In the age-old debate between style and substance, 24-year-old soul singer Allen Stone stands as an anomaly. He manages to woo audiences with his powerhouse vocal range and charismatic stage presence without skimping on topical content.
"Music has become a back burner for a good time," Stone argues. "But a lot of people want substance to their music — more than just sex and drugs."
Although his pitch-perfect falsetto and emphatic vocal stylings leave listeners swooning, it's his physical aesthetic that defies expectations: Trading the tailored suits and crisp lines of his contemporaries for thrift-store T-shirts and rumpled cardigans from Mister Rogers' closet, Stone has fashioned an endearing shtick simply by being himself. It's something folks notice right off the bat.
"The fact that anybody is talking about me at all is incredible," Stone says. "We're very visual creatures by nature, so it is to be expected. I don't give a shit: I'm a weird-looking Seattle hippie guy, but it's just who I am."
Long before Stone's disheveled golden locks and George Costanza-esque spectacles appeared on Conan last October, he found his voice while raising it to the heavens as a preacher's son. Stone has the rare ability to turn each note into a cathartic experience, channeling the swagger of Sam Cooke, the sensuality of Marvin Gaye and the vibrancy of Stevie Wonder.
"Soul music has a tradition to it," he says. "It's all been done already — we're just keeping it alive. I'm just going to continue being me and hopefully I won't get lost in the mix."
His self-titled second album, released in October, may very well be the catapult into authenticity that the still-unsigned singer needs to ensure a long and lauded career. The 10-track release closes with the politically savvy "Unaware," a lush composition in which Stone's buttery vocals spread effortlessly over the backdrop of a sultry organ and subdued yet prominent percussion.
Long gone are the days when Stone played for a crowd of eight in a hipster-friendly coffee shop; he is now selling out venues with a 2,000-plus capacity. But regardless of his newfound fame, Stone still relishes the idea of performing in an intimate atmosphere.
"Each chance to perform is a blessing no matter the venue," he says. "But there is something special about connecting and dialoguing with each individual."
Stone performs in Pittsburgh for the first time on Feb. 13 at The Club at Stage AE. And, he has high hopes for what the audience can anticipate.
"Expect to have a good time, and to see somebody with passion and true conviction," he says. "Expect to move a little bit and to be compelled and hopefully encouraged."