Allen has had a long career in the music business. Before moving to Oklahoma, he worked in Nashville, Tenn., managing music royalties. In the ’90s, he played open-mic nights at local venues and coffee shops, sometimes in a band and sometimes solo.
But these early experiences aren’t the only that inspire Allen today. Instead, the singer/songwriter and self-described one-man band draws on his time serving in the Army National Guard in the Iraq War, and his life afterward with post-traumatic stress disorder. Through his original rock tunes, he wants to raise PTSD awareness both for civilians and fellow veterans.
“[Music] became a platform for me to make other people aware … and decrease the stigma [associated with] PTSD,” said Allen.
In 2009, he was deployed to Mosul in northern Iraq. One day, an armor-piercing grenade struck a vehicle he and several other soldiers were in. Although everyone survived, Allen suffered a concussion in the resulting crash.
Two days later, an improvised explosive device detonated near his base, and he was called to assist with the after-effects of the blast, including moving the bodies of the dead.
Later, Allen began experiencing anxiety and trouble sleeping. He was diagnosed with PTSD, and began a journey of self-healing that continues today.
He realized, however, there were many more veterans not seeking help.
In his music, Allen speaks openly of the trials faced by soldiers, both on the war front and back home. His song “Mosul” describes the realities of day-to-day life interrupted by PTSD. By sharing his own story, Allen said he hopes to inspire others to confront their own problems, and find support.
One of his latest songs, “Valley of the Shadows,” is a reflection of time spent in a war zone, but also about appreciating life, because “whether it’s here or over there, I believe that when it’s your time, it’s your time,” Allen said. “It’s about conquering those fears and getting those emotions out.”
He has had some luck spreading his message. His music has been featured on KATT and KOSU’s local airwaves and is available for free download at reverbnation.com/brianallen. Some tracks are haunting, while others touching and hopeful — but all are sincere. “It’s all about having that positive outlet,” said Allen, “taking that negative energy and making it into something good.”