ALLEN STONE INTERVIEW: Soul Stages
“Where does a white boy like you get so much soul?” Three seconds into watching Allen Stone perform, don’t tell me you wouldn’t ask the same thing. Recently featured on Live from Daryl’s House (yes, THE Daryl Hall) and recent appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live and Conan, Allen Stone’s eclectic fan base is catching on to a new kind of soul that stirs up the insides like a steaming bowl of porridge.
Blue-eyed rock and soul man Allen Stone grew up in the Washington country with no access or permission to listen to non-secular music until he discovered some at sixteen years old. Growing up in church from a very religious family, Allen heard his first Stevie Wonder song in his mid-teens and was hooked.
I interviewed him right after his sound check at Atlanta’s unlikely venue, Masquerade‘s level affectionately named “Hell”. I asked him if he felt like he had to try harder to be accepted by the black community as a milky white boy from the country singing such soulful songs. Surprisingly, he said yes. I thought for sure he was going to cop out and just say he sings from his heart and whoever likes it, likes it. I so appreciated his candor as you’ll see in the interview below.
Curiously captivating as his blonde mess of unkempt hair shoved under a hat, Allen’s live performances are charged with otherworldly shots of electrical currents shooting through his body. With a tongue dripping with honey and enough soul to illuminate the Apollo theatre, Stone’s vibe comes from the heart of the belly and has climbed to quite a following with no label. And for the record, he wears gloriously hideous large-print color-blocked sweaters (he said it’s really just for warmth) and sports trademark orange-rimmed glasses (because his eyesight really is that bad).
Interview with Allen Stone (transcribed):
RP: You were recently featured on Live at Daryl’s House. My favorite part of watching it is your face when Daryl Hall started belting your song (video below). Tell me about that experience.
AS: Daryl Hall was the great white soul singer that actually had a legitimate career in the industry. Jerry Lee Lewis kind of fell off the map and obviously Buddy Holly passed away. Getting the chance to sing with that guy? And then not only sing with him, but having him sing my songs? And then the endearing things things he said to me, it was amazing.
And then on top of it, the two days before I played in Seattle, I lost my voice completely. I had to regiment to get it back. I literally didn’t have a falsetto at all until we got to his driveway when I was doing my vocal warm-ups and it just popped back into place. So I was just ecstatic that I was going to be able to perform to the best of my ability.
And a lot of it was adrenaline. I got one of those adrenaline inhaler things from the pharmacy and was just ripping that thing before we went up but also, I was in the presence of members of the Average White Band, and Daryl Hall, and Paul Pesco and all these incredible musicians. I was just like…FUCK IT, I’m just going to go hard!
RP: And you’ll be touring with Daryl Hall, too?
AS: Yes, him AND Sharon Jones. It’s actually the Live at Daryl’s House tour. It’s Daryl’s band and it’s me and Sharon singing with Daryl and his band kind of like the Live from Daryl’s House format. I’m REALLY intimidated. because it’s obviously Daryl Hall and Sharon Jones. They’re both beasts! And I’m this little 25 year old kid who wants to make his footprint in the soul music realm and they are the legends of it. I’m a little scared.
RP: From your day with Daryl Hall, what did you learn from him?
AS: Man, he’s a very very calculated man with the way he presents himself, the way that he has presented himself over the years. I’m a pure believer that in order to have a long career in this industry, you have to be very methodical and calculated about the decisions you make, the people you work with, the people you sing with, write with, whoever you are involved with. From Daryl, he’s calculated in the way that he as far as the music he plays, the songs he sings, and the way he presents himself. That’s something I’m learning that to have a long career, you have to be methodical. It can’t just be like “I’m going to go sing.” It’s really a game. I didn’t get a chance to spend a ton of time; I didn’t get to pick his brain as much as I wanted to because of the cameras. I’m excited to on the bus. I’m hoping I can get some one-on-one time with him and I hope he can be that father-figure in the industry that tells me what I should and shouldn’t do and who I should work with and who I shouldn’t.
Allen Stone performing “Celebrate Tonight” with Daryl Hall and his band at Live from Daryl’s House:
RP: Who would you love to collaborate with?
AS: I’d really love to collaborate with Danger Mouse. I’d really love to work with Charles Bradley and the Dap Kings, I think that would be sick. My friend Nikka Costa, I’d really love to do some work with her.
RP: As an emerging musician, would you actively pursue that (these collaborations)?
AS: I wouldn’t partner up someone of that caliber unless I had some big financial backing. Which would be a label and stuff because that guy (Danger Mouse) charges a lot of money for his work. And he should, he’s got really successful records. I’d also love to work with Rick Rubin.
RP: You are known for having so much feeling as you sing. I recently took voice lessons and although I could hit each note, I had a tough time channeling that emotion into a song. How do you get in the moment night after night, song after song?
AS: I think it’s subconscious. I really learned to feel music growing up in the church because I believed it. I was a sold-out, hard-core Christian when I was in the church and I believed all the words I was singing. Now, I realized how much bullshit it is but I really did learn how to FEEL what I was singing and express that through feeling. But there are specific songs that I can’t sing with soul. I could not sing “Toxic” by Britney Spears very soulfully. “Is This Love“ by Bob Marley is a song that I feel. Because I’ve been in that position. “Is this love, is this love, is this love, is this love that I’m feeling.”
RP: Is that weeping (in the audience) what you want? Is that when you know you’ve hit a mark?
AS: Yeah. I want to create emotion for people and I want to create an experience. Whatever experience they get doesn’t really matter to me. Whether it’s joy or sorrow or happiness or pain. Or they’re offended or inspired. I just want to create a feeling. I think there’s so much party music out that just pisses me off. It is what it is and it’s party music and it’s just there for background beat so people can grind on each other. And I have songs that I definitely encourage people to do that with – but when that’s the totality of the artist, that bums me out a little bit. There’s something scientifically that happens when you hear music that you enjoy. I do my best to recreate those feelings and recreate that experience night after night for people. But it’s also very selfish because it’s therapy for me, I’m having the greatest time.
RP: What are five little known facts about you?
AS: I drink way too much milk. I broke 10 bones between the ages of 6 and 9. I have a tiny crush on Cher. I was a total jock in high school. I played 4 years of varsity basketball and 4 years of varsity baseball. I am petrified of owls.
“SATISFACTION” – Allen Stone Live at Jimmy Kimmel Live: