Finding The Light: How Insomnia Shaped Puma Blue’s Music
It’s been quite a year for singer-songwriter Jacob Allen, more popularly known by his stage name Puma Blue. He spent the majority of the pandemic putting on the final touches on his debut album “In Praise of Shadows” which was released in February earlier this year. Upon its completion, he packed up his life in the United Kingdom and officially moved to the United States.
The young British native had always liked the idea of a double-barrelled name which was popularised in the early 1900s by Delta blues musicians like Memphis Minnie, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Lead Belly. He started working as a session musician for different acts under his birth name, but found himself limited to playing certain music genres, performing only with acoustic and pop bands.
“I wanted to see if I changed my name, whether it would help me find the right kind of line-up,” he says from his home in Atlanta. “I think the blue part was the feeling of the music, the colour. It was what I was drawn to, and Puma, honestly, was just an accident. I didn’t think too much about it. It felt right and it kind of stuck.”
Photo Credit: Netti Hurley
Allen describes his music as raw, fluid and soulful, naming jazz musicians like Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis and Billie Holiday as some of his earlier influences. Later, he gravitated towards musicians that had a more raw sound including Rage Against The Machine, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jeff Buckley and Radiohead.
“I’m not really inspired by particular music styles, but more of the people’s intention and feelings behind it,” he says. To Allen, these artists resonated with him in particular because of their special “attention to detail, it never feels pretentious. It’s coming from a very sincere and soulful place. To make their music as honest as possible.”
He considers his debut album to be his personal journey towards self-acceptance. Looking back at the previous songs he had written, Allen says “I think there is a big difference from my old stuff to this album. I was really at war with myself before. I wanted the theme of the album to be finding light in the dark, but also accepting the dark, not trying to erase it, and coming to a place of peace where they can co-exist.”
A self-admitted insomniac for a better part of a decade, who also struggled with anxiety and his mental health, the artist confesses that he wasn’t doing too well when he released his first EPs four years ago, some of which have garnered over seven million views on YouTube.
“I think people have a tendency to romanticise insomnia, but it’s not very glamorous” he says. “It’s a cycle, it’s hard to break and get better. For 10 years, I was struggling with that. There were good things and bad things, one being that I was writing the music at night, so it had a very nocturnal sound. It’s very nostalgic for me, but I am also glad that it’s behind me.”
Learning all types of lessons from writing the new tracks, he believes it was a cathartic experience and credits his partner for helping him pull through his past demons. “She’s awesome. She is really creative too. She put me on a lot of music and we watched films together. Having someone else who was also into art, they inspire you a lot, from the lyrics, visual direction to all kinds of stuff.”
Allen is currently on tour in North America performing his new album, which will be followed by a European tour in February 2022. “We toured as soon as we could. I haven’t played live since 2019, and I am itching for it. I am excited to perform with the band again and play alongside these amazing guys. I also want to see which songs people respond to from the album.”
With a number of places already in mind for future tours, like Australia and South America, the musician is also eager to return to Japan and South Korea. Performing at the latter in late 2018, he recalls, “Someone made me a cake in Seoul with the gig poster on it, which was really sweet. And in Tokyo, a fan came up and gave me a customised long-sleeved Dieter Rams T-shirt he made. I still wear it to this day.”
Already in the midst of writing his second album, the artist has a number of projects that he is currently working on and is excited to reveal to his fans. “It’s my best friend’s project and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever worked on. I can’t wait for people to hear it and till it’s no longer a secret”, he enthuses. “And if anyone reading this is in the film industry, I also really want to work in films!”
Deluxe Album available for preorder here.
Tickets for Puma Blue’s North American and European Tour here.
Cover Credit: Alex Rorison
Writer | Kristy Or
A fan of indie films and alternative music, Kristy is a writer and producer from Sydney. Tea and coffee are a vital part of her diet.