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Terry Allen, For All Reasons

Mar 27, 2024

Terry Allen, For All Reasons

(Editor’s Note: Below, singer-songwriter and filmmaker Scott Ballew reflects on his relationship with legendary Texan musician Terry Allen for an exclusive BGS op-ed. Ballew, who directed a 2019 documentary about Allen’s life and music, Everything For All Reasons, will release a brand new album, Rio Bravo, on March 29 via La Honda Records.)

I moved back to my hometown of Austin, Texas in 2016 after 10 years of treading water in LA. California never felt like a permanent home to me, but over the course of a decade out there I was finally able to become ME. Part of that process was accepting that I was, in fact, a Texan and learning how to celebrate that.

Terry Allen’s cult album, Juarez, was reissued in 2016 around the same time I crossed state lines. It was given to me by a friend as a welcome home present. At the time, I embarrassingly only knew of Terry as the man who wrote “Amarillo Highway” as covered by Robert Earl Keen. Juarez was the first record I put on my turntable once I finally set everything up in my new south-Austin house, and it stayed there for four years. I was doing a lot of traveling back then making documentaries, and Terry’s voice traveled with me as “Cortez Sail” and “Dogwood” blared through my rental car speakers while driving through New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, and beyond.

Where had this been all my life? Was this written specifically for me? Who is Terry Allen? And how can I find him?

After a few years being back in Austin, I started a songwriting documentary series with Ryan Bingham. As the format started to take shape, we began talking about potential guests and Ryan casually mentioned he was very close with Terry and that he might be a great option. Holy shit. There wasn’t another name on the planet he could have mentioned that would have made me more excited than Terry’s.

Making The Midnight Hour was the first time the adage “don’t meet your heroes” proved to be false for me. Terry was kind, genuine, and funny. Terry reminded me that it’s ok to be Texan. And it’s ok to be creative.

Other things I’ve picked up from Terry along the way are:

  • The audience is irrelevant.
  • You have to fight for love.
  • Take care of your Art and your Art will take care of you.
  • You can have more than one calling.
  • Be kind.

I went on to make a longer documentary about Terry called Everything For All Reasons. I learned more about him during that process and came out liking him even more (not the case with most film projects). I tried to get David Byrne to address how unique and creative Terry was and David chose instead to focus on Terry’s family life, as that seemed more unique to him than anything else these days. He was right, and that ended up being the heartbeat of the entire film. 

Terry Allen, For All Reasons

L: Scott Ballew, Terry Allen, and Ryan Bingham. R: Terry Allen with Scott Ballew.

At this point I like to think of Terry as my creative Godfather and someone I can always reach out to when I need a nudge to have some guts and do the right thing. He is the sole reason I started writing songs and why I had the naïve confidence to follow through and actually record them. Thank you Terry, for everything.

All photos courtesy of Scott Ballew. Lead image by Greg Giannukos.

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Terry Allen, For All Reasons
Terry Allen, For All Reasons