Jimmie Allen honoring his late father as 2022 ACM Awards co-host: 'I want him to be proud'

Alongside Dolly Parton and the Academy of Country Music’s 2021 New Female Artist of the Year Gabby Barrett, Jimmie Allen – the ACM’s New Male Artist of 2021 – will co-host the 2022 ACM Awards on Monday night from Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

In an exclusive conversation with the Nashville Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network, the singer – whose 2021-released Brad Paisley collaboration “Freedom Was A Highway” hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay charts – reveals that the occasion will be a powerful, poignant homage to his father, James “Big Jim” Allen, who died in September 2019 at 65 years of age.

Allenis also performing at the ACM Awards. “Down Home” will be officially released on March 8 from his forthcoming third studio album. It strikes a more powerful personal chord with the performer than anything else he’s ever released.

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“People have wanted me to write a song about my father for a while, so I finally did," Allen said. "In (“Down Home”), I’m letting him know that I miss him, that I have remembered everything he taught me, and that I want him to be proud of what I am doing.”

Regarding his hosting gig, he adds, “Foremost, it’s a great thing for country music for me to be up there with two female hosts,” Allen offers. “And wow, you know, Dolly’s a legend and icon. So when I see her (on Monday), the first thing I’m going to do is congratulate her on not just one accomplishment, but on her life.”

The appearance by Kelly Clarkson to perform Parton’s 1974 classic “I Will Always Love You” is likely to be a massive moment for him, too.

“Just thinking about it, and that song is such a great song. It has a huge legacy.”

Allen spent 2021 as one of country music’s most ubiquitous faces. He competed on ABC’s "Dancing With The Stars," and released an album-length “Gold Edition” expansion of his “Bettie James” EP.” He was awarded the ACM for New Male Artist of the Year, plus the Country Music Association trophy for New Artist of the Year.

And in June 2021, he launched Bettie James Publishing with songwriter Tate Howell via Sony Music Publishing Nashville. In December, the Milton, Delaware native signed the duo Neon Union to JAB Entertainment, his full-service management and production company he launched alongside his business partners John Marks and Aaron Benward.

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However, the idea that all of his recent success has led him to Las Vegas on Monday– in the context of his father and some of his fondest times with him – provokes heart-wrenching thoughts from the “Best Shot” vocalist.

“When I was a kid, I would sit by the TV, and act like I was a host or backstage interviewer,” Allen recalls. Then, he continues, “when I was 17, I believe, I was watching the (2003) ACM Awards with my dad, I used to tell him that I would be on that stage one day with an award, and then as a host. When I told him that I was going to be the host, I promised that I’d have him there, sitting in the front row, and walking around backstage, meeting everybody. Instead, he’ll definitely be in my heart.”

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Ultimately, Allen views his success as a mix of fulfilling his dreams while still having a bit left in the tank to propel him even further. He’s advanced from winning for New Male Artist of the Year in 2021 to finding himself up for Best Male Artist of the Year in 2022. Advancing his success quickly meets a more significant standard for his career and life moving forward.

“For 11 years, I planted roots in Nashville, and now I’m seeing the fruits of my labor. This is just the beginning. I’m still working hard and trusting who I am. I don’t just want to be a singer. I want to be an entertainer and humanitarian, too," Allen says.

"Nobody cares about how many records you sold or how much money you had when you die. They care the most about who you were as a person. I want to inspire people to be confident – no, over-confident – in themselves. I want to be the kind of person who pushes people to have the confidence that over-fills the (metaphorical) glass, helping them pass all the rejection they may receive and giving them the fuel to keep going."

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: ACM Awards 2022: Jimmie Allen hosting with Dolly Parton, Gabby Barrett

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