By Stephanie Amy Collazo
Allen Stone isn’t your typical R&B/soul artist. Though he has topped the charts on iTunes, peaking at the No. 2 spot, and hitting No. 29 and 62 on the Billboard Heatseekers, Stone comes from a town with little to no soul. Raised in a small city called Chewelah in Washington, Stone grew up singing in the church with his family. Moving to Seattle at the age of 19, he began pursuing music on his own and, now at 24 years old, has come a long way from the boy enthralled with soul. Before taking the stage at N.Y.C.’s SOBS Stone took some time out to talk to us here at YRB.
YRB: How did you get your start in music?
Allen: I grew up in the church. My dad is a singer, my mom is a singer [and] my brother and sister sing. That’s where I first garnished a love for music; it was in song singing for the church. I picked up a guitar when I was 13 and started listening to gospel music like Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin, a lot of Christian gospel music, and that kind of progressed into old soul somehow.
YRB: How did you get into making soul music?
Allen: It’s actually a weird jump because I was into gospel music then I discovered Billy Joel. Just that era of music, the classic music, then I progressed to Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin. I just dug into all this soul music and I just tried to emulate it. I’m from a small town in the north where there is no soul; I had to dig to find the records. I knew it was the music that spoke to me, but I had to learn how to emulate it.
YRB: What are some of your inspirations?
Allen: I want people to think I want to make people do something other than just grind on each other. I feel like there’s a hole in our music for social singing, there’s a lot of club music and sex music, but there’s not a lot of “What the hell is going on with foreign policy? What’s happening with families in our culture?” Soul music comes from the blues, and the blues have always been about real stuff, real problems, real issues. Real joy and real pain. I like that about the blues, that you’re able to seemingly pour it out of your spirit. That’s what inspires my music a lot. I try to write something that will inspire people to chat about it or inspire them to think about things. But also I’m inspired to have a good time.
YRB: CNN has labeled you “one to watch.” Has that added any pressure?
Allen: Oh, hell yeah. I wish I could just kind of keep myself under people’s radar and somehow make money from it. It’s a blessing for sure – that you are sitting here asking me questions is really flattering, that you care about a small town Washington boy, especially in the New York scene. My dad wasn’t like a jazz musician. I just emulate the music that I love. I’m not a trained singer; I didn’t go to Berkley. I don’t know if emulate is the best word, but I just love soul music and I try my best to perform it.
YRB: You were recently on Conan, what was that experience like?
Allen: It was nerve-wracking. I don’t typically get nervous, but after I played I got back in the green room and I was shaking like crazy. But I mean, what a blessing. Afterwards, I was thinking about it with the band, how many people that practice doing something every day get to spread it to that many people at once through a platform like national television. You know if people don’t like it or they do, what an incredible blessing to get that chance to share that with so many people.