Yesterday, 19 Recordings announced that it has signed American Idol season 8 champ Kris Allen – surprise! (Ha.) In a statement, Allen teased what the album might sound like: “It will be very similar to what you heard from me on the show – definitely in the pop/rock genre.” During my recent interview with Allen, he told me pretty much the same thing, though he also added, “The way I came across on the show is a guy and his guitar, but I want to come across as more the soft-rock kind of thing… hopefully something that not everyone has seen before. I think that some people will be very surprised by it – certain songs, people will be like, ’Didn’t expect that.’ Just like the whole 'Heartless' thing – people were not expecting me to do that song. And it worked out. So I think you’ll see things like that. I think it’s going to be very cool.”
Since he was still in the process of working out who he was going to work with on the album, Allen was understandably reticent to get more specific than that. But he had plenty to say about the music that has shaped him so far. So in the hope of tiding you ravenous Allen fans over until the fall release of his debut record, I offer you the following tidbits. Oh, and I fully expect to hear a collective awww… after you read the part about him dancing to Jacko all by his lonesome. (Also, in the rare chance that you missed it, do check out Idolatry's terrific five-part interview with Allen; link below.)
On playing the viola
I started playing viola when I was in fourth grade. But it was kind of like a requirement. I never hated it or anything, but it was never something that I loved. We had an orchestra and it was like, a couple of my friends play the viola, so I was like, “I’ll play the viola.” We had to play something, I just picked that. All my friends stopped playing but I kept playing until the end of high school.
On growing up musical
My dad was a musician. He was a singer and he played the guitar, so music was always around. I never really wanted to pick up [the guitar] until I was 13. One summer, during the day [when] my parents were working and we were home alone, my brother would go to the pool and hang out with girls and do whatever. I would just hang out in the house. No one had a clue what I was doing. I was teaching myself how to play the guitar.
On Michael Jackson and his other favorite artists back in the day
I was a huge, huge, huge fan of Michael Jackson. Almost too big of a fan. He’s one of the best ever.I would sit in my room and put on a hat and try to dance in front of the mirror. All this stuff on my own, never in front of people. I was too embarrassed. I started listening to him and then started listening to a lot of R&B stuff like Boyz II Men, II. I grew up listening to that. I love that. [Singing] “I’ll make love to you…” Probably not a good idea [for a 9-year-old kid]. And then I think my next CD was TLC, Crazy Sexy Cool. My parents were totally cool with it – maybe they didn’t know exactly. They were young and they tried to be cool. [Laughs]
What he’s listening to now
A lot of different stuff. Love Coldplay. Coldplay’s first CD, I think it’s amazing. The Kings of Leon CD is incredible. I like Mutemath a lot. The Kanye CD [808s & Heartbreak], it’s amazing, one of the best of the decade, probably.
On being his own artist in the, eh-hem, often controlling recording industry
I am really laid back and kind of go-with-the-flow, but I will never do anything that I don’t believe in. So if there’s a song that they’re trying to shoot at me and I’m like, ehhhh, then it probably won’t happen. I think it would just be uncomfortable. You can’t do something that you don’t feel good about.
And just because… On adjusting to overnight heartthrob status
I always try to take it with a grain of salt, because being that is not going to get me anywhere. I just hope I can put out good music. It’s weird. But [my wife is] amazing at dealing with it. They ask her for her autograph as well. [Laughs]
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