Jimmie Allen pitched Darius Rucker a very different song than the one he ended up recording with him and Charley Pride for his new EP, and the country veteran passed.

"He was like, ‘I like that song but I think the first song we do — me, you and Charlie — because of what it’s going to mean … we shouldn’t do a drinking song,'" Allen recalls. A few months later, while sharing a bill with Rucker at C2C in Berlin, Germany, he played him "Why Things Happen." They both knew they had the one.

Allen wrote "Why Things Happen" with his bass player Tate Howell, plus Cary Barlow and Brandon Day on Jan. 27, 2020 (the date is important), but dreamt of recording with the two most well-known Black country singers of all time years ago. The 34-year-old was a kid when he first decided it was going to happen, he tells Taste of Country. The seeds of what would become Bettie James weren't formally planted until six or seven years ago (Allen says he always knew it'd fill space between full-length albums), and even then there was only one must-have for the collaborations project. Sadly, it took the death of another Black American hero to inspire the right song.

Kobe Bryant died on Jan. 26, 2020, and one day later Allen joined his friends in the writing room. Within a few days, he'd shared a demo on social media.

"Kobe was the second person that I knew who died in a helicopter crash," Allen says. "First was T-Roy (Troy Gentry) from Montgomery Gentry and then Kobe." Gentry died in a helicopter crash in Sept. 2017.

“You start to look at life and you start to question things and a lot of times you don’t get answers you’re seeking. But there’s some sort of peace in asking the question and internal processing," he says.

"How a child that's just been named can then be pulled from the arms of a mother / Or a cross on the side of a two-lane road holds the memory of somebody's brother / You try not to question God and his judgement, but damn it, I don't understand," Pride, Rucker and Allen sing.

“When you’re searching for clarity in something you find a lot of clarity in yourself,” Allen adds

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"Why Things Happen" would have been one of Allen's father's favorite songs on Bettie James, an album named to honor both his late grandmother and his father, who died last fall. Initially he was going to call it Bettie Anne, but after Big Jim died, he swapped her middle name for his first name.

You'll find their influence all over this record. It was his dad's love of classic country that steered Allen toward the genre, while his grandmother shaped the man he'd become. They'd be proud of this song, he says.

Jimmie Allen Bettie James EP Cover
Stoney Creek Records

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