Soul singer Allen Stone writes music that doesn’t just sound pretty, but is real and relatable.
“I want to write music that’s joyful and inciteful, that talks about real things and hopefully is an inspiration,” Stone said.
Cal Poly will host the singer along with comedian W. Kamau Bell at Unite Cal Poly, Tuesday at the Christopher Cohen Performing Arts Center (PAC). The concert is the first of its kind and is planned to be an annual celebration of diversity and inclusivity. Unite Cal Poly is scheduled during the same time that controversial “alt-right” speaker Milo Yiannopoulos will be speaking at Alex and Faye Spanos Theatre.
“It’s an alternative for individuals who don’t have time for rhetorics of hate and discrimination,” Stone said. “I’m hoping that this event will continue the fight for love and hope and faith.”
Stone was born in 1987 in Chewelah, Washington and grew up in a Christian home. Though Stone didn’t relate to the religious lifestyle of his family, their Christianity played a big role in his entry into the music world. Stone frequently watched his father, a minister, and his mother lead their church’s congregation in chorus. By age 11, Stone was playing guitar and writing his own music.
“Not only did I learn at a young age that I could sing and had pitch, but I loved singing in my church and with a group of people,” Stone said. “I loved the frequencies and tones and sounds. It gave me a high which I didn’t get in my home.”
In fact, Stone thought that his calling in life was to be a worship leader, until he went to Moody Bible Institute in Spokane, Washington.
“I learned about the the history of Catholicism and the Christian Church and I flipped 180 [degrees],” Stone said.
Stone dropped out of school at 19 and moved to Seattle to pursue music. From there, he drove up and down the West Coast, playing any gig he could get. Stone worked on his music day and night, performing at every college event opportunity and passing out CDs. Though Stone’s transition to pursuing music was difficult for his parents, Stone never lost their support.
The singer said that musical heroes such as Stevie Wonder, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Frank Ocean contributed to his inspiration and soulful style.
“I’ve always felt connected to the style of soul music,” Stone said. “There’s elements of funk and country. Every style of music comes from the same shit.”
In 2010, Stone self-released his debut album “Last to Speak.” A collaboration with former Miles Davis’ keyboardist Deron Johnson, his follow-up, self-titled album earned Stone considerable recognition. Following its digital release, the album hit top-five on the iTunes R&B/Soul chart.
The album secured Stone an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s talk show and positive reviews in The New York Times and on NPR. After partnering with ATO Records for a physical release of “Allen Stone” in 2012, the singer made an appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and landed a gig opening for Al Green. Today, Stone has performed on every continent except for Antarctica.
“I went from struggling to pay rent and living on peoples’ couches to not having enough time to be at my apartment and it’s been like that ever since,” Stone said. “If you would have told me that ten years ago, I would’ve laughed at you.”
Currently, Stone is working on his fourth album, which he is writing with his band for the first time. Stone said that he wants the new record to be more joyful than “Radius,” his last record released in 2014.
“My last record was darker music and I am attempting to calm that,” Stone said.
Although Stone plans on performing music from all three albums at Unite Cal Poly, he said that the majority of his songs will come from “Radius.”
Events like Unite Cal Poly which seek to unify students of all backgrounds are important to Stone.
“We’re a diverse world and colorful globe,” Stone said. “Celebrating diversity so people can take pride in the event and ideology is very important.”
Stone said he hopes to give students inspiration through his music in the midst of a difficult time in history.
“We have no idea of what’s happening on the forefront of our country and globe. The hate and tyranny is on the front of every paper and TV screen,” Stone said. “I pray that my music can allow kids to escape that reality and rejuvenate their spirits to go back into the world and fight back and bring collectiveness.”
Tickets for Unite Cal Poly are free to current Cal Poly students, staff and faculty, but reservations are required. Tickets are available at the PAC ticket office.