Nashville has been called “Guitar Town” for the better part of a century because of the instrument’s importance in songwriting, its twang, and, these days, its rock-influenced crunch. But one guitar player has become successful not for being a part of any of that, but for approaching the guitar from a quieter, more melodic place, while using the tools of the internet to create a successful full-time career.
Acoustic guitarist Lance Allen’s greatest claim to fame might be his reputation as the guy whose original solo guitar pieces have received the staggering number of well over 100,000,000 online streams. He has an average 400,000 monthly listeners on Spotify alone. By persistently and consistently taking advantage of the ability to post music and videos, build an online fan base, contact digital decision-makers and so much more, Allen has built a following that most musicians would envy. He also has developed other revenue opportunities with physical CD sales, live performance, studio production, Skype lessons and more. But that wasn’t his plan when he came to Nashville almost two decades ago, before those options even existed.
“My whole idea was to come to Nashville and be a session musician,” Allen said by phone from his home in Rutherford County. “I wanted to come to Nashville and play sessions, that’s why I went to MTSU and studied the recording business, and did a lot of recording sessions during that time. I played for and wrote with Chris Young while I was at MTSU, he’s a big deal now. I was a lot more into the country music scene then but have since moved on from it. I realized how hard it was to get into that. But I’ve just sort of found my place in the world with the guitar.”
Allen routinely releases new instrumental singles, having cut well over a dozen of them since the 2020 beginning of the pandemic. His latest is “Into Your Eyes,” a duet with fellow guitarist Maneli Jamal. “Maneli is a guitar player in Canada,” Allen said, “and he has quite a following as well, and when he and I do a collaboration it’s really polished because his expectations are so high. We did 4k video for the song, and it was mastered by another brilliant Canadian guitarist, Anton Dufour.” Their parts were recorded, and the video shot, in their respective locations in Canada and Tennessee, and then shipped back and forth digitally to accomplish the necessary edits and mixing.
There’s not much place for an artist like Allen on terrestrial radio, but he’s always exploring other avenues for getting his recordings played. “I’ve gotten on Sirius XM,” he said, “which is something I strived for for many years. I pulled what I would call an ‘Andy Dufresne’ [Tim Robbins’ character in the The Shawshank Redemption], where he wrote to the governor two times a week to get all these books for the prison library, I was persistent with emailing the person every week who managed [Sirius XM’s] Spa channel where my music would fit. It took a long time, I probably worked on that for five years. I generally don’t get any responses to the emails I send. And I got associated with the Calm app as well, which was a pretty good hit for me. They have a guitar playlist and other kinds of music that’s relaxing and new-agey.”
Even though it’s kind of an old-school term, Allen still fits in what is most commonly known as the “new-age” genre. “I don’t like to call myself a ‘new-age’ person,” he said, “but I guess that’s kinda where I fit. For some reason the instrumental guitar thing sort of falls into that, that Will Ackerman type of thing.” You can find him at lanceallenmusic.com or on just about any online platform.