Allen Stone


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Since making his full-length debut in 2010, Allen Stone has built a devoted following on the strength of his deeply reflective yet wide-eyed and radiant form of soul music. On his new album Apart, the Washington-based singer/songwriter reimagines some of his most beloved songs to date, stripping each lavishly arranged track back to the very essence of its creation. Not only an ideal showcase for his powerfully emotive voice, the result is a testament to the magic within Stone’s artistry: a profound understanding of music’s potential to imprint upon our lives, and a commitment to creating the kind of songs that endlessly impart wisdom and comfort and undeniable joy.

“The crazy thing about a song is you write it in a particular moment and then, if you’re lucky, you get to keep playing that song over and over for the rest of your life,” says Stone. “This album was a way to pay homage to the songs that have been my foundational support for the last decade, and to also pay homage to all the people who’ve loved these songs over the years.” 

As Stone reveals, recording Apart was a longtime dream finally realized in the depths of the pandemic. “The songs I love most pretty much always start out with just me and a piano or a guitar,” he says. “But then when you go to record, you end up putting all this production behind them—you’re taking the original structure and adding shingles and paint and fancy windows, and eventually you can’t see the floorboards anymore. I’ve always wanted to see if I could pull it off to put something down on wax that’s just my voice and an instrument and really nothing else.”

The follow-up to his fourth album Building Balance—a 2019 release that arrived just months before the world went into lockdown—Apart came to life at Bear Creek Studio in Woodinville, Washington. Over the course of three 10-day sessions, Stone holed up with producer Ryan Hadlock (Brandi Carlile, Vance Joy, The Lumineers) and engineer Taylor Carroll in a converted barn on a 10-acre farm, working in an environment of intense seclusion. “I’d never met Ryan or Taylor, and on the first day there was some fear,” Stone recalls. “At the start I was like, ‘This is so weird: I’m by myself on a farm, masked up and six feet apart from everyone—there’s no vibe at all.’ But then once we tracked the first song and found our groove, everything shifted. I realized that however awkward it felt to work like that, this was going to be an incredible experience.”

Featuring 11 songs culled from his last three albums—and one exquisite Bob Marley cover—Apart kicks off with the dreamy rumination of “Unaware.” In a departure from the lush and eclectic arrangement of the original (a cut from his 2011 self-titled sophomore effort), the track unfolds in sparse acoustic guitar work that sweetly heightens its mood of aching frustration. “When I wrote ‘Unaware’ the goal was to write a protest song that sounds like a love song,” says Stone. “At the time I was just starting to think about politics and how the world around me operates, and it definitely came from a place of mid-20s angst, where I was so sure of everything. Now that I’m in my mid-30s and just attempting to understand how 401ks work and how to raise children—let alone anything about global financial markets—I realize I actually don’t know anything at all.” 

One of the most breathtaking moments on Apart, “Bed I Made” finds R&B star Alessia Cara joining Stone for a serendipitous duet. “Right around the time when we’d gotten that whole song finished, Alessia posted a cover of herself signing the same tune,” Stone remembers. “We reached out to her asking if she wanted to do a cameo on the album, and she was gracious enough to share her talents with us.” With Stone and Cara trading off lines to spellbinding effect, “Bed I Made” eases the original tempo to a glorious slow burn, lending a hypnotic new texture to the song’s message of emotional responsibility. “I think one of the biggest obstacles to becoming an adult is accepting that you’re the root of most of the problems you see in your life,” says Stone, who penned “Bed I Made” in his late teens and included it on the deluxe edition of his 2015 album Radius. “I wrote that song when I was just starting to learn that lesson, and to this day the idea that pointing the finger doesn’t get you anywhere is something I’m still figuring out.”

All throughout Apart, the simplicity of each song affirms Stone’s gift for drawing immense power from the most nuanced expression. On “Consider Me,” he twists a stunning standout from Building Balance into a gorgeously stark declaration of love, layering countless vocal takes to create a gospel-sized choir. “I’ve always felt uncomfortable writing about love and romance, but there was something so delicate and humble about the idea of just saying, ‘Consider Me,’” says Stone, who co-wrote the track with Nasri (a songwriter/producer known for his work with artists like Halsey and Shakira). A more inward-looking piece, “Where You’re At” threads a bit of warmly delivered insight through its bright and poignant piano melodies (the song’s central refrain: “Keep your dirt on the surface and just love where you’re at”). “If that’s not my favorite song I’ve written, it’s up there,” says Stone of the soul-soothing cut from Radius. “A lot of the time when you’re given a microphone, the inclination is to try to say something big and important. But ‘Where You’re At’ is just about admitting to your faults, and there’s a humility in that that’s really special to me.” And on “Is This Love,” Stone closes out Apart by transforming Bob Marley’s classic love song into a luminous piano ballad laced with his heart-stopping vocal runs. “I heard Corinne Bailey Rae’s version of ‘Is This Love’ and thought it was the best cover song I’d ever heard, so I decided to do a cover of her cover,” says Stone. “There’s something about her arrangement and that six-eight groove that makes me want to sing my ass off. And every time I do sing it, it makes me feel like I can fly.” 

Raised in the small Washington town of Chewelah, Stone grew up on gospel music and spent much of his childhood watching his parents sing in church. By the age of 11 he’d learned to play guitar and started writing his own songs, which he then captured on self-recorded demo tapes he later handed out to his classmates. At the age of 22, he self-released his debut album Last To Speak, and soon set to work on his self-titled follow-up. Featuring former Miles Davis keyboardist Deron Johnson, Allen Stone marked a major breakthrough, hitting the top 10 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart and landing him an opening slot on tour with soul legend Al Green (in addition to paving the way for his signing to ATO Records). As Stone took up a rigorous touring schedule and tore through nearly 600 shows in just two years, he next collaborated with Swedish soul singer Magnus Tingsek for the making of Radius, a major-label effort that debuted at No. 80 on the Billboard 200 chart. When it came time to create Building Balance, Stone enlisted British musician Jamie Lidell as producer and recorded with the likes of Mike Posner and Emily King, arriving at an acutely personal body of work that—according to a glowing review from The Line of Best Fit—“justifies his position as one of the most exciting and individual musicians in America.”

For Stone, the making of Apart allowed for a rare period of prolonged self-reflection. “I was pretty much out at Bear Creek by myself the whole time, so it was a good opportunity to sit with the tunes and think about my relationship with them over the last ten years,” he says. Noting that “all these songs have changed my life,” Stone ultimately views Apart as a document of one of the most fantastically strange moments in his career to date. “Every time I make a record I make sure to put as much of myself into as I can, because to me every record is a little breadcrumb of my existence,” he says. “When I’m however old I get the pleasure of living to, I’d like to be able to look back at this one and say, ‘Remember when we did that? Remember how weird it felt and what we had to do to get it done, and how fun it turned out to be?’ Because it really is wild, what we’ve all lived through and we’re still living through. It feels good to have created my own little time capsule of that.”