Allen James grew up on West 5th Street in Coney Island, which he describes as near the border of Brighton Beach and "the best of both worlds," noting that "it was the perfect place to grow up as a kid in Brooklyn." He still lives in the neighborhood and lyrics for his songs come to him while taking walks on the Boardwalk. Allen's interest in songwriting began when he first wrote poetry and picked up a guitar as a young teen. After years of playing music with his high school friend and neighbor Eric Weglicki, in 2014 they formed the band Newborn, which became an alt rock trio with the addition of drummer Dave Goldenberg. His parents are from Kyiv and he grew up listening to and taking inspiration from Russian and Eastern European music, which he describes as very melody-oriented and structured. Allen talks about Newborn, which has an EP and a new music video/single coming out in May 2019, as well as his experiences working as a lifeguard on Coney Island Beach for the past decade.