Andrew Allen has advice for RichCity Idol contestants

The finalists for RichCity Idol 2012. - Jeffrey Uy photos
The finalists for RichCity Idol 2012.
— image credit: Jeffrey Uy photos

With spiked hair, cool clothes and a badass rock band, Andrew Allen remembers one of the first times he performed in front of a crowd. It happened to be his high school.

A teacher had invited him to put on a show between school band sets. Crazy, Allen thought, but he jumped anyway and gave himself an experience that left him shaking.

He was hooked.

Today, Allen is a singer-songwriter whose career in pop music is taking off thanks to his hit “Loving You Tonight,” which landed him a record deal and a video with 3.6 million online views. On Tuesday, Allen will give back to young artists as a guest performer and judge at the ninth annual RichCity Idol show at Gateway Theatre.

The showcase of local musical talent—featuring one top singer from each public high school in the district—offers young singers a shot on the big stage.

Allen’s advice? Breathe it in.

“If there’s any way to get up on stage and take a big deep breath first—and be able to experience all the people who are there watching you and supporting you—then as soon as that song’s done, that’ll always be a part of your memory,” he said in a phone interview.

Andrew Allen

Since jumping head first into a music career four years ago, Allen has been busy making a name for himself through several tours in Canada and the United Kingdom while collecting awards, chart spots and fans. With similarities to Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson and John Mayer, Allen has opened for big acts like Bruno Mars, OneRepublic and Train.

Based in his hometown of Vernon, Allen is still performing but has taken a break from touring to hone his songwriting while awaiting the imminent release of his next single.

It was 2008 when Allen and wife Julia quit their jobs and sold their house and belongings. They bought a minivan and Allen took his music on the road, performing 210 shows a year. That hard work paid off with “Loving You Tonight,” a song he wrote in Nashville and played for his wife via Skype.

“I could tell right away it definitely had those special components to it. Every now and again you write a song (that) has something different. That was definitely one of those songs.”

He recorded it and independently released it to Canadian radio. The song picked up steam on the charts and the Epic label noticed, signing Allen, releasing the song in the U.S. and bankrolling a video. The song exploded and was featured in the 2011 Taylor Lautner film Abduction.

“It ended up being much more than this cute little song I had written for the love of my life, and instead had blown up into this thing that a lot of people could identify with.”

His latest song carries a similar buzz—and he’s got a lot more tunes he’s eager to share.

“I think that there’s an honesty to my writing, and I think there’s an identifiable character with a lot of them,” he said. “To tell an old school love story in a song is a new concept in this day and age, so I’d love to see myself carry that torch and sing at that top level, but I’d also like to be able to write those songs for other people.”

When Allen plays at Gateway Theatre Tuesday, he’ll likely have his go-to guitar with him—a Duncan Africa—built in Uganda to support a village and finely-tuned by Surrey-based guitar master Jay Duncan.

Said Allen: “It still smells like wood. It wasn’t made in a factory. There’s extra glue in some parts, extra resin here and there, little cracks. I just think it’s so cool.”

RichCity Idol 2012

•Tuesday, May 29 at 7 p.m. at Gateway Theatre

•General admission tickets, $12 from Gateway Box Office (604-270-1812) and from contestants, or $15 at door

•Proceeds from this year’s event will be donated to B.C. Children’s Hospital.

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