Interview with Allen Karl
by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show
Lamitschka: Music has many new fans throughout Europe who may be hearing about you for the first time. How would you describe yourself and the music you play to someone who has never seen or heard you?
Allen Karl: Traditional country music was my first love and I’m sure, always will be. I’m the kind of entertainer who loves his fans. Meeting my fans after the show, taking pictures and talking with them is very enjoyable for me. They have learned who I am through magazine articles, radio DJ’s and information on my CD’s, so it’s very important to me to get the chance to learn more about my fans.
Lamitschka: How was the last year for you? What were your highlights?
Allen Karl: My last year in country music was fabulous. I started the year off with a new single released the first week in January called, “That Jukebox Has A Mind Of Its Own.” It was wonderful to see it go to number one in several European countries like Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands. I had a wonderful time doing a radio tour in April to Denmark, Sweden and London, England where I had the honor of meeting and spending time with many DJ’s for the first time, who have been playing my records for over thirty years. We did on air radio interviews and had time to enjoy each other’s company while eating and talking about country music. Another highlight was winning “Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year”, with, “My Final Rose” from the European Country music Association.
Lamitschka: What is your latest CD and how’s it doing?
Allen Karl: My latest CD is called “Lonelies Only Bar.” It’s doing very well at the moment and is showing up on many charts worldwide.
Lamitschka: How did you choose the title for the CD? Is there a story behind the name?
Allen Karl: The title for “Lonelies Only Bar” wasn’t chosen by me, because that song was written by Hall of Fame song writer, Jerry Foster. Jerry Foster, being a good friend of mine, was the announcer on three pilots of my TV show, “The Allen Karl Show”. We were at dinner one night and I said, “Jerry, you’ve written so many number one hits, how about writing one for me?” He said, “ Allen, I have one for you that I believe will be a number one hit.” It was “Lonelies Only Bar” and right now we believe it really will be a number one. It’s going higher in the charts every day.
Lamitschka: Do you write the songs yourself? If not, how do you go about finding the songs for your CD?
Allen Karl: I have written several dozen songs and several of them are on my CD’s. Normally, I have songs pitched to me from people all over the world. I listen to all the songs that are pitched to me several times. I have recorded covers that I have always liked through the years. But any song that I record needs to move me in such a way that I feel I can project that same feeling to the audience or radio listener.
Lamitschka: Please tell us about the songs on your album (influences, etc).
Allen Karl: The songs on my last album, “That’s All Behind Me Now” are a mixture of songs that are originals, songs I’ve written and covers. The influences for that album came from people who have greatly influenced me in my career, such as, Marty Robbins, Waylon Jennings, Jim Reeves, Johnny Rodrigues and Hank Snow. Having spent time with some of these greats in the past, has been a learning and enjoyable experience.
Lamitschka: What is the difference between your last CD and your current one?
Allen Karl: The main differences between my last CD and my current one would be the tempo and mood. My last CD, “That Jukebox Has A Mind Of Its Own” is upbeat with a lite comical story line. My current CD is slow with a more serious story line.
Lamitschka: Your current single is being played by radio. What do you feel is special about this song that makes people want to hear it?
Allen Karl: I believe people want to hear this song “Lonelies Only Bar”, first of all, because it’s well written and it’s a good “cry in your beer” traditional Country song. A bad economy takes its toll on relationships and I think there are a lot of people that can identify with this song.
Lamitschka: What will your next single be?
Allen Karl: My next single is going to be released the first week of September 2011, and it’s called “Butterflies.” It’s a line dance song with its own line dance called the “Butterfly”, choreographed by the world famous choreographer, Rafel Corbi.
Lamitschka: What kind of songs do you like to record the most?
Allen Karl: I like to record songs that have a twist to them or a play on words. Fans remember that type of song easier. I don’t care if the song is fast or slow. As long as the story line is unique and well written.
Lamitschka: You did a duet with Amberly Beatty. How did that happen to come about?
Allen Karl: I did a duet with Amberly Beatty from Ontario, Canada. A record label that I was with wanted me to listen to her because they thought she sounded so much like Patsy Cline, whom I’ve done shows with years ago. After hearing her, I agreed she really did sound like Patsy. They asked if I would consider doing a duet album with her and, of course, I agreed without hesitation. That duet album, “If I Could Spend Today Loving You” has been greatly received and embraced by country music radio
Lamitschka: What is your favorite song among all the songs you have recorded and what’s the story behind it?
Allen Karl: Which is my favorite song is a very hard question. All the songs that I’ve recorded I like very much. So I guess the way to pick just one would be to say, which one am I most sensitive and emotional about. That song would be “Silent Night.” All through my life, I never felt like the Christmas holidays were here until I heard, “Silent Night.” It has always given me a reverent and peaceful feeling and touched me deep inside. Then hearing it played in Viet Nam, where I spent two Christmas seasons, gave a whole new meaning to lonely. “Silent Night” touches me like no other song ever written.
Lamitschka: How much creative control do you have over your music?
Allen Karl: As far as creative control, I’m glad that I have 100% control over my musical creativity. I realize that is not the case for a lot of artists. However, I like to have the people in my organization always give me their input and suggestions. I highly respect their opinions.
Lamitschka: There’s a lot of work that goes into a number one hit. What did it take to make it in your case?
Allen Karl: There are so many factors that go into a record going to number one. Of course it all begins with a song. My recent number one, “That Jukebox Has A Mind Of Its Own” was a well written song with catchy music and lyrics. Then after that you need to sell the song with good a lead vocal and tracks. Present all of that in a well-designed CD package accompanied by an impressive press release. Then your promoters step up to the plate and try to convince the DJ’s of country music radio that their radio show would be so much better if this record was on their play list. If the DJ’s are convinced, the record is played; if the listeners like it and request it, then it’s on its way to possibly a number one.
Lamitschka: Do you have any interesting stories about how fans have been affected by your music?
Allen Karl: I’ve had fans tell me that they especially liked one song or another and that they liked my rendition of a cover song. But I don’t believe I’ve ever been told how a song affected a fan other than a song brought tears to their eyes or made them want to dance.
Lamitschka: Who inspires you musically and how deep do your musical roots run?
Allen Karl: When I sing and record gospel music, I’m inspired by the Lord. I want to feel the song deep inside so every word makes me feel closer to the Lord and in turn I get to give that same feeling to the listeners. With traditional country music, the story inspires me. A perfect marriage between melody and lyrics is inspiring. My musical roots go back to the age of 12 when I started performing and then at 14 with my own Saturday afternoon radio show, on WPPA in Pottsville, PA.
Lamitschka: What do you think about today’s music scene versus its post and where do you see it going in the future?
Allen Karl: Music and its style will probably always change from generation to generation. People change and their appetites for music change also. Today’s music isn’t necessarily my style because I’m from yesterday. That doesn’t make todays music wrong, it just doesn’t fit me. I believe music will change and evolve like this in the future. There will always be a certain mass of people trying to adapt to the change and some happy to stay with yesterday’s style. I believe music will always be one of the things that causes the creative juices to flow in mankind.
Lamitschka: What do you think about today’s music industry?
Allen Karl: As with any industry, there is good and bad. People who are great to deal with and those you need to watch out for. The music business is just that way. As with all businesses, they must make a profit to stay alive. From the artist’s stand point, you must make certain that along with making a profit, they are also interested in your career.
Lamitschka: If you had the chance to change something about the music industry, what would it be?
Allen Karl: I would like to see more honesty. People can be so easily taken advantage of as they reach for their dream. Sometimes the dues a person has to pay to make it in the music business is far too costly and causes personal tragedies from which they never recover. I’d like to see worthy talent have a better chance at being successful.
Lamitschka: As an artist, you so many tasks such as recording, touring, interviews. What do you like best, what’s your favorite activity?
Allen Karl: I really like the whole package. I like the creativity of the recording studio. I love the touring, the fans and talking with them. I enjoy the interviews that enable me to express myself concerning different issues of my life and music business.
Lamitschka: Are you doing anything to take music beyond its current borders or are you happy where it is?
Allen Karl: No I don’t feel that I’m taking music beyond its current borders. Being a traditional country music lover, I guess I feel those borders have already been stretched too far. I just want to strive to perfect what I do as much as I can and deliver my country music messages to the people in the most sincere way possible.
Lamitschka: What was your big break that got you into the music business?
Allen Karl: My big break came when I was 14 years old and started a half hour show on WPPA radio in Pottsville, PA.
Lamitschka: Before you became a star, were your friends and family supportive or was it a struggle?
Allen Karl: My friends and family have always supported me and I’ve always been grateful for that. As far as the struggle goes, that has become less because the longer you spend in the business; the more you surround yourself with good people. That makes a big difference.
Lamitschka: What inspired you to become an artist?
Allen Karl: From the early years of listening to Eddy Arnold, Webb Pierce, Hank Williams, Roy Rogers and many others on the radio, I knew that singing traditional country music songs is what I wanted to do.
Lamitschka: What inspired you to become a songwriter?
Allen Karl: I’ve written a few dozen songs but I don’t consider myself a good song writer. It’s not something that I’ve really tried to work on hard enough to be really good. If a tune pops into my head while I’m playing the guitar or I think of a tricky line, I might try to work on a song.
Lamitschka: What drives you?
Allen Karl: One of the things I’m driven to do, is to produce good country music. And of course, I’m driven to succeed in the music business. But really it’s the fans that drive me the most. I’m always trying to meet their expectations and give them something new and exciting.
Lamitschka: What does it take to be a music icon?
Allen Karl: What it takes to be a music icon is something I wouldn’t know anything about. I don’t believe that any entertainer ever started out with the ambition of becoming an icon. I guess you just do your best and continually try to improve on what you do while maintaining a humble attitude and keeping the respect and love for your fans in your heart.
Lamitschka: What’s unique about you that will differentiate you from other artists?
Allen Karl: I don’t believe that I’m much different from other artists. My voice may be a little different but I believe there are many artists who share my philosophy of respecting the fans by dressing properly for a show, showing and telling the fans how much they are appreciated and maintaining a personal life style that makes the fans proud of you.
Lamitschka: What has been your greatest challenge in music business?
Allen Karl: My greatest challenge in the music business has been trying to get hundreds of radio stations to play my music. That has taken years of promotion. DJ’s have tons of music sent to them weekly and they only have so much time to play records on the radio. The challenge is to keep trying to convince them to play your music over so many others that they have to choose from. To do that you must constantly strive to improve your product and have a great promotional team to help you.
Lamitschka: What moments in your career stand out in your memory as highlights and achievements which you are proud of?
Allen Karl: Memorable highlights in my career have been having my show at 14 on WPPA radio, opening shows for Hawkshaw Hawkins, Wanda Jackson, Eddy Arnold and Patsy Cline as a teenager. Being inducted into the Native American Hall of Fame by Chief Black Eagle of the Cherokee Nation, inducted into the Traditional Country Music Hall of Fame, the Great Country Radio Hall of Fame, performing on the Grand Ole Opry and winning Male Vocalist and Album of the Year from the European Country Music Association. I also had the opportunity to perform on shows with many other wonderful entertainers in country music.
Lamitschka: Any thoughts of retirement ahead?
Allen Karl: I try not to think of retiring. I realize that the time will come when my music career will be over. After all, for every beginning there is an ending. But I pray that I won’t go farther with my career then my ability to do what I do
Lamitschka: Who is your biggest critic, yourself or others?
Allen Karl: Without a doubt my biggest critic is myself. I have a very difficult time liking what I do. Sometimes I never do. I have recorded songs that I’ve never released or even played for people because I didn’t like the way I did them. My wife, I believe, is my second biggest critic. I can always count on her to be honest with me and I like that
Lamitschka: When you get time off, how do you like to relax?
Allen Karl: I love spending time with my family. My wife, four children and six grandchildren. My wife and I are so lucky to have all of them living so close to us. The result of this is we get together often and that makes for some very happy times
Lamitschka: Is there anything in your life that you would change if you could?
Allen Karl: The one thing that is impossible to change, but I would if I could, would be my age. I’d love to have more years with my family and music
Lamitschka: What hopes and desires do you have?
Allen Karl: My hopes and desires center around my family. I always worry about their health and safety. I spend time wondering what my little grandchildren will become in life and I pray for my children and grandchildren to have happy and healthy futures
Lamitschka: What has been the biggest disappointment in your life?
Allen Karl: My glass is always half full rather than half empty. I’m sure like most people; disappointments are a part of life. I don’t dwell on them long enough to even list them because I believe that concentrating on the negative is non-productive. Think positive and keep moving forward.
Lamitschka: Many European fans travel to the United States to attend the several of the music festivals for the opportunity to see so many of their favorite artists, bands and celebrities. Will you be participating and how will the fans be able to find you?
Allen Karl: I have spent many years with a booth at Fan Fair meeting fans from all over the world. During Fan Fair week, which is dedicated for the fans, I would do short shows all over Nashville in different clubs to meet and greet as many fans as possible. Next year during that week I’m going to be at the R.O.PE. (Reunion Of Professional Entertainers) booth in the CMA building signing autographs and talking with fans.
Lamitschka: Is there any place you haven’t played that you would like to?
Allen Karl: The places that I play I take as they come along. The fans are what makes any place I play special to me. I’m happy to meet them and talk with them where ever we may be.
Lamitschka: What can your fans expect to see when they see you in concert?
Allen Karl: Hopefully they will feel that they saw a good show. They will see me dressed for the part and willing to spend time with them afterwards. I like what I do and I love the people that I do it for.
Lamitschka: When you’re on tour, do you have time to play tourist?
Allen Karl: Yes, I do. If I’m in Europe, I love taking pictures of historical sites. I love doing that in the U.S. as well. I love sampling different foods all over the world and learning the customs of different people.
Lamitschka: Do fans mob you everywhere you go or do they respect your privacy?
Allen Karl: If fans recognize me they will come up to me. But if I’m not wearing my black hat most fans aren’t sure it’s me. I love my fans and they are never a bother to me. In fact they are always told by my management, to walk right up to me and shake my hand.
Lamitschka: Many music fans today get their information about artists online. Do you have your own website and what will fans find there?
Allen Karl: Yes, I have my own website and it’s very large. My website has all kinds of information on what I’ve done in country music, places I’ve been, people I’ve been with and upcoming shows I’ll be doing. It has pages showing my merchandise for sale, albums, CD’s and videos. Along with my bio and letters to my fans, it shows the organizations in country music that I’m a member of and so much more. www.allenkarlproductionsllc.com
Lamitschka: Tell us about the fan club and how people can join it.
Allen Karl: My free fan club and how to join it is also listed on my website. It will show you the items that you will receive in your fan club package. A monthly fan club newsletter is emailed to each fan to keep them informed on what I’m doing and where I’ll be.
Lamitschka: What’s the best compliment a fan has ever given you?
Allen Karl: Fans often comment on my stage clothes or my smile. They complement me on my show and some songs I did that they especially liked. I guess the best and most worthwhile compliment I get from time to time is when they feel I was one of the nicest people they ever met. To earn that comment from the public is important because being a nice person is so underrated and it takes so little effort to just be nice.
Lamitschka: What’s your favorite song that you wish you could have recorded?
Allen Karl: There are so many songs that I really like a lot and wish I could have recorded, like, “He’ll Have To go”, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and “Seven Spanish Angels”, just to name a few. But those songs have been so great; it would be wise that no other artist record them
Lamitschka: What message would you like to send your European fans?
Allen Karl: I would first of all like to express my gratitude for their support in buying my albums and requesting my music on the radio. I want to thank them for all their letters and email messages. I also want them to know that I’ll never stop trying to always be what they want to see and hear. They are the reason I do what I do, without them, there would be no reason to do it.
Lamitschka: How do you feel about being winning the “Male Vocalist Of The Year” and “Album Of The Year” with “My Final Rose”? What has it done for your career?
Allen Karl: Winning “Male Vocalist Of The Year” and “Album Of The Year” with “My Final Rose” has made many more fans interested in me. They have been checking out my website, ordering and downloading my CD’s and merchandise. My fan base has become much larger and it has stimulated a European tour that will begin in April 2012.
Lamitschka: You have a new love in your life? Can you tell us something about it?
Allen Karl: The new love that I have in my life was born April 9th, 2011. She’s my granddaughter and a beautiful, precious little girl. For me, it was love at first sight. She stole my heart instantly and I’ll probably never be the same. Her smile is as big as Texas and her eyes shine brighter than the stars. What can I say, I’m hopelessly in love
Lamitschka: Fans are always hungry for good road stories. Do you have one you can share with us (come on don’t be shy)?
Allen Karl: We spend many hours on the road and we always try to keep those hours light with a lot of laughs. But there is one funny story that happened when my road manager, Joseph Eder, and I were traveling to Texas to shoot the “My Final Rose” video west of Abilene. I ate something and a seed or something was stuck in my tooth, I tried getting it out by sucking through my teeth. Well the noise that made, that I seemed to be unconscious of, was making Joseph crazy. I really don’t know how many miles he put up with that noise until he couldn’t stand it anymore. Joseph said “Allen, will you please take those teeth out and wash them and stop that noise.” I said “they are my own teeth, they don’t come out.” Joseph replied “well if you don’t stop that noise, I promise they will be coming out.” We laughed about that for at least 100 miles.
Lamitschka: Describe what a perfect day is like for you.
Allen Karl: Well it all depends on what I’m doing that day. But for me to have a perfect day, whether it be, with my family at a park, in the studio recording, on the road between shows or at shows meeting & greeting fans, I like to keep everything up beat and cheerful. It’s always important to me that everyone concerned has a good time and a fond memory of that day. Life at the end is nothing but memories and I believe that the one that ends up with the most happy memories is the winner.
Lamitschka: Most careers don’t last as long as yours. What’s given your career the staying power?
Allen Karl: One of the things that keeps me going is the fact that I have always appreciated the small things. I’ve never needed to take huge leaps in my career to be happy and encouraged. When striving to accomplish your goal, sometimes the steps are very small and that is discouraging to some. But those small steps add up like enough pennies adds up to a dollar. You need to be patient and maintain your focus.