Q&A: In The Studio With Allen Stone

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Allen Stone is a man running in circles. From travelling the world playing nearly 600 shows in six continents, to writing and recording a brand new full-length album, the hectic schedule and strong drive that Stone has is enough to make your head spin. But despite the stress of a nonstop lifestyle of being an up-and-coming soul singer, the 26-year-old from Chewelah, Washington prides himself on taking it one day at a time.

“I really want to make sure that all parties involved are having a good time and enjoying themselves,” says Stone from inside his upstate home recording studio. “I think that the music will really speak for that fun once [the album] is recorded and we’re ready to give it to the ears of whoever will listen.”

After the acclaimed releases of 2010’s Last to Speak and 2011’s self-titled LP, it won’t be hard for Stone to find an audience for his yet-to-be-named full-length album. With a new home at Capitol Records, and a handful of new track demos that showcase his raw talent, Stone is looking ahead to a new year that is forecasted to be even busier than the last.

FILTER caught up with Stone minutes after he finished recording another track for his upcoming release to chat about his recording process, what irks him about being shoved into the box of “Blue-eyed soul” and why if you put out good vibes they’ll come back to you doubled in your music. See? Full circle.


How long have you been recording this new album?

We did about two weeks in Malmo, Sweden where my producer’s from, but we’ve only been up here for about five, well I think this is the sixth day. So, we’re kind of doing like time in Malmo, time in Chewelah and then we’re flying actually at the end of this time up here, I believe it’s the 22nd, we fly back to Malmo, Sweden and work out of his studio. We’re just trying to get different space, different energy and also have fun.

What’s the difference in the energy and the recording process between Sweden and here?

Well, I think a lot of it has to do, you know, in one specific space I feel at home. You know ‘cause Chewelah, it’s a cabin, like I’m very comfortable, feel real good and that’s kind of my space, where obviously, where I was born and raised for eighteen years but also where, you know, the center of my creativity was started is in Chewelah so there’s that comfort for me when we’re over here. Also, I think a change of scenery is good when you’re creating music.

When you really start getting into a recording session, what is your process like?

It’s kind of all over the place. I mean a lot of artists have their own studios now and they work out of their own space. So, with that being possible nowadays, it’s kind of all really relaxed and chill. First and foremost I want to just enjoy myself because I feel the music you create really exudes the spiritual situation that you’re feeling at that current moment; if you’re stressed and anxious and you don’t feel creative, but you kind of rush it and get in the studio at times the music you create really expresses that.

The five tracks that I’ve heard of this new record have a very sparse, raw and clean quality to them without very much production. Was this purposeful sonic space?

Yeah, my last record had a lot of horns and a lot of stuff going on and I really wanted to kind of get away from that in this next record. I really love records with space. I love when there’s enough space in the song for the vocal to shine and that’s what we were relatively shooting for in this one. It’s really an attempt to make the melodies I’m singing–and the words I’m saying–really pop, so that [means] less is more on the production side of things.

One of the most memorable tracks where the darker message shines through the production is “Fake Future.” What is the back story to that song?

Well in “Fake Future” I was trying to explain [that] there’s as a musician, there’s a developing swing in the way music is created and the way music is played and now the way music is portrayed live. And to me, I have a relative fear of that and also a disenchantment with it because it feels like man, like the musician is slowly putting all of the horsepower on technology. And that the real musician–somebody who picks up a guitar or drumsticks or takes up piano–is slowly fading and the computer you know, in the box, you know, everything done by a program musician is seeming to take, I don’t want to say the spotlight. That’s not what I’m thinking. It’s just that that’s becoming more and more [acceptable].

I understand there’s different forms to make music and I’m okay with that but I think, for me, the spirit of that song comes from playing close to 600 shows in the last two years or three years. I think that some of the stuff that EDM DJs and musicians create in the studio is brilliant. I love some of dubstep music. I think it’s incredibly original, really cool, but would folks that buy tickets to shows think it’s okay for somebody to get up on stage and play an instrument that plays itself? Utilize an instrument that plays itself, that’s the lie that I really struggle with as an artist. One, I think it’s weak; it feels like Alex Rodriguez taking enhancement drugs, but nobody is saying anything about it. It feels like I’m competing against Lance Armstrong and his one testicle and all this superhuman blood that like he’s utilizing!

What kind of artists do you see are fighting against that fear with you? Who influences you as artists today?

Oh man, there’s so many. Artists that influence me today are like Lianne La Havas, Alabama Shakes; I really, really love what James Blake is doing. I think he’s fucking brilliant. I think the majority of artists are still staying true to art, but there’s like a sliver of music that’s to me falling short of that. Maybe not a sliver, maybe actually like a pretty large handful. I feel like the music industry is compromising in that regard and it’s a little scary for me.

What do you think about the term “Blue-eyed soul”?

Well, it’s just a way to categorizing things, like people calling my music R & B or calling my music soul. I understand it, but it does frustrate me a little bit. I mean we wouldn’t call our president like a brown-eyed president, you know? Like, he’s the president, you know? He can hang! We voted for him. He’s the brother.

You have about five completed songs for your third full-length album right now. How many do you think will complete the record?

I always shoot for 10. I always think 10, I don’t know why, for a record, I just like that number. But um, you know, for me it’s all about the songs if we, like I usually shoot for like between to record between 25 and 30 songs and narrow it down from there to the best ones.

Wow! How many songs do you have just lying around then already recorded?

I think I probably have stockpiled, like since I started writing for this record, like thirty songs. I’m kind of like a “song a day” person when I’m writing. I like to just have a song, get it done, get it to the point where I can put it to rest and move on. Then I’ll look back on it and if it still has weight later on then to me that’s what a good song means. When you create music you get attached to it emotionally kind of. It’s kind of really weird and you can just love a song and it’s really not that good, you know. You’re just like maybe you had a really good time creating it or maybe you there was this one lyric that you were so pumped about but overall it’s just not that great of a song. So, I attempt to try and like keep my emotional connection with the recordings at this point, very sober.

Well I think that that’s good. Then you can be emotionally drunk with the finished product.

Exactly! F

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