As the new decade gets underway, so is a new appreciation for the traditional country sound. More and more people are starting to miss fiddle, steel, and the stories that tell the story of the average Joe or average Jane that seems to have been tossed away for a more saturated sound.
Not only has Jeffery Allen Imler made storytelling and the traditional country sound his calling cards, he did a damn good job of it on his debut album Another Shot. To borrow a line from one of his influences, Alan Jackson, you’ll get a lot about livin’ and a little ’bout love, but what you’ll also get is realness; Imler has lived these stories and delivers them with the deep-voiced delivery that we all wish we had more of.
We chatted with Imler about leaving Nashville to carve his own musical path, the stories behind many of the songs on Another Shot, what he hopes listeners take away from it, his outlook on 2020 and more!
Pro Country: Who are some of your biggest musical influences that have shaped your sound?
Jeffery Allen Imler: Alan Jackson, George Strait and Don Williams were big, and then there was outlaw country like Merle and Hank. Believe it or not, even some old Blake Shelton [laughs]. Hank III and my dad used to hang out a lot. He told me stories of those two riding around in Las Vegas in a golf cart down the hallways of a hotel, and they were knocking over vases and things; just doing crazy stuff [laughs].
PC: You EPK mentions that you’ve been involved in music for most of your life. At what point did you realize that you wanted to pursue music as a career?
JAI: After I heard the music in Pure Country. It sounds cliche as hell; I always loved music, but when I saw George Strait singing on a back porch with his guitar, just him and the music, I said, “That’s what I wanted to do right there.” Just me and a guitar singing some real music. That’s what sold me on it, and then moving forward, I just gravitated towards what I thought was good music and what I enjoyed. Now with music changing as much as it has, I’m trying to hold on as best as I can to what I feel is real country music. I used to be produced by Jody Stevens, who produces Luke Bryan and Cole Swindell, before I lest Nashville in 2013. I was writing songs and trying to get cuts with Luke Bryan, and that stuff just wasn’t me. They wanted to sign me to a deal, but the pop-country stuff just wasn’t what I wanted to do. It didn’t feel like it was going to last, and I like more of a traditional sound, so I walked away from it, decided to be a father to my kids, and now we have two more kids. I’m even a grandpa [laughs]. I’m just living life day by day. Music has really been my side hobby. I really enjoy doing it, but it’s never been my main hustle since I left Nashville. It’s one of those things where if it happens, it happens, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m making it more about the music now than I am about a career.
PC: What emotions were you feeling as you were preparing to release music collectively for the first time with Another Shot?
JAI: There was a sense of fulfillment. I was getting to do something that I’d been trying to do for a long time. I went to Nashville trying to do something like this before, but I didn’t really have a vision. Now, I feel like I have a vision and I know exactly what it is that I want to accomplish and what I want people to hear in my music. I know what story I want to tell. It’s about family, friends, love, relationships and realness. It’s just about life; things that everybody can relate to. I don’t want it to be watered down, I just wanted to have a good melody, a good story and a damn good hook. If I can do that, then I feel like I’ve accomplished my job.
PC: “When Life Becomes a Storm” is one of our favorite songs on Another Shot. Can you talk about the inspiration behind that song?
JAI: That idea came to me from my buddy Jim Hampton, and I took to it like a horse to water. I was single at the time, so I was thinking about what the hell I needed to do to get a woman [laughs]. He was thinking the same thing, because he was single at the time as well, and we just wanted to write a song that we could relate to and connect to. It’s pretty much a template of “if you ain’t doing this, you’re pretty much jackin’ up.” It’s funny now because I’ve got my wife, and I play it as if I’m singing the song to my wife, and my wife goes around the crowd and says, “Don’t let him fool you, he’s not doing any of those things to me,” [laughs]. You have reality on one hand, then you have the song on the other.
PC: On “Full Time Country” and “Jonesin for Jones,” you pledge your allegiance to traditional country music. How important is it for you to vocally fly the flag for that kind of music?
JAI: Those are only two of twelve songs on the album. I’m not trying to be a patriot for traditional country, but secretly, I am. I really want to bring those feels and emotions back. I’m not trying to make it my forte, I’m just trying to write songs that have good stories. The next album I’m going to release is going to have a lot more sad songs and getting back to what people used to hate about country. I hate to say it that way, but sad, tear in my beer kind of music. I’ve got five new songs coming out pretty soon that I just recorded. I definitely want to fly the flag, but I don’t want that to be the only thing. I’m not trying to be a spokesman for traditional country, but if people can appreciate what I’m doing, then I am most definitely going to continue along the route I’m going.
PC: “Another Shot” is a song that features a double-meaning that talks about wanting another chance with a girl. Why did you decide to make that song the title track?
JAI: That song is a double entendre, and it was really catchy to me. It’s a song idea I had for a long time. I was trying to connect with my buddy Chris Young to try to write the song, but when I went to Nashville, he was a little too busy for me [laughs]. I couldn’t write it with him, so I decided to finish it myself. You have the situation where “another shot” means you get another shot with a woman, or you can get “another shot” of whiskey. For me personally, my little secret meeting I have in there, which is why I made it the title track to the album, is that I’ve got “another shot” at music. I’ve got another opportunity to go out and show people what my mentality is about country music. I get to show them what I want people to hear about me. I’m hoping that people find that vein again, because there’s so many people that want to hear the country music sounds from the 80s and 90s. If we can get some of that back and get away from the watered down sound now, I think that would be huge. There’s a market there that’s untapped, and I’ll be satisfied as a country music artist to put music out like that. If people like it, then I’m excited about that. I don’t just write these songs for me, I write them for that void that I feel needs to be satisfied.
PC: “Sportsman’s Paradise” climbed into the top 20 in Louisiana a few weeks ago. What did it mean to you to have that success with Another Shot’s newest single?
JAI: When you have your hometown people supporting you and building you up, that’s a feather in your hat [laughs]. It always starts at home, because if everything falls apart, what is the last thing you have left? You have your home people. Everything I do, I do for my family first, and then I do for my fans locally. From there, if it branches out, then hot damn.
PC: “Convince Me” features former major label artist and current SiriusXM host Danielle Peck. Can you talk about how she became involved and why you thought she would be a good fit for the song?
JAI: I loved Danielle’s voice years ago when she was doing stuff like “Findin’ a Good Man.” I absolutely loved her sound, and for the life of me, I don’t know why she’s bigger than she is now. Long story short, my producer, Buddy Hyatt, is good friends with Danielle. I got to talking to him about Danielle, who I thought would be good for a duet, and he said he knew her. He sent her a text asking her if she’d be interested in the song, she asked to hear it, we sent her the demo and she loved the song. She got back to Buddy right away and said she was really interested in cutting it. We went to the studio shortly after that and cut the song.
I was looking for somebody who has a unique sound that could really sell the song, To be honest, the song focus is on a woman’s voice. I’m kind of just secondary in the background on the song. I think people can relate to the lyrics. When we wrote the song, we were thinking about Blake and Miranda when they were splitting up. We heard from some friends of ours that knew them that they were on the rocks, so we decided to write a song for them where if they liked it, they’d cut it and release it like a lot of artists in relationships do. When it was all said and done, we thought it was a really powerful song, but we never really did anything with it. I had the opportunity to do it with Danielle, and I think we did a hell of a job! Hopefully the people out there that get to hear it feel the same way.
PC: Do you have a favorite song on Another Shot? If so, why is it so special to you?
JAI: Believe it or not, “Being Right Next to You” is my favorite song. That song is the song that kicked off the entire writing stint that I had. I had taken a hiatus for about seven years; Ididn’t write a song, sing a song, perform anywhere or anything. One day after the flood of 2016 where we had lost almost everything we had, times were tough and I was without a job, through all the stress and heartache, I decided I was going to sit down and start writing a song, and that was the first song that came out. I wrote it for my wife, Amanda, and it talks about being with her making the hardships worth it. It has the Merle guitar with a phaser on it, and the feeling of “Being Right Next to You” tells that exact story. With everything I do, I want to showcase my relationship with my wife and my family, because that comes first. That was a hard lesson for me to learn in the beginning, and I’m a very blessed man to have the people around me that I have now. I want to honor them in everything I do.
PC: What do you hope listeners take away from Another Shot after listening all the way through?
JAI: That there’s still a place for traditional storytelling. You don’t hear that too often now, and perhaps, they’ll look at me in the same way I looked at Alan Jackson and George Strait back in the day. I’m not looking for accolades or any pats on the back, but if people can enjoy it, get something out of it and take away from it what they need to, then I’m excited. That’s what I’m trying to accomplish. I want people to enjoy the music for what the music is, and if I can be a part of that, then I’m happy. And if I can find anybody else who can do that type of thing, like Kendall Shaffer or Dustin Sonnier or anyone like that, I’m going to support them 110%.
PC: 2020 has altered many plans of artists so far. Of the things you can control, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
JAI: What can we do besides just be like a bunch of surfers and ride the wave? We just have to adapt and overcome. Being a retired military police officer, you learn that in the military: you have to adapt, overcome and get in where you can fit in. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen, we just have to handle it as it comes. I think music is going to come back even stronger after all of this, especially after what people have had to go through in their homes and on Facebook and social media. They’ve had more of an opportunity to be introduced to stuff that they wouldn’t normally see. Hopefully enough people have heard my music and it’s going to start picking up. and hopefully with people like yourself writing articles, I’ll sound like a freaking superstar [laughs].
*Images courtesy of Jeffery Allen Imler Facebook Page*