It wasn't until after Allen's marriage and the birth of her three children that the urge to sing again hit her. "I was raised in a family of three kids, and by the time I was 28, I had my own family of three kids," she says.
After becoming involved in the Unity Church, Allen began seeing "rhythmic patterns" in her head. Slowly, she began writing songs again, many dealing with issues of family and relationships.
"Some people classify my songs as spiritual," she says. "Spirituality is very broad, and I'm glad that most of my songs can be taken on several levels."
In 1999, Allen released Grace on her own Livarts Productions imprint. "It was sort of by popular demand," she says, "Everywhere I played, people would ask if I had an album out, so finally I released it on my own label." The 10 songs on the disc feature backing by Scott Bennett, a veteran of Brian Wilson's band, and "Guitar Bob" Egan, a former sideman for Wilco, The Tragically Hip and Canadian pop-rockers Blue Rodeo. The bulk of the tracks were recorded at Velvet Shirt Studios in Chicago, best known for producing Liz Phair's Whitechocolatespaceegg album. Allen's rootsy alternative rock celebrates her haunting yet uplifting tales of healing, self-discovery and spiritualism.
Shortly after the release of the album, Allen's husband Don, an industrial psychiatrist, was transferred to Atlanta. The family settled in Acworth in north Cobb County. Allen quickly found gigs at Eddie's Attic and Georgia Music Industry Association-sponsored events. She contributed a song to a Million Mom March benefit CD and has co-written a song for a GMIA 9-11 project.
"All the music people I met down here were based in Decatur or Atlanta, but I thought, 'There must be some people here in Acworth that would love a place to play,'" says Allen.
So, coming full circle from hosting talent shows as a child, she developed the idea for an open-mic showcase and approached the downtown Acworth coffeehouse Cup O' Joe's. The management jumped at the chance to have a regular forum for live music, and business is booming so far. "The energy is rolling out here," Allen says.
Beginning in January, Allen's open-mic night -- held the first Saturday of each month -- has welcomed a wide range of musicians from Cartersville, Marietta, Woodstock and Atlanta.
"A big part of a performer's desire to play in front of people is to seek approval," says Allen. "I used to crave that approval from strangers, but I've realized that I have the greatest audience I could ever ask for right here at home: three kids and a husband who all really love me."
Juggling responsibilities at home and a budding music career, Allen doesn't play out as much as other artists, but she feels the balance is appropriate. A new Allen song, "So Much for Fame and Fortune," one of many she debuts at the monthly showcases, nicely sums up her philosophy of staying close to home:
"So much for fame and fortune/I think I've already got it made/'They' keep talkin' up living in the spotlight/I think I've uncovered that it's cooler in the shade."
Leanne Allen performs Sat., April 6, at the Hungry Ear Coffeehouse at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 1025 Mt. Vernon Highway, Sandy Springs. www.nwuuc.org. Allen also performs and hosts the monthly open-mic showcases at Cup O' Joe's, 4381 Senator Russell Square, Acworth. 678-453-2303.
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