Tori Allen is a little country, pop, rock, and funk rolled into one. Allen is from Austin, Texas, known as the live music capital of the world and a place you will find many different genres. Unique is the best way to describe Tori Allen and her music. But, regardless of what you call her music, it is fantastic. Capable of playing multiple instruments, Allen is an undeniable talent. Thankfully, the world is now getting to hear Tori Allen. Please keep reading to learn more about Tori and her music.
Tori Allen: From Austin to Nashville
Tori Allen grew up in Austin, Texas, nicknamed the “Live Music Capital of the World.” She began developing her musicianship and artistry at a young age. Allen said, “I grew up around music. My dad was a rock & roller in the 70s, and my mom was a teacher for 20 years. So I was a huge orchestra nerd. Throughout my life, there was a guitar or piano around. I began playing piano in 3rd grade, and I picked up the violin in 6th grade. Do you know the moment in 6th grade when your parents decide whether you will be cool in high school or not? My mom put me into the orchestra, and even though I didn’t want to do band, I had an excellent teacher.” The decision Allen’s mother made would turn out to be a blessing for the singer/songwriter.
Allen gives a lot of credit for the musician she has become to her teacher. The singer/songwriter said, “I had a $75 violin, but in 8th grade, our school received a grant. So my teacher bought an excellent instrument for the school. Then, she paid to rent it out to me with her own money. It changed my life. The moment you put a good instrument into a child’s hands and what it can do for them is amazing. My teacher was a light in my life.”
College Before Nashville
Even though Tori Allen grew up in a musical city, Nashville was calling her name. However, Allen said, “I received enough grants and scholarships to get a full ride to attend the University of Texas at San Antonio. While there, I pursued a music education degree as a double violin/viola major. I was eighteen years old, taking twenty-two hours, and dreaming about playing and singing in the clubs because that is all I wanted to do. I went to college because I promised my mom I would go for a year before running off to Nashville.”
You may be wondering why someone who grew up in such a vibrant music scene would want to leave. Allen said, “If I am honest, it was because I was such a massive Taylor Swift fan that I wanted to come to Nashville. When I saw what Taylor was doing at a young age, I wanted to latch on to something as someone creative. That is how you find your voice.”
Tori Allen, Music City, and the Ten-year Town
While the music was the driving force of why Tori Allen wanted to move to Nashville, it was not the initial thing that brought her here. The singer/songwriter said, “My manager in Austin had a friend who worked at a publishing company in Nashville. So, between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I got an offer to do an internship at this publishing company. I was eighteen and hungry, so I accepted the opportunity. When I arrived, I shadowed the receptionist, but she was fired about three weeks later. They offered me the job, and I worked there for two and half years until they sold to a larger company. At that moment, I needed to decide whether I would play music or work on the industry’s business side. However, I was dying to work on the other side of the desk. So, I quit and began doing music full time.”
Tori Allen chased her dream in a duo and as a solo artist, but she has learned a lot in her time in Nashville. Allen said, “I started a duo with Corey Wagar called GirlBilly, which I was a part of for seven years. For the past three years, I have been pursuing a solo career. I have been writing and trying to figure out who I am after GirlBilly. Finally, I found a group of songs I feel the last ten years have built me up to be. There are a lot of things you learn when you move here. The ten-year town is very much a thing. The knowledge you gain from being around for so long is invaluable. There wouldn’t be enough time to sit someone down and tell them.”
Lessons Learned from a Ten-Year Town
I challenged Allen to recount what she learned about herself and Nashville in the past ten years. The singer/songwriter said, “I learned so much I don’t even know where to start. I am a completely different person and yet exactly the same. I’ve learned how to be an artist and musician. Learning to be someone in my community and how to have confidence and speak up is invaluable. I have learned to be a good friend and make time for my friends and family in an industry that can make that challenging. Also, I have learned to create something out of nothing. Nashville has changed my life, and the time spent here has been a blessing.”
Allen continued, “During my time in Nashville, I feel is it has blossomed me into everything I hoped I would be. These are little girl dreams, and if you told 13-year old Tori she would be doing the things I am doing now, I almost wouldn’t have believed it.”
Becoming a Songwriter
The roots of Tori Allen’s songwriting go back to her bedroom as a little girl. Allen said, “When I was a little girl, I would line up my stuffed animals and sing. I was making up words and rhyming things. I am the youngest of seven children, and I am the only one who is musical. What was strange is I was estranged from my dad for much of my life. My dad was the musical one in the family. My father was a singer and songwriter, but that had all ended for him when I came around. But, since my dad was separated from the family, I never knew about his musical talent.”
Tori would continue to develop her songwriting skills as she got older, but the game changed when she got her first guitar. The singer/songwriter said, “I had a songbook when I was younger, and when I got to 8th grade, I got my first guitar. It was a gift from my friend’s father. He was getting rid of this old guitar, so I took it. He taught me to read tabs on ultimate guitar. So, I would learn a song, then write my own words to it. Then, I began journaling and putting those words into melodies. That is when I started writing songs.”
Music was in her Blood
While Tori Allen was in high school, she continued to develop as a musician and a songwriter. But, she also reunited with her father. Allen said, When I got to high school, I was writing a lot of songs. Then I reconnected with my dad. He pulled out some old VHS tapes showing me all these fantastic places he got to play with his band. They even did some touring with The Scorpions. We cried because I realized the musical talent was undeniably in me. My dad took me to Houston to record a sixteen-song album while I was in high school.” Unfortunately, that album is no longer available online.
The Beginnings of Performer
Shortly after Tori Allen began writing songs, she also began performing. Allen said, “I played my first gig the summer before high school at a local coffee house. In Austin, there are so many opportunities to be a part of a community, and they celebrate young people coming up in music. So when I was in 9th grade, a place on the corner in downtown Round Rock let me perform every open mic night for free. Eventually, they offered me a $75 opening slot for a local band. That experience helped me grow, and a lot of credit should go to that venue for allowing me the chance to get the wrong notes out because I was horrible.”
Fast forward to 2021. I recently was able to see Tori Allen perform with a full band at BusCall (Tin Roof Demonbreun) and The Rooftop Round-up at Assembly Food Hall. It was one of the best sets I have seen in some time. Allen discussed her recent BusCall performance. The singer/songwriter said, “That was special! It was interesting how I ended up with that band. I have been playing for years in Nashville, and I have played with all sorts of musicians from Broadway to other parts of town. However, that group of musicians was different because I recently met most of them except for the steel and bass players, who are part of the CMT awards house band with myself.”
Tori Allen impresses every time she performs. Her acoustic performances are incredible, but her band show was on another level. Bringing all those instruments together provides a chance to recreate the rich sound you hear in Allen’s released music. Allen said, “I don’t mind tracks used creatively, but I don’t want to depend on them. So bringing another player to fill out that spot with a human aspect is worth it rather than saving a couple of hundred bucks. I am known as a violin/fiddle player and someone who can play multiple instruments. Having a band to back me up allows me to shine in those areas.”
The Evolution of Allen’s Sound
Artists are influenced by many types of music, which makes it challenging for an artist to find their sound. Tori Allen faced that challenge as she began her solo career. Allen said, “When I was a part of GirlBilly, we started as a country duo but ended up very pop. It’s weird because I exist in Nashville, and I play all these traditionally country instruments. But then I come at you with a pop song, and someone is rapping, then there is a fiddle solo. When GirlBilly ended, I didn’t know if I was country or pop. In Texas, I grew up playing country music but listening to pop. Also, I grew up on rock & roll. I was also a young girl who loved the Spice Girls and Britney Spears. So, I was heavily influenced by everything.”
Good music is good music, and Tori Allen agrees. The singer/songwriter said, “When my grandmother passed away about seven years ago, I was gifted her entire record collection. I wore those records out! It was Elvis, Don Williams, The Monkees, The Bee Gees, and even Frank Sinatra. So, all these great songwriters influence me, but Bill Withers and Sam Cooke make me jam and feel good. So much of the music I am creating was born from these old songs, but I only know how to speak through my guitar, fiddle, and mandolin. I am a mutt dog of music. So, I hope the sound I create is just Tori.”
Tori Allen Releases her Latest Single, “Colors”
On September 24th, Tori Allen released “Colors.” Allen co-wrote “Colors” with her former GirlBilly duo partner, Corey Wagar. Allen said, “We wrote the song about the players kneeling on the field. It has the same underlying message that our world has needed to hear for the last two years. But, I didn’t have anything else to back up the music. This song was the only thing I was excited about for my new solo venture. It never was the right time to release the song. However, as everything unfolded last year, it made sense to release “Colors.”
“Colors” has a beautiful message of love and acceptance of our fellow man. The singer/songwriter said, “I waited to release the song after Pride because it was so much more than that. This song is for every community. Colors is based on the idea that regardless of skin color or social class, we should still be sharing this place, and it doesn’t matter whether you are from the inner city or the farm. It takes less effort to be kind to another than it does to hate someone because they exist. This song is a celebration of people.”
Voice of the Voiceless
Tori Allen is one of the most authentic people I have met in Nashville. She is confident in who she is, and it shows in her music and her style. Allen said, “The message of Colors was embedded in me growing up in Austin. It was this place of love and acceptance, and when I moved to Nashville, that changed for me. I felt suppressed. People told me not to wear this purple lipstick or dress a certain way. It was a lot of chasing our tails to fit into something, but this is who I have been the whole time.”
Songwriters are known for wanting to impact people with their music. Tori Allen has accomplished that. The singer/songwriter said, “I believe there is a responsibility that comes with a microphone, and I want to be the voice for those who feel like they cannot be themselves. It takes too much energy not to be yourself. Imagine how much we could do if we just accepted people for who they were.”
Fun Facts with Tori Allen
When Tori Allen is not writing or playing her music, you will see her on the road playing with Ashland Craft. Allen is Craft’s music director and bandleader. Tori also shared the stage with Stevie Wonder at Bridgestone Area in 2015. Allen talked about some of the other things she enjoys in her downtime. She said, “I collect brain teasers. I don’t watch much TV, so I do work brain teasers instead. I also think practicing my instruments is fun. One of my biggest mentors, John Bollinger, was a guest on a podcast I host called The Offbeat Podcast. He said when you don’t feel like practicing, turn on a metronome, and you will be playing something in a few minutes.”
My Thoughts and Tori Allen’s Future Plans
While “Colors” is the only song Allen has released this year, more music is coming. The singer/songwriter said, “A five-song GirlBilly EP, which was never released, finally will be. Also, more Tori Allen music is coming too.” Undiscovered Nashville hopes you are as excited about more music coming from Tori Allen as we are.
I enjoyed having the opportunity to get to know Tori Allen and to be able to share her story. It is my sincere wish that you enjoyed reading about Tori and her music too. It’s crazy to think in the ten years that Tori Allen has been in Nashville, people wanted to change her and what she does. To those people, I confidently say you are wrong. Tori Allen is one of the most talented songwriters, musicians, and artists I have ever seen. It’s only a matter of time until the world sees Tori for how awesome she is.