“I was born in New Orleans, grew up in the 9th Ward, some in the Lower 9th Ward in my early life but after Katrina and the flood I grew up in The Musicians Village in what they call now the Upper 9th Ward, I’m 19 years old.
I can’t even remember when I started playing music, I must’ve been at least two years old, super young. My momma always told me I’d always pull the pots out and beat on ’em when I was younger. I guess that’s when it started. And with dad, [Shamarr Allen], there was never a time when I didn’t hear music in the house.
I was so young the first time I got on stage—I don’t know for sure—but it was probably with my dad playing with The Hot 8 when I was like six or seven.
When I was in third grade I was rapping. I recorded “I’m A Holla Back” about my teachers in school that dad put on one of his records. [Box Who In?].
I went to NOCCA and being around all those people made me really wanna, you know, be on their level ’cause everybody was ahead of me, so I just felt the need to push myself further. I started out on trumpet, but by the time I got to NOCCA I was on drums. I had a lot of catching up to do ’cause before then I wasn’t really around anybody who played a drum set—it was always a brass band-type situation. I got my first paying gig with Kinfolk Brass Band when I was sixteen and just kept working so I never could see what it really was about.
After high school I started going to Loyola, which was cool; it was an experience. I didn’t really like it though, so I stopped going and transferred to Delgado where I’m studying recording and taking classes to go to UNO.
I started interning at NOLA Recording Studio with Mike Harvey to become an engineer—been doing that for a year.
I been playing with Delfeayo Marsalis, a lot of brass band stuff. I play with Brice Miller; people I used to go to school with at NOCCA and Loyola call me for gigs and I stay busy.
What I really want to do is engineering, that’s my main thing. But I still want to play; I don’t want to leave it behind completely. I feel like engineering’s where I fit in the most, even more than playing. To me I feel like I could contribute to music more as an engineer. It may sound weird. but that’s how I feel about it.”
For more of Jarrel Allen, follow him on Instagram.