We recently spoke with the free-spirited Allen Stone, who will be kicking off his Ones To Watch tour this Sunday in Anaheim, CA. We discussed his latest record, Radius, and his plans for his tour. Read our interview below, and get tickets to his tour here.
Ones To Watch: So, where are you calling from right now?
Allen Stone: I'm actually in Boise, Idaho right now. I apologize I'm just sitting down for lunch, so if you hear some chewing..
Ones To Watch: That's totally ok. What has the initial response been to your tour so far?
AS: The response so far has been great, and we haven't started the Ones To Watch fall leg yet. Any chance we get to go on the road and headline, we usually have a pretty good excitement from our fans. We're hitting a lot of new markets on this trip. It's good to be out and playing music for people.
Ones To Watch: What are some cities you're excited to visit that you haven't been before or would like to revisit?
AS: We haven't played Anaheim before. I'm interested to see how that one turns out. We've never played the Fox Theater in Oakland, which I hear is the most gorgeous venue ever. We're also playing The Apollo for the first time on this trip, and that's one of my bucket list venues to play.
Ones To Watch: You've toured extensively in the past. This time around, do you have anything new planned, and what kind of vision did you have in mind?
AS: My vision for this trip and my tour is to shed a light on the energy that you can create with real human beings, when everything is created in the moment. When the songs have been rehearsed and the show has been rehearsed but there's an element of spontaneity involved in the show. That's what I want to bring back to the pop music world, the actual human element of like, the Bonny Raitts of the world, or the Sarah McLaughlins, where it was just them and their instruments and the songs. You'd leave those shows with the biggest, fullest heart you've ever experienced in your life, and it didn't need flashlights and strobe lights and smoke machines and twenty five dancers on stage. Not to discredit those productions, those are beautiful pieces of live theater, but my vision is to keep the human element the strongest portion of the entire show. This trip we're doing a lot of new material with a lot more spontaneity and jam vibes. We're just attempting to keep the crowd and the listener as involved and excited and fresh as they possibly can.
Ones To Watch: What headspace you were in when writing the new record Radius? What kind of experiences and sounds influenced it?
AS: I came up with Radius as the title after I'd written the majority of the songs. I was on a plane coming back from Australia contemplating how to define this body of work. The songs are all over the place. There's songs about the amenities we take for granted, especially me personally in my life: being American, being born white, being born middle class to a loving family. And then there's songs about love and heartbreak, as well as the influx of technology in art. The songs are all over the place, and when I was thinking of how to tie it all together, it was really just the definition of me, and all the things I was dealing with in my life, whether it be depression, joy, love, political awareness, disdain for pop culture… And so I first came up with the idea of The Circumference of Serenity, then The Radius of Righteousness. And then I didn't want to be self righteous by saying I had righteousness figured out. So then it was just Radius. Radius is the distance between the center of a circle to its exterior, and that's really what this record is, it's the distance from my heart to my skin and everything that encompasses that distance. Not necessarily just in a linear or numerical value, but more so in a spiritual and emotional value.
Ones To Watch: Where was the album recorded?
AS: I recorded the majority of the record in Malmö, Sweden.
Ones To Watch: How did the press photo of you in the bathtub come about and have it be the face of your new album and tour?
AS: I have a really hard time taking myself seriously. And I don't really like people that take themselves seriously. We were at the studio and we were walking around the different rooms and they just happened to have a big Victorian bathtub in one of them, so I was like, "Fuck it, let's take off my clothes and hop in the bath tub." So that's how we got all those funny random cheeky pictures. I guess that's the one that caught people's eyes. When people come to my show I don't want them to revere me. I don't like this whole celebrity thing. It feels like there's this big disconnect between me and the audience.
We opened for Stevie Wonder in France last year. Stevie is so talented, but he's so himself when he's on stage. He was cracking jokes, and accidentally started a song in the wrong key and was making fun of himself for it. It was like, "Dude, you're potentially one of the greatest songwriters of all time still alive, in my opinion." And he was up there and teasing the crowd and trying stuff on stage, in the moment, that sometimes didn't work. But that vulnerability is there. And to me, whether it was how he was raised, and how he came up, or the fact that he became a celebrity so young in life - he just didn't take it seriously. There's so many people I know that take this whole pedestal that culture's put them on when they catch a break and start touring, and I think it separates them from the crowd. I tend to not take myself seriously by any means. And hopefully that will alleviate any separation between me and people who pay money to see my shows.
Ones To Watch: What do you think is the biggest change you've undergone as a musician since starting out?
AS: The biggest adjustment for me is being a boss. I don't like being in charge of people. And when you're a solo artist that's the hardest part of my job. We tour three quarters of the year full time. I live on a tour bus with twelve amazing people that I love dearly, but I have to be their boss at some point and I really hate that. Although I wouldn't have it any other way.
Ones To Watch: Is there a song in particular from Radius that you're excited to play live?
AS: We've been playing this song called "American Privilege" from the new record that's been getting a really good response. Which is such a huge blessing for me, because I wrote this song with the intent of really portraying my own struggles and wrongdoings and shortcomings. But through that I wanted to shed light on the whole Western culture process of how much we use and waste and take for granted, and how little we care about our environment and the people around us. And it feels like people are open to that. We just started doing the song and it feels like people are responding positively.