Challenging Traditions with Allen Stone

Words by James Farrell
Photo by Joe Russo

Over the last two years, Allen Stone, the self-described “hippie with soul,” has been making a name for himself. Known for his pitch-perfect vocals, socially conscious lyrics, and great live performances, Stone has seen huge success with his first two albums, Last To Speak (2010) and Allen Stone (2011—released by ATO records in 2012). He was even featured on Macklemore’s The Heist, bringing his signature vocals to the song “Neon Cathedrals”.

Now, Stone has just wrapped up a tour in the U.S., and is getting ready to release his forthcoming album, RADIUS. And if it’s anything like the other material he’s already put out, it will definitely be a must-listen when it’s available. We caught up with the singer/songwriter between shows, where he answered a few questions about his music, his influences, his social causes, and his tour.

How’s the tour going so far? When you’re on tour, what’s the most rewarding part about performing? What’s your least favorite part about performing?

Allen Stone: The tour is going great. It feels good that people are still coming to the show even though I haven’t released any new music in 3 years. The most rewarding part of touring is playing and singing every night. It’s like therapy.

My least favorite part about performing is feeling the pressure of the business of music. For instance feeling bad if I haven’t sold enough tickets in a certain market. That shit plagues me.

What first ignited your passion for music? Can you think of a specific song?

I heard Stevie Wonder’s “Living For The City”. That’s the song and the moment when I really wanted to write and perform good music for a living.

You have such a powerful voice. Can you recall the moment when you found out exactly what your voice could do? Was there a single defining moment or song when you felt like you found your voice?

That’s a funny question because I really don’t like the sound of my voice. Singing and playing music is therapy for me. I do it because it’s the closest I’ve gotten to a state of nirvana. I don’t enjoy hearing my voice though.

Out of everything that you’ve done in your career so far, what are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the people I get to share the road with. I have a really good crew of folks that work really hard to make what I get to do every night possible.

Part of the VIP Bundle for this tour that you’re on is a preview EP, featuring four songs from your forthcoming album, RADIUS. What can you tell us about that album? What new things can fans expect to hear musically, lyrically, or thematically?

RADIUS is the first project that I am really proud to have my name on. I’ve spent a heap of time on writing those songs and I’m really stoked on how they came out. There is a lot more Sly & The Family feel on this record. It’s not as much of a soul revue record as my last.

One topic that I touch on in RADIUS is the overwhelming presence of computers in art. More and more I see people using computers as a crutch. Utilizing them in the studio for things that they can’t play on an instrument. Using backing tracks on stage and calling what they do LIVE. Computers are a wonderful asset to our culture but I believe people are leaning on them far to much in the cultivation of art. Where are we when our greatest artists aren’t human?

I will always challenge. I am a patriot at heart. I don’t know how much impact I will ever have on the world around me but I will always write about social trends and traditions that I believe suck.

How do you like to unwind when you’re not playing music?

I really like to fish and be around friends. Laughing is a big winner in my book. | RADIUS