By Candy Rendon
St. Louis senior Brett Allen released his album “The Beautiful Life” last month as part of his artistic moniker Tidewater.
Although Allen is the driving force behind Tidewater, he considers his producer and friend Kevin Gales, who handles the recording, to be an integral part of the project.
Allen is a film and digital media major, and he has already released two albums and is credited as both a singer and a songwriter. Allen said his musical interest began early.
“I started playing guitar when I was in the seventh grade while performing during our church’s services,” Allen said. “Then I decided to start my own music when attempting to sing.”
Allen says his first encounters with public performances scared him at first, but when the audience took a liking to his style of playing, his confidence rose.
“It’s always been kind of awkward to hear your own voice, but I just kind of tried it. After a while I got comfortable with it,” Allen said.
Allen said his first real attempt at performing outside of his local church was a moment when he confirmed that his musical abilities are, as he describes it, bizarre.
Despite the awkwardness, he reassures readers that the opportunity provided him with enough motivation to continue with his pursuits.
“The first time I actually played in a non-church locale was at an airport layover, of all places. I just pulled out my guitar and just started playing,” Allen said. “People started putting change and dollar bills into my case. With that kind of joy inside of myself, I just wanted to do more.”
Gales, who still lives in St. Louis, said he quickly realized Allen’s talent as an artist.
“Well, I usually enjoy the heavier kinds of music like rock, but something just clicked when I saw Brett performing. I realized his underlining faith, and I wanted to serve artists like him [Christians] after seeing his talent,” Gales said. “Sometimes Christian musicians have a hard time getting their music out there with favor, but with Brett, I knew he could express himself and receive a following.”
Allen explains Gales’ impact on his music.
“Kevin Gales is great,” Allen said. “His resume is insane. He has worked with the Dixie Chicks and Fiona Apple, and like everybody. I am really blessed to be working with him. He has got a lot of experience.”
“At the time we met, he was working with hardcore rock music, and he wanted to help me pursue something we both didn’t know. My music is more like singer-songwriter soft acoustic kind of stuff and his was harder, more gritty music. Now our music is kind of poppy and there is a bit of folk mixed in with an attempt to find some balance,” he continued.
Gales says Allen will go far with his abilities as a musician and as a creative person.
“He has amazing chops, and he can sing. A lot of the time there are guitarists that can play, but their vocals just don’t balance out with the music,” Gales said. “That’s not the case with Brett. He’s a spot-on studio guy, but let go of the musical talent and you have a person with a unique quality for being creative.”
Allen explains his constant concerns with making great music. He says his goals are to first and foremost to tell his stories, then to mold the music.
“Mainstream music is identifiable. It just fits. I don’t want to be like mainstream music, but at the same time I don’t want to try to be something completely anti-mainstream. I want my want own voice and style to be heard,” Allen said. “Music comes a lot more naturally to me than do the lyrics. Then I’ll just tweak my music to go with the words.”
Allen performs vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, bass, mandolin and piano on “The Beautiful Life.” He was passionate for music while pursuing a film degree at Baylor.
“I love Baylor. It had everything that I wanted in a school. I had planned on majoring in music, but then a friend told me about how great the FDM [film and digital media] department is,” Allen said.
“Who would have thought that this small town in Texas would have such great professionals working with students? Now I’m just so excited that I can work with music and work with films. It’s great.”
Corey Carbonara is a professor at Baylor in the film and digital media division of the communication studies department and Allen said Carbonara was one of the most influential professors during his time at Baylor.
“I don’t want to leave out any of the great professors here on campus, but I’ve got to say that Dr. Carbonara is a terrific man. He is a big reason as to why I am still pursuing FDM here,” Allen said.
“I started writing my first album before I came to Baylor, but I released it during my sophomore year. Being here in Waco definitely helped me venture further with putting my name on something for the public to see. I learned to take things more seriously. I put things into focus and just went with everything that was moving with me,” Allen said.
Allen says none of his success would have existed without his supportive following.
He said his relationship with his dad, Rick Allen, was especially important.
“My dad is really into music, and he has a lot of music gear. I use to admire all his nice guitars. When I told him about what I wanted to do, he supported me all the way. I would record tracks in the basement sometimes, and he allows gave me the wiggle room that I needed,” Allen said.
Rick Allen says his son surpassed his playing skills within three months.
“I love playing music and I love playing guitar. When he was young, I gave him his first guitar and taught him his first chords,” Rick Allen said.
“Thankfully I’ve been supported by my family and friends for emotional things and I have a good guitar to accompany me,” Allen said.
Rick Allen reflected on when he was first told by his son that Tidewater would be pursuing its first album release.
“I always knew that this is what he was meant to do. I told him it was about time,” Rick Allen said.
Allen says when he was creating the album, he did so with the intention of making it a personal experience for both listeners and himself while also examining a real dilemma within Texas and the rest of the world.
“I want people to know that, despite Baylor’s prominence, we are situated within a city of great poverty. Money is not supposed to separate us, but I think that it has sadly become a large factor for determining the quality of people,” Allen said. “We are all equals, and this isn’t only for those who go to Baylor. It exists all over the world.”
Allen says he understands the difficulty of finding successes within the film and music industries and the difficulties students face when attempting to pursue their passions, but he insists that all the rough patches that can and likely will be overpowered by the joy felt when accomplishing one’s goals.
“For students getting into film or music as their career path, you must definitely balance your observations with people who are making it while remaining true to yourself. Above all things, you have to get your own stuff out there,” Allen said.
“Put your works up front for all to see. You’ll never get anything if you don’t get out and take a risk. It’s worth the risk. There is a lot of compromise, but sometimes it is for the better,” he continued.
More information is available at www.weareroxr.com.