Allen Stone has a lot to be excited about. He’s kept himself very busy in the time gearing up for his forthcoming album—two new singles, high-profile TV performances, and a new fall tour that starts tonight. Stone’s first two teasers from his yet-to-be-announced album, “Brown Eyed Lover” and “Warriors,” showcase a new side to the soul singer’s repertoire. On “Warriors,” Stone worked with producer Jaime Lidell and found himself at a crossroads, leaning into pop territory.
“I’m traditionally just terrified of pop music, it’s not my cup of tea,” Stone said of the initial writing process for the new cut. “We looked at each other and realized we had to just ‘nut up’ and go for it or we just stop right now.”
Allen Stone forced himself to try new things and allow for more experimentation in the studio, knowing that his label would eat up the result. Stone completed the bouncy, instantly singable “Warriors,” but admits it’s “as poppy as I’m willing to go.”
One of Stone’s career highlights came earlier this year when he performed “Warriors” at the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics, held this year in his home state of Washington. The performance holds a special place for him because he said the event embodied the subject matter of the song and transcended the music.
“For once in my musical conquest, I was able to sing a song that wasn’t for me,” Stone said. “It was about the athletes. It was shining a light on them, their journey and overcoming adversity.”
In other words, Allen Stone said, it took the focus off of him, and gave him purpose that he had not experienced before.
His high-profile TV appearance came on American Idol. Stone said he shook off his initial nerves and learned to have fun with the opportunity. Although he said all of the contestants “sang better than I did,” he got to met one of his personal heroes, Lionel Richie. The hitmaker, and American Idol judge, sits at the top of Stone’s musical pantheon.
“You don’t fully realize that these guys are the contemporaries to the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, these incredibly huge names that for some reason you think just live on their own little island.”
Allen Stone on finding his voice
Allen Stone grew up in Washington, initially finding his voice for music and performing at a young age in church, where his dad was a pastor.
“Singing in a crew of people or in a group folks, it was just fun for me,” he said.
He continued to develop his love for R&B and classic soul by finding older works by some of his eventual idols, such as Stevie Wonder and Donnie Hathaway.
After making the decision to pursue music full-time, Stone has become known for his high-energy live performances. On stage, he felt the most comfort. Stone said he finds excitement in the immediate response he receives from a crowd, something that can’t be recreated in a studio.
“You put together a show and come up with where you think the audience is going to respond,” he explained. “Then when you do that thing [you] see them respond right away—either not like you wanted to or like you wanted to.”
A noticeably excited Stone, speaking on the opening night of his fall tour, said that the overarching goal of his live show is to show how much live music can be fun.
“The tradition of real live music is slowly going away,” Stone said. “It’s all about the spectacle now: the lights and the smoke and the dancing. That’s all really cool but I would be so upset if my children never got the opportunity to experience real live music. Not playing to a click, or playing with too many tracks, but getting to experience real humans playing real, traditional instruments.”
Allen Stone’s tour hits the Bay Area right away, with a number of stops in Northern California, including Napa, San Francisco and Sacramento.
“I just want to convince people that we are just so thrilled and thankful that they came,” he said. “With how many numerous things there are in the world to take peoples’s attention [that are] far more entertaining than my show, but they chose to be here with us, and that’s a thrill.”
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.