Thursday, March 1, 2012

Stone Soul : Allen Stone is Seattle's Soul Man (Interview)

photo by Jason Tang

[iTunes Link to Allen's Album]

He may look like somebody's eccentric aunt, but it's not Allen Stone's long curly locks and prescription glasses that have earned him rave reviews from The New York Times, USA Today and The Los Angeles Times, a Top 5 hit on iTunes and bookings on both Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O'Brien. It's his soulful voice. Just take a few minutes right now. Turn up your speakers and hit play on "Unaware".(If you're short on time, forward the video to 3:20.)

"It's weird " Allen says, sitting in a Seattle house he rents with friends. "I knew when I was young that I could sing. I didn't reveal it until later on in life because I grew up in a very small town of jocks,and all my friends played sports and it wasn't the coolest thing to be able to sing show tunes and stuff."

Raised in the Colville River Valley of Eastern Washington, Allen was the sheltered son of the town preacher. He didn't even discover soul music until he was 17.

"I remember a buddy of mine gave me some Stevie Wonder music. I popped that record on and I heard the first initial "Isn't She Lovely"and "This is my guy! This is who I've been looking for forever!"

His old biking buddies has doubts about the "New Al". Tristan Welch recalls the moment he saw a new side of his childhood friend.

"I remember one day he picked up the guitar and was like 'I think I'm gonna sing'. And we all went 'Al, can you sing? I don't think you can sing.'

Nobody's doubting Allen anymore. He's impressed some big time critics who have compared him to soul music's most talented performers: Stevie Wonder, Prince and Michael Jackson. Pretty heady company to be sure. But Allen doesn't want anyone to rely on what he sees as hype.

"Just getting mentioned in the same sentence as Prince, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson I'm like'C'mon you guys. You're just setting me up for failure here. People are going to actually see me and be like 'What? I just got ripped off!'"

Here's the thing about Allen Stone. You can hang out with the guy for hours, sitting in his not quite "man clean" house, walking to the local coffee shop, driving around in his tour van ogling girls, and forget about all that talent behind the wheel. It happens to Tristan all the time:

"It's fun now," Tristan says. " 'cuz we'll be in the car and they'll be like "Allen Stone" on the radio and then you're just like 'Oh yeah. I forgot Allen's on the radio'."

Deep down Allen says he's just a country kid with a hippie spirit. Maybe that explains his look.

"People always say to me 'Your style is so unique and different.'I'm like 'Thanks' but I just get up and dress. I didn't comb my hair this morning.I just get up and put the clothes that are around me on.

As for the giant glasses:

"I just needed a pair of glasses to wear after I took my contacts out so
going around the store I picked these suckers out."

"What section of the store were those suckers?" we asked.

"Yeah I don't know man." Allen laughs. "Maybe the senior citizens portion of the store or something."

The day may soon come when Allen can buy any pair of glasses he desires. Right now all he wants to do is make more music and play it live.

"I just want to be like Willie Nelson. I want to be like 70 years old in a bus with all my buddies,and I wanna be rolling around playing music til the day I die."

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