Courtney Allen has loved singing and playing music since she was a young child.
The Hopkinsville resident has written songs, won talent shows and on March 12 released her first single, “Photographic.”
“It’s so exciting,” Allen, 19, said. “It’s crazy that this is even happening. I’ve dreamed of this as long as I can remember.”
“Photographic” can be heard on multiple international music streaming sites including YouTube Music, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Pandora and more.
“The song is about a memory you have of a person from your past and how you can just think about that person and go back to those memories; you can reminisce on the good times,” Allen said. “I think it’s very positive.”
The song was written by composer Paul Sikes, a guitarist in Billy Ray Cyrus’ band. His song, “Make Me Want To” sung by Jimmie Allen, recently hit No. 1 on the country music charts.
Her big break
While enrolled at Heritage Christian Academy, the daughter of Chris Allen of Trenton and Melissa Powell-Creamer of Hopkinsville sang in the Warriors’ award-winning choir and even won the school’s talent show her senior year.
“My music teacher (Paige Wilson) was the one who actually inspired me the most,” she said. “She pushed me. She helped me train my voice. I improved so much and it was because of her. I really appreciate her for that.”
One Sunday morning last summer, Allen sang special music at Hillcrest Baptist Church. Her voice caught the attention of pianist Wil Houchens, who is a studio musician in Nashville and a keyboardist in Cyrus’ band.
Houchens compared Allen to multiple Grammy-winner Adele.
“She is just pure, raw talent,” Houchens said. “Paul and I work with singers all day every day. The first note that comes out of her mouth that’s unique, that’s incredible ... It’s not from years of professional training. It is pure God-given talent.”
Houchens shared a video of Allen’s performance with Sikes. The duo decided to mentor Allen and invite her to a recording session in Nashville.
“It was fun. It was my first time in a studio,” Allen said.
During the session, they recorded several cover songs. When Houchens started playing Cyrus’ country rap hit with Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road” on the keyboard, Allen started singing along. Liking her sound, Houchens and Sikes recorded the cover.
Soon after, Houchens gave Allen’s recording to Cyrus for review while they were on tour in Canada.
“He put some headphones on ... I don’t know how many times he listened to it. He loved it,” Houchens said. “He said to us ‘you guys have to do a music video for this ASAP.’ ”
“They told me how much he loved it. How much he loved me. I haven’t even met him. It’s so cool,” Allen said.
A week later, Allen, Houchens and Sikes shot footage in Trenton and Fairview for the “Old Town Road” music video.
“We just did this silly music video and the recording was really honestly fantastic,” Houchens said.
He edited it and released it on YouTube. It was shared frequently on Instagram and Facebook.
“After I put it on my page, I looked on Instagram and Facebook and (Cyrus) had shared it,” Allen said. “Not only that, at some of his concerts he gave me shoutouts in front of 60-70,000 people. It’s just so cool. I can’t believe he knows who I am. I watched ‘Hannah Montana’ growing up. I watched him on that show and now he knows my name.”
Working off the momentum of “Old Town Road,” Allen went back into the studio and recorded “Photographic.” Houchens finished the final mix at the end of January. Allen chose the earliest release date possible — March 12.
Allen said she selected “Photographic” from several songs Sikes had written.
“That was just the one I most connected to,” she said. “I felt like it sounded more like me than all of his other songs. I really liked it. I’m really appreciative that he even wanted to give me that song and let me call it mine. It’s amazing that these people care for me so much and they want to see me do big things.”
In the two weeks since the song’s release, Allen said she’s had some people buy it on Apple Music and many of her friends have given her positive reviews.
“I think it’s a really good summer bop — what I’ve heard from my friends,” she said. “I feel it’s a way for people to think of the good things in life rather than the bad things and the things that upset you. I think people could really enjoy it.”
For the past couple of weeks, Allen has self-quarantined with her family because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During that time, she has written a coronavirus song and posted a video that is currently trending on Tick Tock with more than 55,000 views.
The song uses the chorus of Britney Spears’ song “Baby One More Time” and features her 1-year-old brother, Barrett.
“I just came up with a few lyrics and I recorded it with my baby brother,” she said. “He took some of his first steps in the video, so I think that helped make it go viral.”
“This quarantine is killing me
And I cannot breathe thanks to anxiety.
COVID-19 haven’t you done enough?
We miss our freedom.
Why you gotta be so tough?”
“I like it. I think it’s fun,” she said. “I’m kind of trying to shed some light on all this madness.”
A future in music
In December Allen decided to postpone her education and leave Western Kentucky University to pursue a music career.
As she pursues her dream, Allen said she hopes to continue working with Houchens and Sikes.
“For us it’s been a labor of love,” Houchens said working with Allen. “She can absolutely make it happen as long as she is putting in the work.”
After the coronavirus quarantine is lifted, Allen hopes to spend more time in Nashville studios recording songs — including some she has written — for an album.
“I really love music and this is what I want to do so I’m working really hard at it and see where I can go,” she said. “There’s nothing else in this world that I have a passion for other than music. (It’s) the one thing that I love the most.”