Aaron Allen has an infectious laugh, a larger-than-life personality, a harmonious voice and glowing brown eyes that, when looked upon, one would never know were donated to him.
“A little-known fact about me is that I went blind from around ages 11 to 14, which is a big chunk of life,” said Allen, a Centennial High School alumnus.
“For me, I couldn’t play video games, I couldn’t skateboard, but I always had music and could sing because you don’t have to be able to see in order to sing. Music is what kept me company during what I call the grey darkness.”
At age 14, Allen received two corneal transplants and through the help of two donors was able to regain his sight.
“It’s really beautiful to me to think that another human would be able to give something that is a part of them to me,” Allen says.
“I always tell people when I’m having a rough day, I will try to think about those two people who gave me my eyes and what a special gift they gave me and how they’re not here to have any day let alone a bad day,”
Allen is fascinated with watching leaves fall from trees and their vibrant colors. Every morning, when he awakes, he is thankful for his vision.
“In one of my new songs, I have a lyric that is ‘and everything just turned gray,’ which is what that line was about,” Allen said.
Being blind was not just physically challenging for Allen while he was growing up. It made socializing tough, too — until he entered the local music scene.
“I didn’t ever really have any friends growing up,” he said.
“I always felt like nobody wants to be friends with the blind kid. Going through that, though, helped me appreciate the friends I do have now and have met through the music scene.”
Recently, Allen was hit with potentially bad news. He was diagnosed with diabetes, which could cause him to go blind again.
“But you just deal with it the best of your ability,” he added.
“Music and songwriting are the best ways I know how to deal with anything.”
Allen sees music as therapeutic. To ease his anxiety, Allen released three singles in the last six months.
“Now that I am putting out new music, I am getting that itch to want to sing those songs and perform for people,” Allen said.
Allen also credits local musicians Sam Etling of Sore Eyes and Josh Peters of Divided Minds with helping him.
Etling gave Allen the boost he needed to get back into music. Peters, on the other hand, created the beats that Allen sings with. With the beats and confidence in hand, Allen wrote songs that inspired his friends.
“I wanted to write something positive because a lot of my friends seemed like they were struggling, and a lot of the things I was hearing musically seemed really negative,” he said.
With that came his first single, “Harmony.” Allen said the chorus recalls a conversation he had with a friend who was having a bad day. The two reminisced about driving and blasting music in the car.
The title references the chorus of the song “Ebony and Ivory” by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, a song that Allen tried to sing along to as a child.
Allen’s latest release, “Present Day,” is one of his most literal songs, as he described it. Generally, Allen uses imagery and symbolism within his music. This time, he offered a lyrical take on his return to music.
“This song is me singing to myself about what I need to hear,” he said. “It starts out with I’m setting boundaries and setting time for myself then eventually goes to me being the author of my own narrative.”
A music video was released onto Allen’s YouTube page for “Present Day” in late February. Directed by filmmaker Chase Warren, the video features the places that inspire Allen, like Lake Pleasant, Sedona, South Mountain and Scottsdale. Allen feels the need to be present and plans to keep working on new music.
“You have to find whatever it is you enjoy doing and do it,” Allen said.
“I’m at a point right now where I’ve realized a sense of self respect that I don’t think I was giving myself before but then I got to a point where I thought I owe it to myself to do things that make me happy and to surround myself with people who really appreciate me, and I appreciate them.”
Allen has a message to those who are conflicted or are struggling to find happiness.
“You just have to appreciate the little things that people take for granted, like eyesight,” he said. “It’s OK to be easily amused and it’s OK to love whatever it is you love.”