Allens use each other as inspiration throughout national artistic career

Growing up in Lubbock is a different experience for different people. For Terry Allen, he found inspiration for many of his works growing up in Lubbock and West Texas.

Allen, a songwriter and artist, has experimented with different mediums of art throughout his 50-year career. According to his website, Allen has used sculpture, paintings, songs and different theater performances to convey his artistic vision.

Growing up in Lubbock, Allen said, helped give his art a unique voice. The geography and the flatland horizon contribute to that unique musical voice.

Allen said this sound addresses an attitude and climate that is unique to Texas and unique to the time period.

Allen did not notice the effect Lubbock had on his sound. It was not conscious but was a combination of where he lived and the people he was around, Allen said.“My own situation was that my mother was a musician, so I grew up hearing her play the piano,” Allen said. “I think the radio, especially after rock ‘n’ roll came out, opened up a whole world that kind of didn’t exist before. All of this incredible music started coming in that no one had ever heard before. I think that had a big impact. More than anything, I think the music opened the doors to the world and made you want to leave. It made me want to go out into the world.”

Allen said he and his wife Jo Harvey Allen then traveled to Los Angeles after living in Lubbock.

When they were in Los Angeles, they produced a radio show on the first underground rock station in Los Angeles, Jo Harvey Allen said.

“(Terry Allen) would select the music, and it was a theme show,” Jo Harvey Allen said. “I did all the talking on the air, and we had guests on. We had this incredible radio show on the first underground rock station in the country. I didn’t know of any women in radio, so it was unique in the fact that I was a woman on air and I was mostly telling stories on the air about Lubbock and my family and friends.”

Living in Los Angeles at that time was influential to Terry Allen and his music. Music represented the changes that were happening in the 1960s, Terry Allen said.

“That (time) forged my ideas of wanting to play music and what I thought music could do,” he said. “I think Lubbock gave me the springboard, but it was after I left that I got very involved in playing music and making art.”

After his first album “Juarez” was released, Terry Allen said he started compiling and writing different songs. Most of those songs were about West Texas and eventually became “Lubbock (On Everything),” a double album released in 1979.

Working on that body of work for about five years, Terry Allen said he did not make a conscious decision of writing about West Texas.

“(The songs) were about West Texas people and growing up there,” Terry Allen said. “It was never a conscious decision to write about that part of the country. These songs just happened to appear. They became the genesis for ‘Lubbock (On Everything)’ and putting that record together.”

Terry Allen said this album helped him think about how other types of art could tell the story other than the album. Music could tell one aspect of the story and pictures or objects could tell other aspects of the story. Together, it could do something he did not think of.

Through this combination, Terry Allen said he helped establish what his future work would look like.

“The things that I have discovered with that work kind of set a precedence for me of how to work and how to think about approaching ideas and images, whether it was songs, sculpture, drawings or a theater piece,” Terry Allen said. “All the possibilities of what making art might be.”

Terry Allen has also been an influence on his wife’s work. Jo Harvey Allen said while she was working on her poetry and her theater pieces, Terry Allen helped her and encouraged her.

Jo Harvey Allen said she uses him as an editor as she writes one-woman shows or different theater pieces. Terry Allen helped her with her original works.

“When I wrote (my) first performance, I showed Terry the script and Terry said, ‘You should half it,’ and there were a lot of things that I really liked and Terry liked,” Jo Harvey Allen said. “Editing is so important. I listened to him and halved it. We set up this really wonderful way of trusting each other so that we are each other’s editors in a certain way. We tell each other what we really think. We don’t hold back on anything. We are both really opinionated, but we are both really confident that what we choose to care about most is that the work is good.”

Jo Harvey Allen said he has encouraged her to do her own work. But, they also collaborate on different projects.

“We have both written the same amount of plays separately that we had together in collaboration,” Jo Harvey Allen said. “In all of those, there was some crossover. Every play that I have ever done, Terry has had music in it or has been a part of it in some way. I have performed in all his theater pieces. We work together very well like that.”

The Allens have traveled around the United States and have shown different art pieces and played music for a long time, Terry Allen said. The work he has developed is not geographically rooted anywhere. The work depends on the circumstances and the necessity of what he wants to do with it.

Through that open mindset, Terry Allen said he has had the chance to produce art he never thought he would be able to, like bronze sculpture and other public-work projects.

Terry Allen said he does not have a fixed process of developing ideas for upcoming projects. It is about whatever inspires him.

“I don’t think you know where an idea comes from,” Terry Allen said. “You can be sitting in a café and watch someone turn around, and it makes you think of something. There is no telling what might inspire a whole idea or body of work. I don’t think that way. I think it is where your curiosity takes you.”

Jo Harvey Allen said even though they have collaborated on numerous projects, both she and Terry Allen support each other throughout all projects they are part of.

“We are really happy for the other person’s accomplishments,” Jo Harvey Allen said. “When something good happens, we don’t have a competition with each other really. I think that has been a good thing.”

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