Allen Stone, a Man with a Message and a Voice

Up-and-coming soul singer Allen Stone, who has earned praise from the likes of USA Today and The New York Times, is busy on a worldwide tour but will soon find his way to Whitman for a show in the Reid Ballroom. The Pioneer caught up with him on the phone to get to know him before his performance on April 11 at 8 p.m.

The Pioneer: How did you get started with music?

Allen: I started singing in my dad’s church and picked up a guitar soon after that.

Pio: How did singing in church influence you as an artist?

Allen: It taught me to feel music. It showed me the passion of live music and the energy it can create.

Pio: What music did you listen to growing up?

Allen: I started with Christian music when I was young, then Cake and Dave Matthews Band when I was 10 or 11. Then I got into Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and soul music, and it’s been soul music ever since.

Pio: The R&B/soul genre has gotten pretty diverse today; how do you see yourself fitting into it?

Allen: I don’t really care about genres. There’s a lot about my music that doesn’t fit into genres, but I’m used to not fitting in. I’m a white kid from the wilderness of eastern Washington who makes music that black people usually make.

Pio: So without the crutch of using genres, how would you describe your music?

Allen: I would say to just go listen to it, define it yourself. Music is made by individuals, not corporations, so it can’t be defined by genre.

Pio: You’ve been on a few late night shows and have played at some big festivals. What do you think has been your breakout moment?

Allen: I haven’t had that moment yet. I’ve had some cool opportunities that have led to other cool opportunities, but I haven’t broken out and become a worldwide household name.

Pio: Is that your goal, to become a worldwide household name?

Allen: Yeah, I wouldn’t be talking to you about genres if I didn’t want to be a household name. I feel that I have a good perspective on life and I want to share that. R&B right now is all about sex and partying, and I want to make it mean something like Marvin Gaye did with “What’s Going On.” I don’t do it to have people throw flowers at my feet, but when I’m dead I want to have left a legacy. I want to bring music to the place it belongs. There’s so much terrible music these days. Your voice is a gift, and I think if you aren’t using it to uplift culture, then it should be ripped from your throat.

Pio: Do you ever get tired of people who talk about how your appearance doesn’t match up with your voice?

Allen: I think it’s a little bit racist, to be honest. Racism towards Caucasians in this country seems to be okay for some reason. A lot of people have described my music as “blue-eyed soul,” which I don’t get. I’m making music, and my eye color and skin color shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

Pio: What do you have planned next?

Allen: A bunch of touring for the rest of this year, and after that I’ll hop in the studio and work on my next album.




Filed under: A&E

Responses


Evan Randall Apr 11, 2013 16:01 PM

“Racism towards Caucasians in this country seems to be okay for some reason”

It is deeply shameful to see this ignorant, racist rhetoric be left unquestioned, either by the Pio or by Whitman students at large.


Aanand Sharma Apr 12, 2013 13:47 PM

In response to the above comment, I honestly don’t understand what the issue is with his comment. The context in which he made the comment makes a lot of sense…He’s a white guy singing soul music, and gets questioned about it. Even on our own campus, when asking students whether or not they were attending the concert, many people questioned his abilities because he didn’t look the part. He was asked if he got “tired of people who talk about how [his] appearance doesn’t match up with [his] voice” to which he responds, “i think it’s a little bit racist, to be honest,” which is perfectly valid…Because it has everything to do with his race! He never said that he supported racism or ignorance, but rather pointed out that apparently it’s okay to question his ability because he is caucasian.

“A lot of people have described my music as “blue-eyed soul,” which I don’t get. I’m making music, and my eye color and skin color shouldn’t have anything to do with it.” I absolutely agree with that statement, regardless of the race of the person making the statement.

I am completely open for discussion. Please don’t feel like I am attacking anybody’s feelings, but rather expressing my opinion on this situation.


Dear Evan Randall Apr 12, 2013 18:03 PM

It is even more unsettling that you have already taken an archaic stance that is leap years behind current race theory.

Have you heard of reverse racism? It is a real thing, and what he is referring to is a much larger issue than he portends. Granted, it is a subtle reference to the problems inherent to affirmative action but dear Evan, you are a dangerously cliche voice.

Take your stance here on this page instead of posting a general statement that hinders our appeal as liberal minded students with nothing to offer but passive aggressive and vapid wisps of air.


Spencer Wharton Apr 14, 2013 12:30 PM

“Have you heard of reverse racism?”

I can’t believe this continues to be trotted out as an explanation, two weeks after we had an entire symposium dedicated to this topic.

You can’t for an instant pretend to know “current race theory” and then claim that “reverse racism” is a thing. As any sociology student worth their salt–or anyone who’s actually experienced racism–should be able to tell you, racism is NOT just discrimination.

It’s not.

It’s not just about feeling slighted because of the color of your skin. It’s not just being “offended” or just being called something. Those can happen to anyone, and they’re not pleasant, but that doesn’t make them racism.

Racism is an interlocking system of power and privilege. It is discrimination, hatred, injustice, and oppression–all backed up by a systematic structure that reinforces these ideas and a historical context of power.

Racism is the fact that people of color comprise 14 percent of regular drug users but represent 37 percent of those arrested for drug offenses. [1] Racism is the fact that when convicted, black offenders face longer, harsher sentences than white offenders. [2] Racism is the fact that police forces across the nation continue to use excessive force against people of color, disproportionately so–often seriously injuring them or killing them. [3] And there are countless other statistics that are just as horrendous.

In this country, if you’re white, you have privilege. And as long as you have that privilege, you will not be the victim of racism. It doesn’t mean you can’t be discriminated against (unlikely as that may be). It doesn’t mean you won’t be stereotyped (unlikely as that may be). It doesn’t mean you won’t face hardships.

But it means that your inconveniences–being called a “cracker,” having to justify your place in your genre, not getting admitted to a college that you felt so entitled to attend–will NEVER carry the bloody, violent weight of centuries of oppression. You cannot oppress the oppressor.

“Reverse racism” is not and will never be a thing. Any “current race theory” that suggests otherwise is oblivious to the nature of racism.

[1](http://www.drugpolicy.org/race-and-drug-war)
[2](http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-quigley/fourteen-examples-of-raci_b_658947.html)
[3](http://gelvers.hubpages.com/hub/Racial-Discrimination-A-Cause-Of-Police-Brutality)


Evan Randall Apr 14, 2013 16:04 PM

I appreciate you addressing your comment to me by my full name and leaving none to address yours by. Ima call you Joe.

And yes Joe, I agree my dissent on the existence of institutional discrimination against white Americans is dangerous. Thank you!

In regards to your comment, I offer this as my vapid wisp of air:

http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m6k2ldSGOO1qzyj5fo1_500.gif

If this is not to your liking, I have others which I would be happy to share,

Love Evan


Well now… Apr 15, 2013 0:35 AM

I agree with Mr. Sharma; in and of itself, regardless of the person’s race, his point is very valid. However, when is something simply in and of itself? Of course, a person’s eye or skin color should not provide a basis on which to be judged. But where is the sensitivity to those who deal with bonafide, incessant prejudices daily? I’m not saying he is fabricating his perception of racism, but it comes off very hidebound to state this without mentioning or alluding to the much more egregious discrimination that exists and is perpetuated in some way? How about the racism endured by countless minorities EVERYDAY, in a nation (let’s face it) dominated by whites? Mr. Stone provides no context for his statements, and that is why there are justifiable reactions to his obtuse statements. He made a sweeping generalization about racism toward caucasians in this country, which undermines the very real, painful injustices incurred in a world that is centered around and built (in large part) for caucasians. If he is living in a vacuum, his statements are completely accurate; but if he recognizes the actual world surrounding him and enlightens himself on the existence of such inconvenient truths, he might produce a more perspicuous answer regarding racism, one in “which [he does] get.”


Anonymous Apr 15, 2013 21:05 PM

When responding to Allen Stone’s “racism” remark, I think it’s important that we consider the intent.

The above commenter mentioned that he left out the racism that minorities deal with throughout their lives, on a daily basis. Sure, he did–but look at the question The Pio asked him. They asked how it felt to hear he doesn’t look the part for the kind of music he makes–and he said he thought it was wrong. The interview was about him and his music (makes sense, right?). In context, his answer makes perfect sense–he’s talking about his personal reaction to something that has been directed at him. I would have been pretty surprised if he’d given a spiel about race and systemic racism, and so I don’t think it’s fair for the above commenter to place that burden on him. Given Spencer’s comment, maybe it was incorrect for him to say “racist” instead of biased, but that’s certainly not a reason for the first commenter to label his rhetoric racist. As a side note, I thought Spencer’s comment was well thought-out and informative.

In regard to Evan Randall’s comments, I don’t think either of them are fair or constructive. The first comment specifically, indicts Allen Stone for being racist without a single line of explanation. He additionally calls out the entire Whitman community for not questioning Allen Stone, which is ridiculous, considering he didn’t question Stone’s rhetoric in any insightful manner. The comment comes across as very abrasive and ignorant, considering there is no explanation of why Allen Stone’s comment is wrong, either morally (in intent) or rhetorically (in effect). The second comment is snarky and adds nothing to the discussion. Sorry ’bout it. And frankly, Stone’s comment isn’t racist in a systemic or personal way, so you’re really just devaluing the meaning of the word “racist” when you lob it around with no explanation.

I think it’s fair for Stone to be frustrated by those who categorize his music differently because he’s white. It’s not systemic discrimination, which is why Spencer’s comment is so valuable, but it is racial discrimination (albeit of a mild kind). I agree that his statement was not worded as eloquently or accurately as it could have been, but it certainly wasn’t egregiously incorrect (you could argue that racial discrimination is an element of racism, maybe even systemic racism as per the definition Spencer presented). Consider the intent–nitpicking over semantics or blaming him blinds us from considering the worth of his remarks and potentially devalues our discussions of race.


Aanand Sharma Apr 16, 2013 15:54 PM

To the author of the post titled “Well now…” as well as anybody else reading this:

I can see how your interpretation of the comment can make you unsure about the validity of Allen Stone’s comment: it’s not fair for somebody of a majority to make it seem like they have it worse off than those who may have been oppressed in the past or present. On the other hand, I think the initial understanding of the comment may be different than what was intended. I think that the large majority of people would agree that unchecked racism towards anybody is not okay, and in fact I believe this is the point that Allen Stone is actually making. Like I said in my first post, the question he was asked was almost directly about his race and about the way he looks, and he pointed out that we don’t question the “racist”/prejudiced sentiments like we would about any other race.

Just to touch on a few of the things you mentioned: “He made a sweeping generalization about racism toward caucasians in this country, which undermines the very real, painful injustices incurred in a world” — Yes, and trust me, this is something that I completely understand. Being put into a situation in which you become the minority can be very painful. Personally, being raised in a South Asian family in a very, very predominantly conservative and Caucasian neighborhood was uncomfortable (and sometimes dangerous) at times. But also keep in mind the perspective that every majority is only a majority in a certain context: if my family up and moved to India, I would no longer be a minority by race. Allen Stone is not a minority by race in the United States by any means, but he has become a minority in his musical industry, right? In a genre of music like Soul and R&B, he absolutely is in the minority. I do believe that it is unfair to make a generalization of all Caucasians. I just request that everybody remembers the context in which he was discussing.

“Mr. Stone provides no context for his statements, and that is why there are justifiable reactions to his obtuse statements.” — This has some merit to it, but it’s also unfair to expect an artist/performer who is giving a quick interview about his music before a performance to give us his complete few about racism in our country. I do agree with your statement to an extent, and I believe that maybe we should hold off on claiming that someone is racist with such a short clip of the person’s thoughts.

Thanks for the insightful comments, everybody. Send me an email if you want to have a conversation about the topic, I would be more than happy!


Aanand Sharma Apr 16, 2013 15:56 PM

Also, sorry for the long comment.

TL;DR: Come talk to me! I would love to be able to talk about this in person.


Evan Randall Apr 16, 2013 21:22 PM

Aanand, you seem to mean well but your comment about context suggests that 1) People of color control the music industry 2) Whiteness is detrimental to social status in non-white majority countries. Both of these are demonstrably not the case.

Joe:
The long things you’ve written could easily be condensed into one big attempt to justify why Allen Stone’s comment shouldn’t be criticized.

Let’s just reflect. I mean this guy uses his medium appropriated from black americans to talk about how whites are oppressed? Sit the f*** down. You blame the Pio, you blame me for pointing it out, you talk about how his intent was misinterpreted, and you just took the eloquent piece Spencer wrote and in no way reflected on how it shows that Stone’s words insult the experience of his music’s black artist roots. Somehow, you insist that this makes me the one belittling racism.

PS I promised you another gif so:

http://25.media.tumblr.com/e74e6180fea828de338d29bfe4a29ab5/tumblr_mhkgsvXEoX1qza1v1o1_500.gif


Well now… Apr 23, 2013 1:31 AM

Mr. Sharma, I appreciate your response, and I agree with you to some extent. Yet, I do not believe you (or anyone) has the power to say his comment: “Racism towards Caucasians in this country seems to be okay for some reason,” is limited in context to the music category of Soul and R&B (which I do agree he is in the minority of). I interpreted it as a general statement, which he then personalized to his own experience in the music industry (but I do recognize your interpretation of it, and I believe it is this part of his response that is causing the difference in our responses).

By the way, I am a minority who grew up in this town, so I can DEFINITELY relate to living in a predominantly conservative (and scarily ignorant, in my experience). In high school, let’s just say I have endured many utterances of the N-word and other racially charged words (majority toward latinos) on an almost daily basis. So I might have been a bit biased when first responding to Mr. Stone’s remarks.

Still, the main reason his comment does not sit well with me is the part: “which I don’t get.” I hope he is not serious. Has he not heard the analogous (and much more debasing, due to its origins): “nappy-headed hoes,” broadcasted by Don Imus on his radio show describing the female, black Rutgers Univ. basketball players. Has he not heard the pre-, during, and post- Civil Rights era phrase: “she [or he] is a n@#$er lover.” But when one of two people who hang out, start dating, or simply treat each other with dignity and respect, is a black individual, the previous racial slur should be irrelevant, for “…skin color shouldn’t have anything to do with it” (in Mr. Stone’s words). Of course Mr. Stone is right, but how can he be so tunnel-visioned not to realize the potency of those words and the STRONG association they hold with minorities? In my, and many others’, opinion it is not permissible to focus solely on the context of music (and specifically Soul/R&B), or any other medium or topic, and claim victim to racism without recognizing the institutionalized racism established by members of his race.

By the way (for the ignorant), there are still all-white counties (yes, I mean 100%) in the U.S. that disallow any sort of minority influence or interjection, or at the least make it as close to impossible for minorities to become residents of their counties. You would be very disturbed to find out (and worse, experience) inconvenient truths such as these. So I do not believe it is safe to say that we whole-heartedly question racism toward minorities in a satisfactory manner (Read “Buried in the Bitter Waters” if you’re skeptical; it definitely opened my eyes). And this example of racism is what I consider true racism, or racism that tears at the very fabric of civil and natural rights. Okay, I guess “blue-eyed soul” is racist, but it is (to reuse another person’s phrase) like “vapid wisps of air” in comparison.

Racism is too volatile of a topic not to consider one’s race and status (majority or minority) regardless of the context in which she/he is discussing, because racism cannot be bound to specific contexts, but is intertwined in countless aspects of history.

Great discussion nonetheless!


What do you think?

Please allow a few days for your response to be published.

YOU

Use your facebook name
and profile image!


View our comment policy

Your email address will not be published.