Watching the video for her new single “On Vacation,” one might assume that Aimee Allen is just another cute, bubbly, singer-songwriter who loves to party. Her music is so upbeat, her demeanor so excited, and the lyrics are so positive that there’s no hint of the heartbreaking obstacle she overcame to make it this far. In reality, her ability to survive misfortune makes Allen a poster girl of perseverance and enduring adversity.

   Allen lost her much-anticipated debut, I’d Start a Revolution If I Could Get Up In The Morning, when Elektra Records merged with Atlantic in 2004. She brushed off that setback by writing Grammy-nominated and Billboard-topping hits for artists such as Unwritten Law, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Tila Tequila, and for the soundtrack for Hairspray, but she never lost her desire to find success under her own name.

   Just as she wrapped up writing material for her long-overdue solo album, however, tragedy struck. In June 2008, while waiting outside a Los Angeles recording studio, Allen was accosted by gang members who, for reasons she’ll never know, beat her with a crowbar and left her for dead. Suffering from a broken jaw, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and severe blunt force trauma, Allen became especially sensitive to loud noises or anything that could cause her sensory overload—including her own music, which had plenty of powerful sounds and heavy instrumentation. Scrapping her previous album of material, Allen fled Los Angeles for the relative calm of Indiana, where she traded loud, electric guitar riffs for a quieter, nylon-string acoustic approach. She had discovered a whole new sound.

  As you might expect, A Little Happiness (Side Tracked Records, 2009) is calm and mellow, but it also conveys Allen’s newfound lust for life while still articulating the much-publicized political views that lead her to write “The Ron Paul Revolution Theme Song,” which helped fuel the Texas congressman’s unsuccessful bid for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2008.

  It is inspiring to witness someone like Allen bounce back from something that would silence many of us. But if we know one thing about Aimee Allen, it is that she will endure and succeed no matter what life throws at her. Her time in the spotlight is long overdue, but we feel confident predicting that with this record, she’ll finally find success, and a little happiness, for herself.

Story by Jon D’Auria

How does it feel to be awaiting the release of your lovely new album A Little Happiness on an independent label right now?

I’m so excited about it—all of it! There’s so much freedom that comes with smaller labels. They let you grow as an artist and allow you to take your music wherever you want to take it. And the technology to get these things out there is amazing—it really gives everyone a chance to decide what is really good and what sucks. Major labels like Elektra just put it out and let if float on its own. Alternative outlets, on the other hand, care so much about the success and happiness of the artist—they work so much harder than major labels.

Elektra put $1.2 million into my first album, but even though there is not nearly that much money at Side Tracked Records, the feeling is better than any budget they could throw at me.

You experienced a very traumatic incident last summer. Exactly what happened to you that day?

I was outside a recording studio, and these guys came out of nowhere, pulled up to us and asked me and my friend if we had a cigarette. The irony of it was that I had just quit smoking that week—not that that would’ve prevented what they did. We said no and then the men got out of the car and started beating me with a crowbar. They just kept beating me until I was totally limp and inches away from death. My friend was helpless and was just freaking out the whole time. She called 911 and an ambulance quickly took me to the hospital.

How could someone do something so horrible to someone as nice and bubbly as you?

This is going to sound crazy, but seriously, it felt like a hit. I have absolutely no enemies whatsoever and I never do things that piss other people off. They didn’t even care about my money! When they came at us at first, we threw our wallets at them and they just kicked our money aside. They beat me long after I was unconscious, too, so it seemed a bit more malicious than typical gang violence.

You suffered a broken jaw, many bruises, post-traumatic stress disorder, and severe blunt force trauma. What was it like to play music again after that?

I got such nasty PTSD that I couldn’t stand anything loud, angry, or noisy. This was a problem because the material I had written for the album was loud, angry and noisy! It was bad—I couldn’t be in L.A. or anywhere I might overload on loud chaos around me. So naturally, I hung out in Indiana for a while and scrapped everything I had written. I rewrote everything to be calmer and happier. I needed to do this album in such a way that it would calm my senses and comfort me. Even steel-string acoustic guitar was too intense; so we had to bring in a nylon-string guitar.

Wow, that sounds intense. Even an acoustic guitar was too much?

Totally. Just having electricity in the room would freak me out. If there was any buzzing or line noise I would flip. We used a portable Zoom H2 mic so that there wasn’t electricity running through the room. I had total control of the situation because I needed it, and everyone went out of their way to accommodate me.

And how have you healed since finishing the album?

I’ve healed so, so much since then. Life is insanely short, so I’m not going to live in anger or in fear because of something that happened to me. I have no time to be bitter at all. We just have to love each other, even amidst the political and economic shithole we’re in. We have to work even harder to be happy now, but there is much more of a reward when we have to fight for it.

Was it difficult to adapt to this kindler, gentler new approach?

At first, I had to realize that I didn’t have any other choice than to make a quieter, softer album, but once we got into it, I started finding myself in the subtleties of the softer road. Looking back, I wouldn’t change anything about this album or the songs that came of it.

You ended up staying in Indiana for a while, right?

Well, I came out here to try to do the show I had booked, even though I couldn’t even open my mouth or move my jaw. I decided to travel out to sign autographs and attempt some softer songs, but when I saw the size of the crowd I just freaked out. It was too much. I was so rattled that I couldn’t even go to the airport or get on a plane to go back to L.A. So a week turned into a month, which turned into a long while.

Your “Ron Paul Revolution Theme Song” made many people aware that you are very much into politics. How do you feel about Barack Obama?

Same shit, different face, ya know? Actually, I do admit that he is pretty awesome–he’s definitely a step up from that fucker Bush, but only in the sense that now, other countries accept him (and us). I mean, he’s entertaining and charming in the sense that I’d love to have dinner with him, but I don’t trust his policy. This country has been hijacked by a one-party system. There is progress, though; Obama is definitely the best puppet we have to offer.

It’s clear, then, that you’re strictly a Ron Paul woman. What’s he like in person?

Oh man, you just want to hug that guy. He’s so humble that even he’s surprised at his success. I had some amazing moments with him for sure. Just being in his presence was unreal. He told me that what I do for the revolution is more powerful than any of his speeches. I was floored. I definitely don’t see that, but it was insanely flattering. He said to me that Bob Marley changed everything with his power and that music can easily change and uplift the masses. That’s huge coming from a guy like him.

You’ve recently made appearances on alternative media shows like those of Alex Jones and Jason Bermas. How important is the independent media and how does it parallel independent labels?

Well, first of all, I wouldn’t be allowed to go on those shows if I was on a major label. Alternative media is all we have. You can’t trust mainstream outlets, but it’s fun to pick out all the bullshit and propaganda they send our way. When I was making this record, I didn’t take in any news whatsoever because it would give me an anxiety attack. It was that bad. But guys like Alex and Jason are huge right now because they’re putting it all out in front of everyone and seeing how far they can get. We need a lot more of that.

What political issues are you most concerned about right now?

I’m worried that Obama is so cool that people will stop questioning the government because they think everything will be fixed now. Also, the war on drugs is a fucking joke. Why are we wasting our tax dollars on high school hippie pot smokers when there are bigger fish to fry? Why don’t we make it legal instead of empowering foreign drug lords by going through them? Obama laughed at the idea that it would help our economy, but economists are talking about it, so it must be real. I’ve written letters and become a pen pal to inmates who are in jail for marijuana-related offenses. That’s how strongly I feel about it. 

How did you become politically awake, and what inspired you to use your music as a vehicle for it?

When I put out my Elektra album before they went under, a lot of people would comment on my message board because of the title of the album, I’d Start a Revolution If I Could Get Up in The Morning. My website quickly became a forum for alternative media and I just took in all of it and started doing my own research. I’ve always been into politics, which is a good thing, but before, it was more about awareness than action.

Explain the title of your first album.

It’s my entire life summed up into one song and further, one album. I’ve always been a revolutionary—I’ve protested everything, from my Catholic school to my family structure. I also suffer from intense insomnia; I went to D.C. when I was in high school to speak on marijuana and I thought that I should run for Congress after that, until I realized that I can’t wake up early! That song is very literal. It’s more so a wake-up call to others to get up and do something.

What is the main political message you are trying to get out to your audience?

That no government is good government.

Transitioning to more important matters than government, legislation and politics, how did it feel to have Tila Tequila cover your song “Stripper Friends”?

Oh, God! It was really funny, actually, because the song was never meant to be about that. I wanted to write a song with the message that God loves everyone, but I wound up with Tila Tequila dancing around half-naked throughout her performance. So I guess God loves Tila Tequila.

When did you first get into songwriting?

I’ve always innately been a songwriter. The only reason I learned how to read and write was to begin songwriting. In high school, it was all about rap for me. After that I went through a big reggae phase where I hung out at a reggae shop everyday after school. They actually tried to make me racist by filling my head with thoughts of the “white devil,” and eventually my parents stopped me from going there. I suppose they were just examples of the “white man holding me down” (laughing). Now I consider myself a SoCal rapper.

You’ve been nominated for multiple Grammy awards for your songwriting, but when did you decide you had to do your own project?

All my accomplishments for other people have been so gratifying, but I want acclaimed for my own album. It’s funny that a lot of my success is for other artists. I hope that will change soon.

What keeps you making music?

Sometimes I think that I’m seriously socially retarded. My friends pointed out that I’m socially awkward, but with a pen and a pad I’m like an educated scholar. If I’m dating I communicate through song. God makes people express themselves in different ways—it’s a blessing and a curse at the same time.

Are you saying that you’re a religious person?

I’m not into organized religion because I’m not an organized person. Just can’t do it.


Photos provided by Aimee Allen

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