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We often define life by the things we have.
Boxcar Junkies lead vocalist and principle songwriter Brandon Reid Allen defines his by the things he’s survived.
He was born in Indiana but his nomadic ways often led him astray. With extreme hearing loss as a child and subject to a tougher start than most, Allen wasn’t exactly someone you’d expect to catapult to a career as a singer-songwriter.
But one thing his parents gave him before leaving this world was his first start in music through their family band. Allen started playing drums and bass until receiving his first acoustic guitar at age 12. That’s when the writing started. That’s when he first found his voice.
Allen launched a successful career as a singer-songwriter. He won Best Rock Vocalist and Songwriter of the Year at the Los Angeles Music Awards, he also added Breakout Artist of the Year at the American Christian Music Awards, as well as Song of the Year at the Paramount Music Awards not long after. He signed a label deal with distribution and publishing through EMI, creating quite a buzz as an independent musician.
Allen soon would catch the ear of famed rock drummer Troy Luccketta of the multi-platinum selling band Tesla. “Troy was instrumental in my career. He opened a lot of doors. He believed in me and gave me opportunities recording great music and sharing the stage with legends. The Eagles, Alice Cooper, Aaron Lewis. The list goes on.”
Things looked promising on multiple fronts, but personal tragedy would come calling.
“I made some stupid choices that led to my exodus. Got locked up a few times, drifting from town to town. Living on the streets, in the mountains, even the desert. Lost myself for sure. It wasn’t the first time. Hell, I ran away with the carnival when I was just a kid. I’ve surely lived a hundred lifetimes.”
He’d lose a lot of things along the way before truly finding himself. One thing after another unraveled until he found himself living on the streets.
“It’s not that I got addicted to drugs and booze and then lost everything. It was actually the exact opposite. I’m no stranger to life and its struggles, but the harder I would fight off the attack, the stronger it became. It was too much this time. I had lost. I finally said ‘f*** it…I’m dead already, just waiting for my body to catch up.’” He scraped by busking and sleeping on rooftops in cities like Vegas, Phoenix, and San Diego.
Eventually he found himself. Cleaned up and clawed out. Dedicating his life and his art to being someone who tells the stories of the forgotten people he’d met along the way. He traveled, playing gigs and being free. New York to Florida to Texas (where he cut the EP for his new Americana/Alt-Country project Boxcar Junkies), and finally back to Nashville.
Drawing from influences like Mellencamp, Springsteen, Tom Petty, Rob Thomas, and Wilco, Allen’s Boxcar Junkies put their own spin on a style of music deeply embedded in the American experience.
A punchy rhythm section forms the backdrop for deep textured guitars, rootsy Hammond organ, all set against organic overlays of steel guitar and harmonica.
The record was produced and performed on by producer Derek Hames and engineer John Shelton of Houston’s Edgewater Music Group.
Isaias Gil (Black Flag, Macy Gray, David Lee Roth, Jaci Velasquez) played drums alongside bassist Mark Riddell (Mike Stinson, Charlie and The Regrets, Leon III, Grand Old Grizzly). International guitar legend Gary Hoey guested on the record, while Texas steel extraordinaire Will Van Horn (Lyle Lovett, Robert Ellis) and Houston harmonica great Sonny Boy Terry added their unique flavors as well.
Hames provided Hammond, mandolin, guitars, percussion, and background vocals while Shelton played most of the leads.
Sony Music Entertainment's group - The Orchard has picked up the band for distribution of the EP, titled "EST. 1973."
Ultimately, though, the record is focused in on the incisive, plaintive songwriting and smoky baritone vocals Allen himself provides the project. The tapestries of the backing tracks are pleasing, but the music itself is what drives the ship.
“I’m trying to make right with my past and help some people along the way that have been pinned down by their circumstances. My hope is that I become invisible and that people focus on the message.”
Shining a light into dark places. Music is the medium. Hope is the message.
Introducing Boxcar Junkies.
AMERICANA / ALT COUNTRY
CHECK OUT THE LATEST EP – "EST. 1973"
Recorded and Mixed by John Shelton
Edited by Derek Hames, John Shelton & John Wilson
Mastered by John Moran
All Songs Recorded, Edited & Mixed at Edgewater Studios