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Christian music takes local singer-songwriter to a higher level

by Kirk Wessler | Photos by Ron Johnson |
Kadee Allen is a christian/country singer and songwriter in Morton.
Kadee Allen is a christian/country singer and songwriter in Morton.

Morton resident Kadee Allen signs with Nashville record label.

Kadee Allen was in Clarksville, Tennessee this year, playing the first set of a planned three-hour gig. The crowd seemed to be into her evangelical Christian music, some singing along to familiar choruses and thanking her for sharing. Except for a bar manager, whose displeasure ended the show.

“It was an honor to get kicked out,” Allen said with a smile. “I got to spend an hour and a half in a bar, leading worship.”

What could be better? To Allen, 26, who has been leading worship services in Peoria-area churches since her early teens, not much.

She recently finished recording three original songs with some of Nashville’s best-known studio musicians. The project is in final production now, with an expected December release. The EP could ignite the type of career serious musicians covet—although Allen does not.

Fame and fortune are not her goal, though she would be fine with a “big” career.

“The point of being a worship leader is to be used as a vessel to lead people into the presence of God,” she said. “That’s my heart’s desire: to see chains broken, lives changed, people healed.”

The Allenbaugh family—Kadee shortens it to “Allen” because “it’s easier to say”—moved to central Illinois 20 some years ago. Her father, Chip, is an ordained minister who works at Dream Center of Peoria. He and his wife, Juli, have three daughters, Cassie, Cortney and Kadee, who’s the youngest.

When she was 11 years old, Allen asked for a guitar. She had been bullied at school but found solace in the worship at Riverside Community Church in downtown Peoria.

‘I feel called to do worship for the Lord… If it ever becomes about me, I don’t want to do it.’—Kadee Allen

“They got so lost in the presence of God, I wanted to experience what they did,” she said. “I got the guitar for Christmas and started to write songs of praise, songs about what I was going through. They really turned into a love story between me and the Lord.”

At Morton High School, Kadee participated in choir, madrigals, barbershop quartets and musical plays. But nothing filled her soul so much writing her songs and playing with the youth worship band at church.

Fresh out of high school—before attending Olivet Nazarene and then earning her bachelor’s degree at Liberty University—Allen enrolled at Desperation Leadership Academy, a Christian worship school in Colorado Springs. During a year of intensive training, she polished her skills, learned to lead worship in different settings, and gained a deeper understanding of the fine but critical line between performance and worship.

“Performance is all about self,” she said. “Worship takes your eyes off yourself and places them on the Lord, the Holy Spirit and what he’s doing. I feel called to do worship for the Lord, so I set a boundary for myself. If it ever becomes about me, I don’t want to do it.”

That’s a big reason why Allen does not perform secular music. She doesn’t condemn pop music, but that’s not who she is. She appreciates compliments but does not seek them. She likes a big crowd, but she prefers to see the folks in church.

That said, she and the band from Trinity Church in Morton accepted an invitation to play the town’s Arts in the Park event in July.

“They asked if we were going to do secular music,” said drummer Brian Robertson, who has accompanied Allen since she was in high school. “Kadee was firm: ‘I just do Christian music.’ She’s non-compromising in that space. That’s really her purpose. She’s an evangelist. She wants to lead others to the Lord, and she does that through her music. That’s the gift God has given her.”

Songwriting is part of that gift. Allen has written more than 100 tunes, sometimes collaborating with her mother. Worship sets may include traditional hymns, contemporary praise tunes and her own creations.

“Her songwriting is fantastic,” said keyboardist and guitarist Doug Iha, a bandmate since 2017. “Her lyrics are creative and stand out from what we see in the normal Christian worship style.”

Allen’s style is distinctive enough that one of the pastors at a church she was visiting in January called a friend in the music business and arranged for her to play showcases at the Omni and Live Oak on Music Row in Nashville. In turn, those February shows led to her signing with the MC1 Nashville label under Copper Lily Records. Sony will distribute her music. Her church bandmates helped record demo tracks for the songs proposed on the EP.

In late summer, Allen went to Nashville, where she found herself in the recording studio with guitarist Danny Parks (a member of The Opry Band at Grand Ole Opry), pianist Jimmy Nichols (recording credits include working with Elton John and Carrie Underwood), bassist Luis Espaillat (Trace Adkins and Terri Clark) and drummer Tommy Harden (Waylon Jennings, Reba McEntire). You get the picture.

‘she’s the real deal’—Bandmwate, Doug Iha

“She’s the real deal,” Iha said. “Her integrity of music and her walk with Jesus are totally genuine. She’s the same whether she’s playing for a couple thousand people or it’s just her and Jesus alone in her room.

“I believe what God is calling her to do and the message he will use her to bring is bigger than what she’s actually dreaming of.”

For more information, follow Kadee Allen Music on Facebook.

Kirk Wessler

Kirk Wessler

is a former newspaper sports editor who has turned his attention in semi-retirement to a new passion as a singer/songwriter.
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