August 13, 2022

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Makin’ Tracks: Jimmie Allen’s ‘Freedom Was a Highway’

“Freedom” is indeed a little Urban-esque: It includes a bold guitar solo from Paisley and a key noodling banjo riff while celebrating the unfettered excitement of youth a la Urban’s “Wasted Time.” But “Freedom” is also a little bit Jackson Browne, with mentions of wheels and pavement symbolizing the same late-teens period referenced in “Running on Empty.”

“Freedom Was a Highway” has a yearning, driving power that would easily fit the soundtrack of a 1980s coming-of-age movie, and Allen rightfully takes that assessment as a compliment.

“Oh yeah,” he says. “That’s my vibe.”

Allen found “Freedom” in 2018 when he got a last-minute invitation to join songwriter-producer Ash Bowers (“Prayed for You”) and songwriter Matt Rogers (“We Went,” “The Long Way”) at the Wide Open publishing office, then housed at the historic RCA building on Nashville’s Music Row. Bowers and Rogers already had some music going on acoustic guitars, playing block chords while tapping a four-on-the-floor backbeat with their boots. In a rarity, they built a progression that starts on a five chord, begging from the outset for a resolution that’s never fully granted.

“We don’t really use the one chord a lot,” says Rogers. “It’s like five, six, four the whole song, which is really cool because the entire time, it just kind of hangs. Like, it adds to the tension. You’re kind of always waiting for the release of it, and it doesn’t happen.”

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