Allen Stone might be one of the most unexpected talents we have ever had the pleasure to work with. Hiding under a streak of blonde curly hair, goofy and gigantic thick-rimmed glasses and a black hat lies one of music's most thrilling surprises. Quite simply, Mr. Stone is a powerhouse singer, channeling the legacies of some of soul music's biggest voices. I'm talking Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway. I'm talking legends here. It's phenomenal, though the 25 year-old Seattle resident isn't quite sure where it came from...something about being the son of a preacher I guess just does that kind of thing to a man. Allen is going with it though, touring his butt off behind the conscious set of tunes that inhabit his self-titled debut. After all, it's a gift. He recognizes it. After setting up a crew in an urban cabin setting on Wall Street, we do too. Now it's your turn to tear the wrapping off of Stone's music.
the way that I do. I think a lot of it was, you know, it's a blessing for me but I grew up singing in the church. My dad was a minister so I grew up kind of from a young kid singing gospel songs and I progressed from that onto Stevie when I was about 15 and Marvin Gaye, and Donny Hathaway, and all those soul greats of like the '60s, '70s, I mean and still today. But... I would just listen to records. The town I grew up and was wicked small and we didn't have clubs or R&B blues singers or anything so it was really just singing in my room to records and, you know, picking up a guitar eventually and singing to that. That's kind of how I'm here today I guess. Hello, everyone, my name is Alan Stone. This is my good friend, Trevor Larkin, and we're gonna do a song called Contact High. Are you looking for peace of mind? You won't find it in your step and slide What are you trying to do? Whose mountain are you trying to move? So, I fell for it too Whatever keeps you occupied? Whatever gives you contact high? Whatever keeps you, feel that baby, oh, will never make you satisfied. Are you looking for security, validation of identity. You won't find anything, oh, the more you got the less you see. So, I fell for it too. Whatever keeps you occupied? Whatever gives you contact high? Whatever keeps you, feel that baby, oh, will never make you satisfied. Well... I've been all over the world and I've dug for diamonds and I've dove for pearls and the real treasure that we all seek is hiding in plain sight of me, babe. Whatever keeps you occupied? Hey... whatever gives you contact high? Whatever keeps you, feel that baby, oh Will never make you satisfied. Hey, yeah, whatever keeps you occupied? Oh, whatever gives you contact high? Whatever keeps you, feel that baby Will never make you satisfied, hey... will never make you satisfied Will never make you satisfied. Oh... I know what I know Well I know love is home. Yeah... Yeah, you know, I feel like it was my own personal struggle with that song, Contact High is I got to a point, where I was trying to be social through my phone with like 800 people. And I was missing out on the opportunity to be social with the people right in front of me. The real-time, I can reach out and grab this person. Our generation, my generation is losing that ability to conversate a little bit. You know, we're really good at like three line pips about why the refs in the NFL suck but we're not as good at looking somebody in the eye and taking the time to care about what's going on in their life or really dialoguing about things. We're not as good as I think we can be because we are really distracted a lot by our phones and by social media. These tools are huge and enormous, great tools for staying in touch with people and keeping up on world issues. I noticed in my life personally, and that's why I wrote the song, that I need to put it down. I need to take the time to be present and be personal with people. So yeah, that's what that songs about. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, Yeah, well, well I spend my nights out in the moon Though I never wake before noon. Oh, and when the sun ain't rising, oh, always rising on Because I spend my night howling at the moon. I never get sleepy, no I just reach, reach, reach Only I can feel it on the ends of my fingers and taste it on the tips of my feet. See why I never get sleepy, no sleep. Don't know why I can't get no sleep. Don't know why I can't get no sleep. Don't know why... yeah. Well, I spend my night shootin at the stars. Oh, and I'm telling tangled world we dreamt guitar. Oh, then I know I wait too long. Shotgun's working out so far though I spend my night shootin at the stars. I never get sleep, sleep, sleep. Oh, if I just reach, reach, reach. Oh, but I can feel it on the ends of my fingers and taste it on the pins of my teeth. Don't you see why I, I never get sleepy, Get no sleep. Don't know why I couldn't get no sleep. Don't know why I couldn't get no sleep. Don't know why, yeah. Hey. Count sheep. Hey. I've already tried. Drink whiskey. Makes my throat too dry. Smoke weed. Ooh, it makes my eyes all read. Take a pill, Al. What? And end up dead. I can feel it on the ends of my fingers, oh taste it on the tips of my teeth. So you see I, I never get sleep. Oh, I never get sleep, sleep, sleep, yeah No I just reach, reach, reach. Oh, I like to feel it on the ends of my finger and taste it on the tips of my teeth. Don't you see why I never get sleep, no, no, yeah. Can't you see why I never get sleep Oh, so can you see why I, I never get sleep, yeah. What motivates me in my music is I really want to use music to influence. The music that I love and I'm infatuated with is that kind of '50s, '60s, '70s, R&B soul. I feel like when that music was big, when What's Going On came out by Marvin Gaye, that music had such an influence on the culture at the time with the civil rights movement, the hippie movement, and people protesting on Capitol Hill. The young people in our country were very adamant about stepping out and being a voice. I feel like music has kind of lost that a little bit in our generation. It's a lot of kind of cotton candy and glitter and party. There's not as much emphasis on the conscious side of things and speaking about real issues. The music that at least motivates me to write songs is the type of music that is conscious and has that side to it. That's definitely a big motivation for me in my songwriting and music. I'm not a very proud person. I think I'm most proud when I stand up on stage and I see smiles and I know that what I love to do is blessing other people. Not very many people get to do that. There's very few people in the entire spectrum of the workforce and life that get to do something that blesses them internally and externally and have it also internally and externally bless other people. So I'm very proud of that. I'm very proud that that's who I am at 25 years old and maybe at 30 I won't be able to do it, but right now, it's something I'm very proud of.
USA Today has called Allen Stone a "pitch-perfect powerhouse" and The New York Times has likened his socially conscious music to that of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway and Bill Withers. But the 25-year-old singer-songwriter from the tiny backwoods town of Chewelah, Washington just sees himself as "a hippie with soul".
One look at his long, curly blond hair and thick-rimmed glasses brings home the first part of that equationand perhaps leaves one unprepared for the raw, soulful power unleashed when Stone opens his mouth to sing.
Like many soul singers, Stone got his start in church. He was a preacher's kid, so whipping crowds into a call-and-response frenzy as he performs "Say So" is second nature. Steeped in gospel music and shielded from secular songs, Allen didn't discover soul music until he was a teenager and started collecting classic albums from the 60's and 70's.
"Soul music from that time wasn't just about bumpin' and grindin' at the clubit was a huge part of a cultural movement. That's where my inspiration comes from," says Stone, who was also schooled by folk records of the period.
On his new album, Stone shines a light into some of the darker corners of his own era. "Contact High" is a striking commentary on the toll technology has taken on relationships and the sensuous sounding "Unaware" is a sly examination of the current economic crisis. This is the kind of stuff that keeps Stone up at night and keeps him on the road, as he sings in the single "Sleep": "Spend my night shootin' at the stars/Trying to change the world with this guitar/I know it's a long shot/But it's working out so far"
While he is in awe of music's power to ignite change, Stone is equally enraptured by its ability to simply make people feel goodas evidenced by songs like "Celebrate Tonight" and "Say So" and the dance-offs that are de rigueur at his shows.
Stone has spent the past four years honing his unique style the old-fashioned way: crisscrossing the country in a van with his ace band and playing any small club that would have him. Since the digital release of his self-titled album via his own stickystones label in October 2011, Stone's shows have been selling out from coast to coast. The album jumped into the Top 10 of Billboard's Heatseekers chart and entered the Top 5 of iTunes' R&B/Soul charts. His first national television appearanceon "Conan"came after the music booker saw a YouTube video of Allen performing "Unaware" in his mother's living room. Performances on "Jimmy Kimmel Live", "Last Call with Carson Daly" and "Live from Daryl's House" followed and Esquire, CNN and Billboard named Stone as an artist to watchall before he had the support of a record label. Stone has since signed to ATO Records, which is bringing the album into wide release.