By Doug Segrest
Grammy-nominated songwriter Alvin Garrett’s latest release is called “Flowers,” a smooth R&B number that’s a tribute to those who helped him along the way.
Garrett is a vocalist and lyricist, a music producer and promoter, bassist, sound engineer and educator with the Dannon Project. He’s also the son of a pastor and former college football player who spent two years in corporate America before giving that security up to fulfill his dream.
So, while his latest track is aimed at the many who helped him find success, he wanted to offer the sentiment to his banker in writing, penning a note to Regions leadership praising the help Tyson Allen provided along the way.
He also wanted to deliver the message in person.
“Tyson Allen was the one banker who could see the data and find the vision to help me make this happen,” Garrett said. “He’s the one who said, ‘I’m going to give you the empowerment you need.’ That’s why I wanted to share with him my blessing and show how far I’ve come.”
Allen is the manager of the Greystone branch in suburban Birmingham, Garrett’s adopted hometown.
“Alvin came in a month ago and said, ‘Man, you don’t know what you’ve done for my career. Without you, I wouldn’t be on this path. You believed in me. You changed my life,’” Allen recalled. “I admit I teared up as we talked. That’s not something you hear often.”
“Coming In For Guidance”
It all started with a conversation.
Allen was working at the Greystone branch, but hadn’t yet been promoted to manager. Garrett was a regular visitor, dropping off deposits and stopping to talk to the staff. The one thing he noticed was that Garrett’s positivity always made everyone feel better. And he wanted to get to know him better – not only as a client, but as a person.
“He started coming in for guidance, like helping with a budget plan,” Allen said. “As his business started growing, he was making financial headway. So, the next step, I asked him about acquiring a line of credit.”
Garrett stared at Allen like he was speaking in code.
Of course, he’d considered a line of credit only to be turned down by banker after banker, bank after bank.
“I never took it personally,” Garrett said. “I’m in the entertainment business, in Alabama. It’s a risky business, so bankers aren’t supposed to be your friends. I’d been rejected so many times I didn’t believe it was an option.”
Allen told him it was not only an option, but a realistic possibility, then outlined steps to take to make it happen, including a detailed business plan. Yes, it would take time. But Garrett saw he had someone who shared his vision and was willing to help him accomplish it.
And he had an advantage.
Garrett played linebacker at Samford University with discipline and drive while majoring in the university’s renowned business school. “I’m still a headhunter. I still value my Samford education, which gave me an edge to compete and taught me that I needed a business approach to realize the creative vision.”
Patience proved to be Garrett’s strength. He’d seen his former bandmate, Ruben Studdard, achieve success as the American Idol winner. He’d seen his own songs succeed, commercially and critically, with Grammy and Dove nominations. But to make his business a success, he realized Tyson Allen might hold the key.
“I just needed that one leg up,” Garrett said. “And he gave it to me. That line of credit was all I needed. Since I opened it up, I’ve loaned myself $50,000 twice – and paid it off twice. I’m never going to close that line because he was the first banker to give me a chance and really believe in me.”
Garrett’s music has evolved over the years, flowing to a genre he created and dubbed inspirational soul.
“I’m a preacher’s kid who loves soul music, and this blends gospel and R&B,” Garrett said. “It’s somewhere in the middle. It’s inspiring. It’s wholesome. It’s mainstream radio friendly. And I hope it inspires you to think and feel something.”
Running just over four minutes, “Flowers” does that, providing an ode to the believers, to those who help others flourish.
Just like Tyson Allen helped Alvin Garrett succeed as a businessman.
“All he needed was a jumpstart,” Allen said. “I knew the moment I heard Alvin’s story he could do this. He’s incredibly smart. He’s a leader. He could be the CEO of a major company. And he has a gift that inspires others. I hope I’ve played a small role, because he knows if he has banking needs, he can come to me.”
Garrett knows that, too.
“I wrote a lot of my music to journal my experience in being rejected,” Garrett said. “It’s something others don’t see because they don’t know where I’ve been. Tyson does know. I beat the odds because he gave me access to capital – and my dream.”