Things are getting hectic for 24-year-old singer Allen Stone, who grew up in the quiet countryside of eastern Washington. Just last month Stone released his sophomore and self-entitled album, and now he is getting ready to kick off a full tour.
Stone began singing in his father’s church, where over the years the sincerity of gospel and soul music infiltrated deeply into his voice and lyrical style. With major recognitions from critically-acclaimed sources like The New York Times, NPR, Billboard and The Washington Post, attributing him to names like Stevie Wonder and Anthony Hamilton, it’s quite humbling to note the calm disposition in Stone’s voice while he spoke with MUSE over the phone. Upon sharing his love for soul to his creative process to politics, Stone comes across as a regular guy who happens to really love his job and be really good at it.
Tonight at 7 p.m., Stone will bring the Davis community together with his unique rhythm and soul at the intimate Odd Fellows Hall (located on 415 Second Street). The show is hosted by ASUCD’s Entertainment Council and tickets can be purchased at the door for $15.
MUSE: First off, can you take us way back to when you first started singing and how you made your way into soul music?
Stone: I grew up in countryside where there was no soul, R&B or even much music happening there. So soul music was kind of my thing. What I really loved was John Legend at the time and Stevie Wonder, The Temptations — all the ‘60s and ‘70s soul. I picked up the guitar when I was about 13 but I wasn’t playing soul music at the time. I wasn’t trying to play soul music until high school. But I guess you can say that I’m still learning for sure and I perhaps don’t have it all down yet.
MUSE: You’ve done quite a bit of live shows before. How would you describe your experience as a musician performing live on a stage rather than in a studio?
Stone: I’ve just always tried to create music that people might enjoy but the music I made in the past has always been introspective and in my heart. In some instances, I think about how the song is going to be interpreted live. There’s a song I have called “Celebrate Tonight,” and it was my attempt at ushering people into a good time at a show. I try to make music that I would enjoy listening to [as] a soul connoisseur. And then lyrically and melodically, I hope people will like it. It’s like a huge box of Trix with all these different colors that all seemingly taste the same but you have to look at the whole box of cereal. Um, that’s a really weird analogy [laughs]. But as a musician, there’s always that moment when you hope people will like your music. It’s my main objective when I write music.
MUSE: Who are you current inspirations?
Stone: I listen to a lot of Tingsek. He’s from Sweden and he’s the man — he’s real jazz. There’s a really cool movement of northern soul happening right now where a lot of really great music is coming out. And if you really dig in deep you can really discover a band that is just killin’ it everyday. But I also like to revisit old catalogues, you know, like Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu. Those are the typical R&B soul and I listen to a little bit of hip-hop, too.
MUSE: How does your writing process work? Do you work off of inspiration a lot?
Stone: Yeah, I used to write based on all inspiration, but I started co-writing more. Co-writing is so regimented that you go in [the studio] and you say ‘I’m going to go in there and meet with this person and write the song’. Usually, it’s a person you don’t know and you just got their name from someone that knows your manager or something like that. The objective is to meet and write a song, and hopefully within two hours you have a song written. Co-writing has taught me to not always base everything off of inspiration.
MUSE: Your song “Unaware” has a lot of powerful commentary on the current political system. Do you normally look at the news for sources of inspirations when you write your songs?
Stone: When I wrote “Unaware,” it was about a year before Obama had been voted in and I was keeping track of his campaign of change and hope and I wasn’t seeing any of that change. There weren’t any changes that brought the cost of tuition down or changed gas prices or gave me health care. Anything that would help me as a 24-year-old or that would affect me personally. That song was written on that basis and I came to a realization at one point that everything in this country is taxed, like, nine times before I even get to buy it, and then when I get to buy it, it gets taxed again. But then again, our government is so stupid and in such a bad business of corporations that at the end of the day, that’s what it is — a business. That’s when you hear the line [in “Unaware”]: “Everyday our taxes increase, so is this our land or is this our lease?”
MUSE: What do you think about the Occupy Wall Street movement that is taking place?
Stone: The running of this country seems so lopsided in the sense that the people seem to have such little say in this country. And especially with this deficit. We always hear about this deficit. Ever since I was 16 or 17, around election time, I would hear about this deficit. They’re always talking about this deficit. And yet, the deficit happens and somehow the people are okay with them raising taxes, and then the next year they overspend by trillions of dollars. But, I don’t know, I would probably freak you out with all of this political stance [laughs]. I don’t trust anybody in office. I don’t trust anyone that had to shake a dirty hand for a campaign dollar.
MUSE: Where do you see yourself going with music and performing in the next few years?
Stone: I would love to just tour 300 days of the year and play all over the world. Whether it be a hundred people or a thousand, either one of those is a blessing. And in reality, I just want to pay my rent, which wasn’t really attainable 20 to 30 years ago [in the music industry]; so I really count my blessings. I’m doing this on a very small level right now as a musician, but I can’t wait to see where it could potentially go and I would love to play for as many people as I can. But I’m not going to get in a box stand and convince people that I’m the best soul singer or the best writer.
MUSE: Any last words to the Davis fans specifically?
Stone: Do your best to warn them because when we come, it’ll be an all-out dance party. I pray that they come prepared to enjoy themselves — there’ll be slow R&B jams and powerful soul music. I hope they come prepared to get a little sweaty.
UYEN CAO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.