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Whimsical songs, stories told for nonprofits benefit
0204Levi
Allen Levi will share his talent for storytelling and songwriting next weekend in a benefit show for Our Neighbor, a Gainesville-based nonprofit that helps adults with disabilities to lead a productive life. - photo by For The Times

Allen Levi
Singing and storytelling benefit
for Our Neighbor
When: 6 p.m. Feb. 13 (reservations required by Sunday)
Where: Gainesville Civic Center, 830 Green St. NE, Gainesville
How much: $60 per person; $100 per couple; $400 for a table of eight
More info: 678-617-5527 or
ourneighbor@bellsouth.net

BY KRISTEN MORALES

kmorales@gainesvilletimes.com

Not all musicians have the luxury of a solid career to fall back on, once they start down the road of songwriting.

But for Allen Levi, a musician and storyteller who lives in the small town of Hamilton, turning around and heading back down the road previously traveled wasn’t an option.

After spending a decade as a lawyer, working "the long, regular lawyer grind," he said, he left the country to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Two years later he returned with a new mindset and a shift in his career focus.

Finally, he said, he was able to cut back on his work in law and focus on his other passion — writing and making music.

Levi will share his talent for storytelling and songwriting next weekend in a benefit show for Our Neighbor, a Gainesville-based nonprofit that helps adults with disabilities to lead a productive life. The concert will take place Feb. 13 at the Gainesville Civic Center.

When he returned from abroad, he said, with a master’s degree in English in hand, Levi cut back on his work as a lawyer to part time and spent the rest of his time focusing on writing.

"I definitely came back with a different mindset that I wasn’t going to be drawn back into it like I was the first 10 years," he said of getting into his new routine. "But it took a lot of determination and I had to be pretty vigilant to say no to work."

After three years of juggling both, Levi cut the cord to his law firm, embarking on a path that would lead him to singing and writing full time.

"I really didn’t think I’d be able to make a living at it, but I at least wanted to say I tried and get that thing out of my system, so to speak," he said. "But from day one, it’s been extremely busy, in a good way. I’ve had all the work I’ve wanted to do."

Levi’s songwriting focuses on little, everyday things. For example, birds or flowers — even a weed from the garden — come into extreme focus. The stories, he said, shed light on everyday things in a way that might make you see them differently, he said.

"I’ve learned to keep my antenna up and connect the dots in a whimsical way," he said. "It’s really quirky music; people ask me all the time to categorize it, and I am not able to do it ... It’s just songs about everyday life. And kind of snapshots of everyday things that, looked at in a different way, might help us to see beyond the surface of things."

Take the song "Flower After All," a gentle song about an unwanted guest in a garden:

"A nuisance and a bother,/And intruder on this lawn,

You just want to touch the sky,/And I just want you gone."

But the song turns to favor the unwanted guest, with petals proving its worth in the garden after all.

Levi said he will be performing with keyboardist Dwayne Creswell, and hopes to also be playing his Gainesville-made guitar, too. This trip to Gainesville, he said, he hopes to pick up his handmade guitar from friend and local guitar maker Allen Williams, owner of Baruke Guitars.

The show will be filled with stories both funny and thought-provoking, he said, offering something for everyone.

"If they come and they’re tired, I hope it will give them some rest," he said. "If they feel like thinking, I hope it will give them something to think about. If they want to laugh, hopefully laugh.

"Just kind of look at life in a slowed-down mode."

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