Allen Stone may look like a hippy from Chewelah, WA, but he sounds like Stevie Wonder and Prince had a child. He blew the audience away earlier this year during BMI’s “Snowball” at Sundance and got a standing ovation for an otherwise reserved crowd. He is this week’s Artist to Watch. (Check out his music here: Allen Stone)
Q: You got your musical start singing at your father’s church, do you recall the exact moment when you decided this was something you wanted to pursue professionally?
A: I’ve always really loved performing, I was always singing at church. I started leading worship at church when I was 14. I’ve always really loved being in front of people and expressing myself. But I think probably what put a spark in my mind at an early age was a close family friend that had a run in the music industry. She started when she was like fourteen and then she got signed to a Christian label and had quite significant success in the Christian industry and then crossed over to secular and had a couple of pretty big albums and did pretty well. I remember driving in the car with my dad and we didn’t really know that she sang. Our families kind of lost contact over the years, and one of her songs came on the radio and I was blown away, it was like wow, she’s traveling the world and singing and connecting with people just through lyrics and song. I think that was the kick-start, maybe I could write enough songs for these people to pay attention and maybe I could actually do it for more than a hobby.
Q: You live in Seattle now. What was it like growing up in Washington state?
A: I grew up in Chewelah, Washington. It’s about forty miles outside of Spokane. It’s really out in the middle of nowhere. It’s like a ski-bum town. I’m pretty sure the main reason why it even exists is because it’s right at the bottom of a ski hill. It’s pretty well attended throughout the winter. It’s really small, there’s about 1500 people who live there now. I was born and raised in Chewelah and then graduated and moved to Seattle when I was 19. I’ve just been there, trying to do it independently for the last four years now. It’s been a grind.
Q: The soul greats are a major influence for you, is that the type of music you primarily grew up listening to?
A: No, not too much. My dad, being a pastor, I was pretty sheltered from any music that wasn’t blatantly Christian, so not so much rock and roll. I grew up listening to like Steven Curtis Chapman, all these Christian bands, and then I think when I was about 14 I really got into Dave Matthews and then I discovered Stevie Wonder. I always grew up singing Gospel music and singing soul tunes in church, but it wasn’t until I heard Stevie, Marvin Gaye, and Solomon Burke, and all these old soul records that I found where the passion was.
Q: What was the first live show you did?
A: I was living in Spokane actually, I just moved from Chewelah for the first half of the year after I graduated. I was playing every Saturday night at this burrito restaurant and that was where it all started. I play piano too, so I’d bring in my keyboard and just set up a mic and play through the PA. I did that every Saturday for a couple of months. I was basically background music and I got accustomed to playing sets where people aren’t paying attention. I’ve definitely played a lot of those in the last four years of my life. I’ve played a lot of colleges, toured around trying to cultivate a new market. You have to start at the ground level when you’re an independent artist. I go into towns that I’ve never played before and tough it out and get lost in the music and not pay attention to the fact that nobody is listening.
Q: Do you have any musical guilty pleasures?
A: Probably the only guilty pleasure I have is I like Boy George a lot. I’m the kind of person where I’m not ashamed of any portion of my life. I really enjoy Boy George, ‘N Sync, Backstreet Boys, that kind of stuff. I enjoy that music. I don’t feel guilty about it in any way.
Orignally posted here.