Posted On 27 Jul 2015
Tag: All Access, All Access Music, allaccessmusicnicole, Allen Stone, Atlantic, Atlantic Ocean, Blues, Change Gonna Come, Chewelah, CHICAGO, civil rights, Deron Johnson, Eastern Washington, Europe, Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Horatio Spafford, Hozier, Innervisions, It Is Well With My Soul, Last To Speak, Living for the City, Lorde, Mackelmore, Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis, Marvin Gaye, Neon Cathedral, Nina Simone, political change, R&B, RADIUS, Raphael Saadiq, Rhythm, Ryan Lewis, Shut Up And Dance, Sly Stone, social change, Soul, Spokane, Stevie Wonder, The Heist, Walk The Moon, Washington
On his third full-length album, singer/songwriter Allen Stone proves himself deeply devoted to making uncompromisingly soulful music that transcends all pop convention. Stone’s debut for Capitol Records, Radius marks the follow-up to the Chewelah, Washington-bred 28-year-old’s self-released and self-titled sophomore effort, a 2011 album that climbed to the top 10 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart and gained acclaim from renowned rock critic Ann Powers (whose NPR review hailed Allen Stone as “meant for those of us who like our R&B slightly unkempt and exceedingly feelingful”). Made in collaboration with Swedish soul singer/songwriter/phenom Magnus Tingsek, Stone’s latest batch of songs capture the warm energy of that creative connection and transport the listener to a higher and more exalted plane.
Culled from several dozen songs penned through a year and a half of constant writing and refining, Radius bears a title that reflects both its scope and intimacy. “The radius is that line extending from the center of the circle to its exterior,” says Stone, “and in a lot of ways this album is about getting out things deep inside—whether it’s love or insecurity or joy or frustration about things going on today.”
Read more below as All Access Music writer, Nicole DeRosa catches up with Allen on a rare day off in this fun and enlightening interview with the talented soul singer.
Hi Allen! Where does this interview find you today? What’s on the agenda today besides our interview?
I am at my cabin in Eastern Washington State today. Today’s agenda will consist of a combination of fishing, swimming, cooking, eating, and sleeping.
I understand you grew up in Chewelah, Washington, a super small town about 45 minutes north of Spokane, Washington. For those not as familiar with you and your music, Allen how did you get your start in music? Who or what was the catalyst for you growing up?
I did. Chewelah is a small, one stoplight town about an hour from Spokane, WA. My family was very musical. My father, being a minister in the local congregation would lead Sunday worship and my mother would sing with him every week.
Singing was always just a part of my life. My siblings sang, my aunts and uncles all sing and play. It was just what we did. I discovered Stevie Wonder when I was about 15 years old. Somebody gave me ‘Innervisions’ and that record really sparked my desire to sing and write songs.
People describe you as a soul and R&B singer, but you see yourself as a “hippie with a soul” sprinkling in social and political issues into your songs. When did you discover and get inspired by soul music? What artists inspire you?
Well to be honest I think anybody who calls themselves a “hippie” is a tool. I’m not sure who described me as that but for some unfortunate reason it stuck. I took a liking to the soul and R&B music of the late 60’s and early 70’s because of its sound and also influence on the social movements of the time. Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder all wrote songs that spoke of change. Whether it civil rights change, political change or social change.
I believe that music has influence over people. I believe the words of a song can have a lasting impression on its listeners. Songs like “Change Gonna Come” and “Living for the City” had that impact on me.
“Music today is falling short of the impact that it could have. Almost every single song on the radio is about sexuality. Especially if it has an R&B or soul flavoring to it. I find this very disheartening as we are living in a time where change and cultural evolution needs so desperately to occur. Young people are being bombarded with vapidity.
We have some of the most powerful tools ever known to man and yet we use them for menial purposes. Artists should be painting, filming, and making music that shakes people out of that mindset and cultivates them to change something.”
You just released your latest album, RADIUS. What did you learn between albums like your self-released debut: Last To Speak (2010) and Allen Stone (2011) that you felt you wanted to infuse into RADIUS?
Every record that I’ve ever done has always been a reflection of me at that specific time. There’s growth within the musical attributes of the records being as I’ve grown older and played and sang thousands of times in between them. But the only change I really attempted to infuse into the record was topical. I wanted to reflect the times. Songs like “Fake Future”, “American Privilege”, and “Perfect World” are my attempt to do just that.
Can you tell me what your inspiration was for your latest single, “Freedom”?
“Freedom” is about killing my ego. Dying to self. Getting free of the one thing that weighs me down. My ego. During this record process I learned a lot about my ego. I had to evolve quite a bit and learn how to deal with myself in a rational and effective manner. “Freedom” was a song about trying to find that center. To relinquish my pride and “dying young” to myself.
What was the first song you fell in love with and why?
“The first song I fell in love with was an old spiritual hymn called “It Is Well With My Soul.” The first line goes “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.””
This song was penned by Horatio Spafford. Spafford wrote this song after a series of very tragic events. The first being the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Spafford was a lawyer and successful business man who lost many investment properties in the fire including his own home. He planned a trip to Europe with his wife and four daughters and in a late change of events sent his wife and daughters ahead of him.
The ship that his family was traveling on in a tragic turn, sunk upon its way across the Atlantic. His wife survived the shipwreck but his 4 daughters perished. In a famous penned letter to her husband, Spafford’s wife wrote “saved alone…” Spafford wrote this song after these tragic events. Its a pretty incredible story.
You’ve already worked with many talented artists including being backed by Raphael Saadiq’s rhythm section and Miles Davis’ keyboardist, Deron Johnson. You were also featured on the song, “Neon Cathedral” by Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis off of their album, The Heist. Who would you love to collaborate with next?
“I love to collaborate with people. I’m always down to write a song. You wanna write one with me? I’ve been really into James Blake recently. I think that Lorde is dope. Also really dig Hozier. Those would be some fun sessions in the studio I think.”
Who is in your current playlist? Any artists, musicians or genres we might be surprised to find in there?
I doubt you would be surprised by my musical playlists. A lot of old, classic records and some indie stuff. It might surprise you though that I really dig Walk The Moon’s single, “Shut Up And Dance.”
What’s on tap next for you? What are you most excited about in 2015?
I’m on a tour bus. I’ve been averaging about 200 shows a year for the last 4 years and I don’t plan on slowing down. I’m pumped to play for new audiences and have my music introduced to new people.
To learn more about ALLEN STONE , including upcoming tour dates, visit him HERE