Soul singer Allen Stone has had a hectic but incredibly happy 2018 if personal and professional milestones are measuring sticks. I’ll let him explain it.
“Well I’ve done two U.S. national tours both 50 shows each,” he says from a tour stop in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “I got married. I recorded a record. I threw a festival. I bought my first house. I spent a month in Australia. I’ve been busy.”
Stone, who plays Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre on Nov. 27, released his last studio album Radius in 2015 which was reissued the following year with bonus material. But he’s gearing up for a 2019 effort which he just put the finishing touches on.
“I think it’s more mature,” he says of the as-yet-untitled album. “I think it’s got a little bit more balls behind it. I think Radius was very meek sounding. I think this one has a little bit more grit behind it.”
The Washington State native says that grit didn’t come easily despite recording the material with his road band. The singer used the “live off the floor” approach with Stone and his band in one room playing together.
“It was hard, it was a hard record to do,” he says. “This one kind of felt very arduous. I was having to really dig deep into my self-discipline to wake up every day and say, ‘Okay the goal that I want is a record that is finished and good and done even though I have no desire to make music right now I’m going to go and put the work in.’ I think there’s a testament to that, I really appreciate the people who do that.
“There’s a song on the record called ‘Chipping Away’ and it just talks about getting up every day and just doing the work, just putting in the time. Making the effort. I think that’s what this album felt like really. It wasn’t this wealth of easy creative juices floating around.”
That process seems like it’s produced a handful of diamonds however, particularly “Warriors” which Stone performed at the opening ceremonies for the Special Olympics earlier this year in Seattle.
“We were about halfway through that song and we looked at each other – me and Jamie (songwriter Jamie Lidell) – with a bewildered look on our face,” Stone says. “Mostly it was a look of fear because this song was so much of the pop vein and outside of the normal wheelhouse that I sing and play and do. I was a little afraid of that song because I knew if I sent it to my label it would have been the only thing that they paid attention to.
“But the Special Olympics hollered at my manager about halfway into the process about making the song. They said, ‘Hey do you have anything that you’d like to collaborate on for the Special Olympics opening ceremonies?’ We thought that song would be perfect for that community. So we finished the song and we pitched it at them and they loved it. We got to reveal it and release it at the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics which was like just the coolest thing I’ve ever done in music for sure.”
Perhaps the biggest feather in Stone’s hat professionally in 2018 was appearing as a mentor and performing on American Idol with contestants who specifically asked for him. Stone says he went into the program with some hesitancy.
“I always had a bad taste in my mouth because of those shows just because it always seemed like the contestants, the people never really got a fair shake after the show, they would just like disappear after they did the show. You would hear these horror stories about getting locked into gnarly contracts and whatnot.
“My manager called me and said, ‘It’s American Idol!’ and proceeded to tell me just the numbers of people that tune into that show. I’ve never seen anything in my career sell tickets like that show sold tickets. I’ve done late nights, I’ve done TV shows, I’ve played radio festivals but nothing compares to American Idol. It was a wonderful opportunity and a boost for me that I’m super grateful for.”
After wrapping up this touring leg, Stone ventures to Australia for shows in the spring before returning to North America for a support slot on a summer tour co-headlined by Train and Goo Goo Dolls. He says he hopes “to steal as many early ’90s soccer mom fans as we possibly can” on the summer leg before a headlining tour most likely next fall.
For all that success it probably doesn’t come close to Stone’s most satisfying moment when he proposed to his girlfriend earlier this year while recording it on video (https://tonedeaf.com.au/allen-stone-proposing-adorable/).
“I have some cameras at home that I shoot interview pieces on and shoot content with and I had set it up in the living room,” he says. “I said, ‘Well you should just sit here in this chair so I can focus the cameras for this interview.’ All the while I’m just getting her to sit down so I can roll the cameras and ask her while the cameras are rolling. She’s Australian and her grandma is old and I wanted her family to be able to experience not the nuptials but the engagement. I thought it’d be cool to have that in the bank.”
Stone also says the dog in the video wasn’t going to be used in the proposal with possibly the ring around its collar.
“No not our dog man!” he says. “Our dogs are a little skittish.”