Interview with Allen Stone: son of a preacher man converts to soul man – Notion Magazine

In Interviews, Magazine Contributions, Music Reviews on February 22, 2013 at 9:30 am

allen 1

What do you get if you cross a born-again atheist with the spirit of Stevie Wonder? 25-year-old Allen Stone, a blue-eyed gospel-soul singer-songwriter who’s set to become a big star in 2013.

Allen Stone isn’t happy with modern music, and he wants you to know it. “It’s just so cotton candy and cookie cutter,” the US soul singer says from behind tendrils of hippyish, wavy blonde hair. “It’s all about love and sex and clubs and it doesn’t really do anything – it doesn’t really inspire people or kids my age to do anything – besides go to the club and grind on each other.”

Stone is on a mission to put the meaning back into popular song, and is harking back to the birth of soul music for inspiration. “Back then, when somebody would write something in a song, people would listen to it – and it would mean something,” he declares. Inspired by the music born out of an America rocked by the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, and an affinity with the children spawned by the groovy Woodstock era, Stone is taking on a music industry that he believes has lost its soul. And as he spreads the word, people are listening.

His 2011 single Unaware was a viral sensation and has racked up almost 2 million YouTube hits. The video, which was recorded in his mother’s living room, led to a string of US television performances, with many critics labelling him “one to watch”. True to his ethos, the lyrics of Unaware discuss the current economic climate: “Every day the deficit grows, you spend more than you own.” They reflect our generation’s struggles – the credit crunch victims condemned to toil through Dickensian hard times.

Despite admitting that the Unaware video “has helped me out immensely”, Stone is less interested in YouTube fame than he is in being “the best live performer that I can possibly be”. In a digital age where anyone with a laptop and an acoustic guitar can upload the seven-hundredth take of their four-chord, caterwauling ballad onto the internet, Stone refreshingly challenges the would-be popstars to “get on stage and hold an audience’s attention”.

They might be able to learn something from Stone, whose stage presence is vivacious, potent – and slightly insane. He dances like some supernatural, fey creature, with fingers tingling, eyes bulging and his throat reaching for incredibly high-pitched notes. At times it feels more like watching a musical exorcism than being at a gig.


Perhaps Stone is still ridding himself of demons from his childhood – which promised a very different path than the one he’s taken. Born to a religious Christian family headed by his preacher father in the small Washington town of Chewelah, Stone’s first gig was in church. He credits these early religious performances as key to honing his talent for leading an audience in song. “At Church, you’re attempting to get everybody else to sing along, and in learning how to do that, I had more of a chance than most performers.”

Then a devout Christian, Stone went to Bible College straight after high school to train as a pastor until he “woke up one morning and just didn’t believe it”. He dropped out and spent his early twenties on the road, touring in his trusty ’87 Buick LeSabre. “It was just me and my guitar for about three years, going down the coast to California, then Texas, playing any place I could get a gig where they would pay me enough money to put some gas in the car and get to the next location. It was a long road, for sure.”

Stone used his time on the road to begin carving his own niche – the trilby-wearing, be-spectacled, blue-eyed acoustic-soul singer, quite unlike anyone else on the scene. Despite his unconventional appearance, his seductive voice and vintage sound have garnered comparisons with Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway – who both had strict religious upbringing.

Though he balks at such “bogus” comparisons, Stone shares a politically and socially conscious bent with these singers. He rejoiced over Washington State’s “inspiring” legalisation of gay marriage and marijuana use. He also shares their willingness to use music to talk about issues. Stone’s self-titled debut album, released on these shores in February, deals with everything from drugs and the drudgery of working life to the greed and corruption of politicians. Is he trying to reclaim the soul of soul music? “Yeah, I’d love to,” he says, laughing. “That’s what I’m attempting to do – to bring back music that means something.”

Allen Stone’s self-titled debut release through Decca Records is out on 25 February.

  1. Fantastic article !! Been listening to allen stone and can’t wait to see what great things will come from him. Well done Gaby!

  2. Great interview!

  3. A musician that would have probably passed right by me without notice. Great article, and thanks for introducing me. Looking forward to getting a hold of his album

  4. Such an amazing interview ! Loved it !

  5. Man, this guy has got soul. I love Unaware. I also appreciate his approach to music, although I have to say there is no shame in going to a club for a lil bump ‘n’ grind.

  6. Really interesting interview! It’s always somewhat of a relief to hear a contemporary musician discuss a context wider and broader than that of the life of a “pop-star”. I need to give his music a listen!

  7. I hadn’t heard of him til I read this. Had a little peak and now can’t stop listening to him. Cheers.

  8. really interesting article, and he really is a great artist!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: