TRAVERSE CITY — Jake Allen began exploring synthesizers and recording music in his father’s morthern Michigan studio. By his late teens, Allen found himself drawn to the sounds of finger-style guitar trailblazers like Michael Hedges and Andy McKee.
Now Allen is known for his own breed of six-string "wizardry," which includes a two-hands-on-the-neck percussive-tapping style, an array of effects and live looping that earned him endorsements from musical gear companies like Takamine, Fender and Gretsch guitars.
The singer-songwriter visited the Record-Eagle podcast studio recently to talk about his music, his summer tour of Asia and Europe and his latest record, “Deviant Motions,” which features violin and cello performances by Savannah Buist and Katie Larson of The Accidentals.
Listen to the full On the Record podcast starting at noon Dec. 7, and read on for some of Allen's conversation with host Noelle Riley.
Riley: What do you love most about being a musician?
Allen: I like the fact that music is indeed a universal language. It really makes for a good conversation starter. I think it allows for really interesting experiences. I think traveling the world, like I just did, I hit so many language barriers, but there was always music. Relationships through music and meeting people through music is a really unifying thing. I also love the therapeutic aspect of it. I write songs mainly to work through issues, so it’s really alchemizing the negative things in life and turning them into something positive. I really like making my own schedule too.
Riley: How do musicians find sponsors?
Allen: I think they should try to directly connect with people face to face. I think the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show is a great opportunity to do that. There’s also other opportunities if they go to that event. It’s every January in Anaheim, California the NAMM show takes place. There’s also a summer NAMM show in Nashville, Tennessee that’s usually the last weekend in June. I would say go there, introduce yourself, have conversations with people, tell them what you do and stay in touch with them.
Riley: What’s your ultimate goal for the next 10 years of music?
Allen: Hopefully I’ll have a lot more albums in the bag, and I’ll have more meaningful projects, more collaborations and a lot of touring. Probably just an amped-up level of what I’m doing. I’d also like to give back to people with mental health issues, because I have mental health, and give back to those people in a more palatable way and try to make my music be part of that.
Riley: It’s the holiday season, where should people go to enjoy holiday music?
Allen: There’s usually an abundance of local shows this time of year, so make sure you’re checking the local venues and breweries. Get out there and actually see the local music, because there’s an abundance of talent up here that needs to be recognized and enjoyed.
Riley: Who are your musical idols, both famous and not famous?
Allen: The one that hits closest to home is my father from a musical standpoint. As far as careers of people who have inspired me a lot, I really respect Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails and his model for success and the way he’s presented himself throughout his career, and the transformations that he’s gone through. Also, I grew up on progressive rock bands like Yes and Genesis and Emerson Lincoln Palmer. Those English rock groups have a special place in my heart.
On the Record features music and conversation with some of the area’s best-known entertainers. New episodes are available on the first Friday of every month at record-eagle.com and at SoundCloud.com/recordeagle.
Next up on the podcast: Blake Elliott, Jan. 4 and Rob Coonrod, Feb. 1.