Allen Stone:
The TVD Interview

Rarely will you meet someone who can abandon the ideal of finding a career that yields guaranteed financial stability in favor of following a passion that may or may not make ends meet—a passion that is so deeply rooted in their being that they couldn’t do anything else. They’d be at a loss without that something that makes their eyes light up and their voice lift when speaking of it. 

For Allen Stone, that something is music, and thankfully the soulful Washington state native has decided a life spent performing music is what he must pursue.

Stone has caught the attention of the world with his nuanced performances that delicately showcase a range of emotion from behind thick glasses, wild blonde hair, and a guitar. The man has a true gift, and we were able to chat with him about his music before he visits Cleveland’s Grog Shop on Sunday, November 11th.

“You got some time to do a little chit-chattin’?” Allen Stone asked.

I’ve got some time to do a little chit-chattin’. Why don’t you tell me how you got involved in music?

I first got involved with music when I was a little kid. I grew up singing at my dad’s church, actually. My father was a minister for about thirty-five years. I was first introduced to music, and singing, and song, at a very young age.

How influential would you say church music was to your sound?

Not very, as far as sound goes. I didn’t grow up in a gospel church or anything. I think how church influenced me was it taught me how to feel music, rather than view it from a technical side. It just helped me to feel it better. It made me feel the spirit of song in the music. That’s the most major influence it had on my life.

Is that ability to feel music something that you try to share with your audience when you perform?

Oh yeah. Oh, yeah. I try to do that every single night. You know, a lot of the feeling in music and live shows comes from substance; people gotta drink or people gotta smoke something or take something, I think in order to really thrive and get outta their comfort shell and feel the music. I do my best to get people to recognize that they can feel music and song with a sober spirit, in their own personal space. Granted, if you want to use substance to get there, it’s just an easier route and I’m totally fine with it, but for me I think I really want people to experience a feeling of the true song.

I appreciate that. That’s a really beautiful thought.

Thank you.

Was there an album growing up that grabbed your attention?

Yeah, What’s Goin’ On by Marvin Gaye has always been one of my favorite records, if not my favorite. But Innervisions was really the first soul record that I had that really flipped on that switch inside of me, and it was like, “This is the music I love. This is the type of music I want to emulate.”

How do you feel about the resurgence that vinyl is making?

I think it’s great. We live in a day and age where everything is throwaway because it’s all inside of a little box or something. I think you’ll see the vinyl market continue to grow and expand because people want something tangible when it comes to music; they want some artwork, they want the liner notes. I think it’s great.

To me, if you ask any musichead, vinyl is the best way to listen to music. It’s warmer, it sounds better, you can hear all the tones for what they are. An MP3 or a WAV file on a computer really misses a lot of those frequencies that vinyl can pick up. I think it’s the best way to listen to music.

I read that you dropped out of college to follow this music career. What made you decide to do that?

Yeah, that was dumb, right?

I don’t think it was dumb. I think it was a huge leap of faith.

Yeah, it was. And faith is usually dumb. (laughs) It was a huge leap of faith and a lot of foolish pride, I think. I’m super, super glad that I did it, without a doubt, but looking back, hindsight is always 20/20. It was a crazy decision. I grew up in a town of about 1,500 people, and I think maybe I was a little too big for my britches. I set out thinking I could just go and conquer the world overnight. And I didn’t truly realize until a couple years in how difficult it was to break into the music industry.

Luckily, the universe and the powers that be have really blessed me and given me the opportunity to give this and actually make some money while doing it, enough to survive. It was a huge leap of faith, you’re right, and it’s something that I’m proud of every day, but when any kid asks me, “Hey, man, I’m an aspiring musician. What advice can you give me?” I’m like, “Don’t!” (laughs) You know, go get a law degree or something, unless you have to do music.

Like, I have to make music, I have to sing, or I’m pretty sure I would just die. It’s a therapy for me, it’s therapeutic. It brings me back to a safe place, which was my hometown in my church with my family and everybody around me. That’s what compelled me to do music, which was wanting to be able to do it for a living because it’s such a blessing to me. A lot of kids get into music, one, because it’s so easy to nowadays. I mean, anyone can go into a Guitar Center and pick up a recording studio for three hundred bucks and make a record and call it a record.

So, a lot of kids get involved—one, because it’s super easy, and—two, for the wrong reasons. Luckily, I dropped out of college and moved to the other side of the state to a big city for the right reasons, I feel. I’m continuing to do alright. I think there needs to be more awareness potentially that, well, we don’t need more people in this industry going at it for notoriety or fame or money, because I think there’s enough shitty music out there already. And that type of desire only leads to shitty music.

I agree with that. Have your parents been supportive of your decision?

Um, you know, I look at it like this: my parents are very, very conservative Christians. And when I moved out of the house and moved to Spokane initially and started going to Bible college because I was going to be a pastor, I went to Bible college and actually learned about the Bible, and where it came from and who actually wrote it. I was completely turned off. I was taught things that I was never taught growing up.

I did an about-face, and I left the church and denounced my faith—and when you have parents who are extremely conservative and believe that if you don’t believe in Jesus Christ that you’ll go to Hell, it’s really hard for them to fully support you, because they believe I’m going to Hell. It’s kind of a black and white thing for them. And it’s very hard for them to support somebody’s lifestyle in that respect, when they believe that way.

With that being said, my parents are extremely supportive of me—emotionally; they’ve been supportive financially at times, but it’s a weird balance because when I quit doing Christian music and started doing secular music that was really hard because of their beliefs.

I look at it this way, if I had a kid and that kid decided to not go to school and instead he wanted to go and write songs for a living and that was how he was going to make his money and support potentially a family, I would be very, very cautious as a father. I would still support them emotionally and be there as a role model, but I think there’s also a little bit of a reality check that goes in with that support that sometimes looks like non-support, but in reality it’s just love.

My parents love me. They don’t want to see me end up on the street or depressed or in a bad situation. There’s seemingly far more people that end up addicted to heroin and living on the streets that are musicians rather than real estate agents. I think any non-support they gave me was from that. They’ve always been very emotionally supportive and there for me.

How did it feel to walk onstage the first time?

Um, that’s kind of a hard question for me to answer because I was always onstage as a kid. Being my dad was a minister, we’d always do special songs as a family and I’d come up. You know, I did a little preachin’ even when I was a kid. I’m an entertainer, I’m a performer at the core of my being. If there’s not a platform that’s raised three feet above where everybody else is standing, I’ll still find a way to have a stage.

I’ve kind of always been, for lack of a better word, an attention whore. I was always a drama brat growing up, I was always in theatre. So, that’s just kind of who I’ve been and who I am. It wasn’t like, I want to do music, music’s my outlet. A lot people love to do music, but they hate being on stage. I’m kind of the opposite. Music’s my outlet, but I love being on stage. I love being in front of people. It wasn’t like I was so scared or I didn’t know if I can do it. It was more like, give me that mic! I’m more of that kind of person, I’m coming to find.

Let’s talk about your album. There are quiet a few politically-charged lyrics on there. Do you think it’s important to educate people through music?

Oh, my god. I think that is the most important thing that we as artists need to do through music is education. I believe truly that if you are given a voice, which in my opinion is your microphone, or if anybody is listening to you, you need to be a good steward with that and use it to uplift your culture, your demographic, your generation. I think it’s okay to have one or two songs in your repertoire that are love songs, that maybe don’t consciously progress the culture around in a spiritual or emotional way.

That’s the music that inspires me: conscious or political or socially conscious music. So, that’s the kind of music that I want to create, I want to be that kind of voice that is saying something. I truly believe from the bottom of my heart that R&B music is flunking. You know, R&B music used to be the Creedence Clearwater Revivals and the Marvin Gayes and Stevie Wonder “Livin’ for the Sin.” Artists that would actually write songs that actually meant something in their culture. Like Ray Charles’ “Georgia” or Sam Cooke’s “Change Gonna Come.”

These were songs that when they were released, they were released in a very tumultuous time in our culture and they influenced a lot of people’s perspective. I don’t think R&B’s big music does that at all anymore. There’s a couple artists out there that still have something to say that is intellectual and means something to our culture, but I think for the most part it’s all about grindin’ in the clubs and drinkin’ champagne and gettin’ laid.

That’s pretty unfortunate.

It’s very unfortunate. R&B music is the easiest vessel possible to share poignant and powerful lyrics, and so many people don’t do it.

Then it’s good that you’re doing that. Maybe you’ll be able to inspire other people to do that.

I hope so. We’ll see.

What about the video for “Unaware.” Why did you decide to do it at your mother’s house?

That video is weird, it’s kind of a fluke. I was kinda on the cusp of getting booked for Jimmy Kimmel, and the booking agent said I needed some sort of live video and audio recording so he could show his executive producer. That was kind of the space that was available, and we went, we did the video, just as an audition thing. We weren’t really trying to release it online, but we ended up releasing it online, and it just went viral, it started getting a bunch of views. That actually ended up getting me booked on Conan, and Letterman, and Kimmel and other really cool opportunities I’ve been able to enjoy this last year.

What’s the best part of pursuing this dream?

Getting to sing every night and getting to connect with people. That’s definitely the best part of this. People are like, well, man you get to travel so much. And it’s like, I don’t get to see hardly anything. We’re in Milwaukee today. I had an interview at twelve, I went to that and kind of got to see a little bit of Milwaukee. Got the venue and soundchecked at 3:30, was done by 5, had a live radio thing at 5:30 to 6:30, had a little bit of dinner and came and called you. I don’t really have much time to sightsee or anything.

Really, the only redeeming part of touring is getting to sing and play your songs for people and getting to connect with those people in different cities.

Allen Stone’s tour continues through mid-December. If the opportunity to see him arises, take it. If you haven’t listened to his music yet, take that leap of faith.

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  • MUSICisforLIFE

    Hello,

    I recently interviewed Allen Stone and I asked him his thoughts on Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke’s current success and he breaks down the difference between sex music and soul music.

    If you end up posting could you please courtesy http://www.youtube.com/user/TheNEHipHop

    Thanks!

  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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