A No. 1 record is the goal for every performer and songwriter, and Dalton native Tate Howell recently saw a song he helped write hit the top of the charts.
For two weeks at the end of December and early January, singer Jimmie Allen had the No. 1 single on the country charts with ”Down Home,” a song co-written by Howell, Allen, Cameron Bedell and Rian Ball.
It was Allen’s fourth No. 1 single and the first for Howell.
Howell met Allen when walking into a writing room at Sony Music Publishing in Nashville, Tennessee, in 2017. A writing room is where songwriters come together to work on their tunes. Howell said he and Allen immediately clicked both artistically and personally.
“Within five minutes, I asked if I could be in his band,” he said. “At that point, he didn’t really have a band. He really wasn’t playing a lot of shows. But I believed in him. I knew his career was about to take off, and I wanted to be part of it.”
And Allen had confidence in Howell, hiring him for his band and continuing to write with him. Allen released his first single, “Best Shot,” and first album, “Mercury Lane,” the next year. He had his first No. 1 single, “Make Me Want To,” in 2019.
Howell graduated from Dalton High School, where he was a two-year letterman in both baseball and football, in 2011.
“I got interested in music through my church, Rock Bridge Community Church,” Howell said. “My brother and I got involved in the worship team. My brother (Tripp Howell) is now in the band Lanco, which is on Sony records. He’s older than me, so he started first. He writes a lot with me.”
Howell also cites long-time Dalton High School choir teacher Andy Baker as a big influence on him.
“He was just an inspiring person to be around,” he said. “He made music cool.”
Howell said he loved writing and performing music, but it wasn’t until he was in college that he began seriously to consider it was something he wanted to do for a living.
“I went to the University of West Georgia (in Carrollton) and got a degree in accounting,” he said. “Tripp and I were in and out of bands. We wrote some songs together. I was playing in Atlanta and Chattanooga and Nashville. We did a few shows in Carrollton. I was always performing original music. I was never in a cover band. I moved to Nashville on, I think, the second day after I graduated (in 2015).”
Tripp was already in Nashville and performing.
“He’d built up a little network, which made it easier for me,” he said.
By the time he met Allen, Howell had built up his own network of musicians he played with.
“A couple of months after I met him, (Allen) called me up and said he had a showcase for some record labels. He asked me if I had any musicians that I knew because he didn’t have anyone set in stone. There were guys I was friends with and I played with. We played the showcase with him, and after that, Jimmie got offered a record deal. All of a sudden, I was the bass player for an artist signed to a major record label.”
Looking back, Howell calls the day he walked into that writing room and met Allen his “lucky day.”
“We’ve done 150 shows a year, every year since I met him except for 2020, of course,” he said, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And he said he writes or plays music or both every day.
Howell said that “Down Home” began with Allen’s desire to write a song honoring his father, who had passed away in 2019.
“I’m really honored that I got the opportunity to take part in that,” he said.
The lyrics speak of Allen missing his father and hoping he is making him proud: “I still hate that you’re gone, I wish you were here/But I hope I’m making you proud/’Cause I know you’re up there looking down home.”
“I think when we finished it, we knew we had something special,” Howell said. “You don’t say ‘I think this will be a hit’ or ‘I think this could go to No. 1’ in the writer’s room. But I really was proud of it. I knew that it meant something to Jimmie, and I think that it means something to a lot of people.”
Howell said he found out the song reached No. 1 from his father, Jimmy.
“We were on the road with Carrie Underwood,” he said. “I don’t really watch the charts anyway, but we were so busy working and traveling we really couldn’t keep up. The charts come out Sunday night, so on Monday morning I’d get texts from my dad. ‘Hey, you moved up to 17 this week. Hey, you moved up to 13. You moved up to 5.’ I guess at that point I did start to pay attention. It got exciting.”
The tour finished up in late November, and Howell came home to Dalton shortly after that.
“The song was No. 1 on Dec. 19 and then on Jan. 3, and I was in Dalton for almost that entire time,” he said. “It was cool to be around my family during that time. They know how hard my brother and I work to be in this industry. That made it really special.”
Howell said now that he’s had a No. 1 song he’s confident he can do it again. He said since the start of the year he has been writing doubles, two sessions each day.
“There’s something about having a No. 1 record that makes you want it even more,” he said.