Seattle’s favorite blue-eyed soul singer is launching his Capitol Records debut, “Radius,” with an ambitious, weeklong stretch of concerts here.
The evolution of soul singer Allen Stone has taken him from Chewelah — a small town north of Spokane where he sang in his father’s church as a boy — to concert stages around the world.
With a sound reminiscent of Stevie Wonder, Stone’s self-titled 2011 album — which followed his modest 2010 debut, “Last to Speak” — rocketed to the Top 10 of Billboard’s Heatseekers chart for fast-emerging artists.
Now, Stone is coming home — to Seattle, the city that first embraced the 28-year-old singer with the blond curls and ready smile — to deliver “Evolution of an Artist,” a five-concert series that traces Stone’s growth as a performer, as well as previewing songs from his Capitol Records debut, “Radius,” due May 26.
Concert series preview
‘Evolution of an Artist’
7:30 p.m. Monday, April 13, at the Triple Door, 216 Union St., Seattle; $45-$95 (206-838-4333 or thetripledoor.net); 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, at Nectar Lounge, 412 N. 36th St., Seattle; $40 advance (206-632-2020 or nectarlounge.com); 8 p.m. Thursday, April 16, at the Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave., Seattle; $35-$85 (206-441-4618 or thecrocodile.com); 8 p.m. Friday, April 17, at Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., Seattle; $30-$80 (206-709-9467 or neumos.com); and 8 p.m. Saturday, April 18, at the Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., Seattle; $21.25-$50, weeklong pass, $300 (877-784-4849 or stgpresents.org).
Stone opens the weeklong juggernaut Monday, April 13, at the Triple Door, followed by shows at Nectar Lounge, the Crocodile, Neumos and the Paramount Theatre.
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Five shows in one week is an ambitious gambit, even for a much-loved local freshly signed to a major label. But it seems to be working. Ryan Cook, the talent buyer for STG Presents, which operates the Paramount Theatre, says Stone’s first four shows have already sold out “and the Paramount is on its way. I think that just shows how popular he is in the area.”
The novel idea of doing a series of Seattle shows to promote the album came up during Stone’s meetings with his management company, GreenLight Media & Marketing. (Microsoft is partnering with GreenLight to produce video content from the shows for Xbox Live and other platforms.) The string of concerts is the first in GreenLight’s “Evolution of an Artist” series, which in the future will feature other artists in other cities.
“Everyone, whether an artist or not, began their careers somewhere — and this series encourages the fans and artists to retrace their footsteps while moving on toward the next chapter,” said Dominic Sandifer, president of GreenLight. “Allen is the perfect representation of the series.”
Stone felt Seattle was the right place to start.
“It’s kind of where my heart is and where my home is,” he said cheerfully in a phone interview from Los Angeles. “It’s really the town that championed me in the beginning.”
Stone’s latter-day hippie look doesn’t quite match the silky sound that comes from his golden throat. But fans have eagerly connected with his rockin’ soul revues.
Growing up as a pastor’s son, Stone was discouraged from listening to secular music as a kid. But as a teenager, he discovered Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Sly Stone and others, who provided inspiration for his songwriting ambitions.
Stone later attended Moody Bible Institute in Spokane, but decided that Bible study wasn’t for him.
“It had become this monkey on my shoulders that kept me feeling guilty all the time instead of just living my life and being excited about it,” he said.
Though his career flourished in Seattle, he maintained close ties to Chewelah in Stevens County, where he spends half the year at his cabin studio, making music and doing the outdoorsy stuff he can’t do while on tour.
“Radius” was recorded mostly at the cabin, as well as at studios in Los Angeles and Malmo, Sweden. Stone worked with producers Benny Cassette and Grammy-winning musician Magnus Tingsek, a close friend and collaborator.
Accompanying him this week is his longtime band, featuring drummer Jason Holt, organist Greg Ehrlich, keyboardist Steve Watkins, bassist Brent Rusinow and guitarist Trevor Larkin, as well as background singers Dani Elliott and Jessica Childress and horn players Evan Oberla and John Landry.
“I’ve spent close to three years on this record,” Stone said. “My life has changed dramatically in the course of writing it. I went from sleeping on couches and hardly being able to pay rent to traveling the world and playing on every continent except Antarctica.”
The album’s spirited blend of soul, R&B and funk features insightful lyrics about love, politics, religion and American life.
“It’s a record I’m really proud of,” Stone said. “I think my last record felt more like a soul-throwback revue, and maybe I was paying homage to people that I loved while growing up. This record feels more like my actual voice.”
The reflective “Upside,” the first single from “Radius,” is about the Newtonian forces of love.
“Love is like gravity,” Stone sings. “It pulls me down equally/ And draws me back every time/ This love is a heavy kind.”
Explains Stone: “Love does seem to have — at least in my life — that weight to it.”
“Fake Future,” one of the album’s more acerbic songs, takes aim at the superficiality of some of today’s recording artists: “What good is my microphone / If I don’t really sing?/ What good is my music/ If it ain’t really me?”
“Nowadays, studios manipulate it,” he said. “It’s like the photo of the girl you see on the magazine. It’s a nice representation of the girl, but it’s not the girl. That’s what records are nowadays. And even though I know the Father John Mistys and the Head and the Hearts of the world are making real music, the majority of artists aren’t making records that way anymore.”
Looking to the future, Stone isn’t sure where his career will eventually lead him.
“I would love to sell millions of records. I would love to be the biggest, most famous pop star of all time,” he said. “But at this point, I just want to play music for as many people as I can. For the rest of my life. That’s really my goal at this point.”
If the success of the “Evolution” gamble here is any measure, perhaps Stone’s ambition to be that big and famous isn’t all that unrealistic.