Introducing Allen Stone
Just when I think we’ve got Seatown on lockdown, a cat like Allen Stone pops up to show me there is so much more going on than I even know. This Thrilla from Chewelah is young but by no means a newcomer, having already headlined places like Neumos, Tractor and Crocodile in just the past year. Now splitting his time between Seattle, New York and LA, Stone is as serious as they come about nurturing his voice and becoming a full package entertainer, Friday July 8th’s “A Night With Allen Stone” is his bold venture in that direction.
“I’m a songwriter, but I really want to be a soul singer,” he relates as we talked on Cafe Vivace’s patio during that passing week of Spring . “I went and saw Prince at the Forum two and a half weeks ago, and sat like ten rows away. It changed my life. Not only is he just a stupid musician. But he owns every single seat in that building, and he demands your attention. He demands that you are up out of your seat, dancing and having a good time. And he does it every single night. Those are the kind of performers that just inspire me.”
As we spoke he was still without a permanent touring band to get him on his way, but he was stowing a finished but still un-released debut record featuring some of LA’s best soul talent as his backing band, among them members of the troupe surrounding one of his own personal idols, Raphael Saadiq. “It’s weird. So I haven’t officially released [my] record yet. I’ve been sitting on it for about a year now. And yeah, Raphael Saadiq’s band played all the rhythm section. I dont’ know how I’ve gotten myself into being surrounded by incredible musicians, because I”m not one. I can sing but I’m not an incredible player.” His humble carriage was a recurring theme in our hour in the Seattle shade.
“Somehow through the grace of God I’m surrounded by these incredible real musicians. Somehow Raphael Saadiq’s guys agreed to come and play on the record, the guy Calvin Turner played bass who I’ve been a fan of. I saw him with Marc Broussard, when I was like 17. It was that point in my life that I decided this is how I have to learn how to sing and perform. With that passion and that soul power. Calvin was playing with Marc at the time, so it’s this crazy full circle. I don’t belong in the same room as these people. I’m extremely humbled at the same time, but also grateful. This guy Darren Johnson played keyboards. Darren played for Miles Davis for fifteen years. He played on his last record. One of the players from the Town of Power played horns. So it was just this mash-up of all these people, that like I said, I don’t belong in.”
With the intention to one day count himself among giants, he is driven, but not a diva. Of “A Night with Allen Stone” he says “I want it to be this night of community, where all my friends who play music in Seattle can come and showcase their talents in front of people that I would normally draw to a show like that, but also just be there in the crowd. Shows to me, especially when I’m home are like this family reunion/high school reunion where I get a chance to see all my friends and catch up and then play music, which is my favorite thing in the world.” Stone’s comments typify the collaborative penchant of Seattle’s musicians, that’s happening right now across all genres. Broken up into an acoustic first set leading into a full-band second set, the evening will include a few guest-appearances from local friends, Alessandra Rose and Hot Bodies in Motion among them. “The middle set we’re still trying to figure out, but it’ll be different styles of music that lead into the full hour and a half set. I’m going to have a horn section and background singers, basically big soul band. I’m exicted. It’s kind of hairy, with a lot involved. I recently did the Seattle Rock Orchestra and it really inspired me with how many people were involved in that.”
“I want it to be memorable. I want it to be like, ‘I had an experience at that show!’ ” he remarks of the July 8th date, “So we’re going to give it a go.” Embedded in that comment is a uneasy honesty, an acknowledgement of how far he has to go to attain his ultimate aspirations. But given he has already come this far on sheer talent and cheerful intention, it’s easy to believe that surrounded by friends who inspire, the night will go exactly as he plans. “I don’t know if it will be the one, but I want to progress towards that. Progress towards almost more of a night, than just a set.”
“A Night with Allen Stone” happens at the Crocodile Friday July 8th. Tickets are $10 in advance. Watch the videos below of an impressive living room session, and an acoustic bathroom session with Stone in a pink robe, and get to know Allen Stone.
Update 7/4/2011: During the writing of this story, Sound on the Sound became a sponsor of “A Night with Allen Stone.”