where he comes from, or where he’s been.
Seen recently on TV performing on the Canadian version of The Bachelor, Allen is also preparing to return home to Vernon for a concert Dec. 3 that is in support of a new endeavour he is embarking on (more on that later).
“It’s been a fun couple of months,” said Allen, whose days in sunny L.A. are mostly spent penning songs not only for himself but with other artists, some of whom have been getting major airplay as of late, including the guys from Magic! and Meghan Trainor (of All About that Bass fame), who are friends Allen has made on the L.A. songwriting circuit.
Last year, Allen saw one of his co-penned songs (Last Chance) appear on EDM artist Kaskade’s album Atmosphere, which was nominated for Best Dance/Electronica Album at the 2014 Grammys.
“With that EDM song, I got to write something that was beautiful and they put in the beat,” he said.
Another one of Allen’s songs is about to be released by Marco Mengoni of Italy.
“I was at a wedding with a bunch of Italians, and when I told them the guy’s name, they were like ‘he’s huge in Italy.’”
The winner of The Voice in Germany is also recording two of Allen’s songs for his upcoming project.
“It’s a good retirement fund. It gives me an opportunity to get my music out there and also to write for me. I’m still writing stuff that I’m passionate about,” said Allen.
Allen is also getting ready to return to his old stomping grounds with a new Christmas EP (extended play) album and concert that comes to the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Dec. 3.
Entitled All Hearts Come Home, Allen has recorded six Christmas songs, including a new rendition of his hit single, I Wanna Be (Your Christmas), and plays the ukulele on all the tracks (the EP comes out today on iTunes).
“Christmas is so fun and I love the traditional songs. I also love the beachy feel, plunking away on ukulele,” said Allen, who started playing the instrument a couple of years ago and saw his song, 7 Days, where he plays the ukulele, appear on The Big C soundtrack.
Two guest singers also appear on the EP, including Hamilton’s Maggie Szabo, who now lives in L.A. – “Us Canadians find each other somehow,” explains Allen – and 14-year-old Vernon protegée Olivia Penalva, who sings Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.
“I have taken Olivia under my wing. She has such an incredible voice and has the drive and ambition. She has made a couple trips to L.A. and has written with incredible writers. She has her own Christmas single and some exciting plans coming on the horizon.”
Penalva will join Allen as part of his All Hearts Come Home concert in Vernon, as well as special guest, fellow Vernon artist Jodi Pederson, who has been gaining notice as one of the finalists of this year’s Peak Performance Project.
Rising artist Shawn Hook, who was raised in South Slocan, will also be performing.
“We did a show together in L.A. at the original Bachelor pad in Malibu,” said Allen, adding, “It gets crazy the closer you get to Christmas. I remember that about Vernon. I had so much fun performing at the Performing Arts Centre last year. Everyone who came had such a good time.”
Allen is donating some of the proceeds from the concert towards a trip he and two fans will be taking to Ethiopia, Africa in the spring. The trip is with a humanitarian organization based out of Medicine Hat.
Founded by Richard and Deborah Northcott after they adopted two orphans from Ethiopia, The Canadian Humanitarian has opened five education centres in the East African nation.
“They offer after-school programs for at-risk youth,” said Allen. “Doctors and teachers are also brought in to help, and some of the students have gone on to train as doctors themselves with the help of the organization.
“When they came to me, I thought it would be better to send money there. After chatting with them on what the organization is about, I thought I’d like to go instead,” said Allen.“Thankfully, there are lots of resources in North America for people to be fed, clothed and housed. In Africa, kids are sleeping on a rock bed and some are dead by the age of 15.”
Allen is offering the opportunity to bring two fans with him – one Canadian and one American – through Canadian Humanitarian and Kids Hope Ethiopia. The two-week trip will begin March 28 and will have a music focus.
“You don’t have to be a musician to win the trip as we’ll be doing a ton of other stuff while we’re there,” said Allen. “We will visit the community centres to talk to students about the music industry and also put on a performance for the whole community.”
Those wishing to accompany Allen will be able to apply by uploading a video, showing how they’re currently serving/making the world a better place. Videos can be sent to the Andrew Allen Expedition website (address was not available at press time) between Nov. 16 and Dec. 12.
The public will be able to vote on the best video from Dec. 12 to 24. The five best videos will then go to a judged vote from Dec. 25 to 31, and the two winners will be announced Jan. 1.
“They will need to push their videos to get as many votes as possible. That way, regardless if they win the trip or not, they get exposure for their cause,” said Allen.
Tickets for Allen’s All Hearts Come Home concert Dec. 3 at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre, are $30/adult and $25/student at the Ticket Seller, 549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.