Allen Stone – Why He Asked Capitol Records To Drop Him

ALLEN STONE IS A NEO-SOUL SINGER INTENT ON LEAVING A LEGACY. HOWEVER, HE OPENS UP TO RIP NICHOLSON ABOUT GOING DOWN THE COMMERCIAL ROUTE AND HAVING THE WEIGHT TAKEN OUT OF HIS MUSIC.

Allen-Stone-Logo

ALLEN STONE interviewed @ 11:15 AEST Tuesday, October 20, 2015
For Street Press Australia [READ HERE]

“This isn’t necessarily public knowledge,” Stone lets slip. “I’m not sure if my publicist will be excited about me saying this, but that’s exactly what happened!”

After his first two self-released records, Last To Speak (2010) and Allen Stone (2011) — the latter of which reached Billboard’s Top 10 on the Heatseekers chart, and the Top 5 on iTunes’ R&B/Soul chart — this past May Stone dropped his third, Radius, built with Swedish singer-songwriter Magnus Tingsek and produced by Benny Cassette. It’s his first time on major label Capitol Records.

“I did the full record in Sweden — a bunch of songs that really meant something, like Fake Future, American Privilege and Circle and Capitol came back and said, ‘We don’t hear any hits; we need you to go back in and write with this person and this person.’ So, I went back but once again the songs weren’t poppy enough. They’d finally decided on one song, a song called Freedom that was probably the worst song I’ve ever written in my life. And that was the one they went to radio with. It flopped. I went into Capitol about a month ago and said, ‘Please, please, please drop me! You’re ruining all the work I’d done over the years with your corporate-mandated recording label. Please drop me.’ And they complied; they dropped me, which was a huge blessing.”

Stone has since done a 180 with Radius, returning to Dave Matthews’ ATO Records, who released his second record and who are set to re-release his new album worldwide with new songs and bonus material.

“It was a big win for me. I would much rather have respect for myself than to have money,” he states. “I don’t ever see artists who take that path cultivating a legacy. They may sell millions and millions of dollars worth of product but nobody gives a shit about them after they leave. Their music doesn’t stick around. I’d much rather have music that impacted generations to come — my grandkids’ grandkids — than to have extra money in my bank account when I die.”

Tracks such as American Privilege, which paints a glaring dichotomy the first world faces in regards to a dependency grown from the misery of others less fortunate in the world, also illustrate the socially conscious landscape provided in Stone’s catalogue.

“I really only write stuff that means something to me personally. The music that really turned me on was that like, the ’70s protest and civil rights movement when young people were really shaping my country. Nowadays, they’re just blatantly in debt and working their lives away. They used to be able to go and picket and have discussions to change the perspective of our leadership, but nowadays it seems like there is so much white noise that is pervading the minds of young adults, it’s really hard for us to unite for a purpose.

“There’s so much just cotton candy, cookie-cutter, in my opinion, just weightless music,” adds Stone. “Maybe it was the way I was raised or just sorta like a juxtaposition I have, but I feel like if I have a microphone I should be using it more impactful.”

Through the journey of his uncompromising soul-driven music of protest, Stone has found challenges along the way. His jamming with Miles Davis’ keyboardist and Raphael Saadiq’s rhythm section for his second LP seemingly appeared to the marketplace all too black for the image of the self-proclaimed strung-out, hippie white kid out of Chewelah, Washington State.

“It’s been a relatively uphill battle for me because of the way I look,” he continues. “I’m making a living doing music and that exceeds any expectations that I ever had when I picked up a guitar and started writing songs. I’m making music that I believe is different and not the same as everyone else and I’m proud of that.

Playing at this year’s Bluesfest, Stone confides that he sees his music as therapeutic; he taps into the soul of his audience and provides solace any way he can.

“That’s what my shows are really all about: taking a group of people and attempting to help them forget anything that would be weighing them down through the week. So I hope people would come and find that. The music is just a platform to cultivate a community of energy. So, hopefully people can expect to find that safety, that freedom.”


15-11 Allen Stone

Conversation with Allen Stone

How was life as an Uber driver. Gotta say pretty cool promo for your album. It was almost a Jimmy Fallon skit.

Yeah, it wa pretty good. I almost hit a bicyclist, but other than that, it went OK.

So, no bad ratings?

No, they were all my fans so they were quite generous with their ratings.

What were some of the interesting aspects of trying that out for a day or however long you did?

Yeah it just for a day, took people out and videod it and we showed them the new songs. That was sorta my way of showcasing my new music to people in a manner that was intimate and cool. Not just like putting up a link video on Youtube. So many people do that and I was just looking for something original to do.

‘Radius’ was a very cool album, man. I like how you address an interesting self-awareness on ‘American Privilege’ where you paint a glossy song about a glaring dichotomy that rich, white Westerners are faced with. We realise our lifestyles depend on the misery of others less fortunate. But yet we continue on. Your lyrics are on point. Is it important that your messages are picked up?

You know, I would love, I really only write stuff that means something, to me, personally. There’s so much just cotton candy, cookie-cutter, in my opinion, just weightless music and I dunno, maybe it was the way I was raised or just sorta like a juxtaposition I have, but I feel like if I have a microphone I should be using it more impactful, and there are times where it’s more impactful than usual. So, I guess I wanted to have some form of rhetoric that’s meaningful, the music that really turned me on was that like, the 70s protest movement, civil right movement when young people were really shaping my country. Now days, the young people of my country, they’re just blatantly in debt. They have to work their lives away when they get out of college. They used to be able to go and picket and have discussions and actually do stuff to change the perspective of our leadership, but nowadays it seems like there is so much white noise that is pervading the minds of young adults in my country i think it’s really hard for us to unite for a purpose. But, with that being said, to answer your question, yes I would stop writing songs if I had to just write cheesy love songs, or something.

Your first album from Capitol. If they had come to you with the vision of you making music more suited for the Billboard charts I guess your first requisite would be that you have to write important music with a message that I built?

Yeah, well that’s exactly what happened. This isn’t necessarily public knowledge, I’m not  sure if my publicist will be excited about me saying this. That’s exactly what happened. I did the full record in Sweden. I did a bunch of songs that really meant stuff. I had written songs like ‘Big Future’ and ‘American Privilege’ and ‘Circle’ Capitol came back and said, ‘we don’t hear any hits we need you to go back in and write with this person and this person.’ So, I went back but once again the songs weren’t poppy-enough. They’d finally decided on one song, a song called ’Freedom’ that was probably the worst song I’ve ever written in my life. And, that was the one they went to radio with. It flopped. I went into Capitol about a month ago and said, ‘please, please, please drop me! You’re ruining all the work I’d done over the years with your corporate-mandated recording label. Please drop me.’ And, they complied, they dropped me which was a huge blessing. So I’m the works right now of going back to ATO which was who I had put my blast record out on and they’re gonna re-release the record worldwide and will put the songs on that should be on there and take off the ones that shouldn’t be on there. So, yeah it was a big win for me, but that was kinda the things, I was like, I just can’t do it, it’s not in me. It’s not in me to write, like, you know I would much rather have respect for myself than to have money. I don’t ever see artists who take that path cultivating a legacy. they may sell millions and millions of dollars worth of product but nobody gives a shit about them after they leave. Their music doesn’t stick around. I’d much rather have music that impacted generations to come. My grandkids’ grandkids then to have extra money in my bank account  when I died. That’s my perspective on it.

Some reviews have said that you have to be seen live to really believe that you are this kind of singer. Apart from helping promote your tour, how does that sit with you being an artist that has to be seen to be believed?

I mean, it’s fine for me, man. Anything that people say that gets them out to my shows, I’m fine with. It’s been a relatively uphill battle for me because of the way I look. People want the Leon bridges and the Gary Clark Jrs and the Ella Blacks type music. They want the people to look the part and I guess the strung-out, hippy white kid from the west coast doesn’t sit well for a lot of consumers. But I’m making a living doing music and that succeeds any expectations that I ever had when I picked up a guitar and started writing songs. so I’m totally happy with the way things are going. And, with the way things are heading, I’m making music that I’m proud of, I’m making that I believe is different and not the same as everyone else and I’m proud of that. That’s all I can ask for, as an artist.

There is a resurgence of new soul music. Artists like Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones  (Daptone Records). Will you always draw from the classics of the past era or can you be inspired by your contemporaries today?

Yeah, totally. I don’t draw a ton of inspiration from people that are just, Like, I’m very inspired to see people doing things differently. bands like james Blake or the Tune Yards, even the Flaming Lips, these are bands that are doing things that are different, never been done before. One of my favourite singers of all time is Sharn Jones who is like a second mother to me. They were cutting their teeth in that era and that’s the reason they look and sound and perform the way they do. There was a good amount of, like, after Amy Winehouse resurgence of taking something that’s already happened and just putting a new bow on it. That doesn’t tickle me too much but I have respect for all those artists, Gary Clark Jr. is a dear buddy of mine, I think what he does is incredible. Sharon Jones, Broken Bones, those guys are awesome, all those artists I really love what they are doing keeping the tradition alive. When it comes to inspiration I’m more inspired by people who are doing stuff that feels new, feels fresh and feels like they kinda stepped out onto a branch and were like, ‘hey, this isn’t cool right now, this isn’t super hip right now but I’m still gonna try and do it’.

How’s the Radius Tour coming along?

Yeah we just started we’ve done four shows in, and it’s going great, we’ve done 35 shows been on the road in the States all year. people show up, know the music. It’s funny how people digest music now through Spotify. This album has kinda been a slow build, people are discovering it and sharing it and showing it to friends. It’s grown a lot since we’ve released it with literally zero help from any label or any type of big dollars behind it.

Very few teams have got any street teams behind them.

Bluesfest performances have been announced. I’m privy to know that you will be  announcing sideshows while you’re down here. What can we expect from an Allen Stone show?

We just attempt to cultivate a canvas for people to feel welcome to find joy find community. That’s what my shows are really all about,taking a group of people and attempting to help them forget anything that would be weighing them down through the week. So i hope people would come and find that. The music is just a platform to cultivate a community of energy. So hopefully people can expect to find that safety, that freedom.

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