IF YOU GO
What: Nightfall concert featuring Allen Stone
When: 8 p.m. Friday, July 19; Smooth Dialects opens at 7
Where: Miller Plaza, 850 Market St.
Venue website: www.nightfallchattanooga.com
Artist website: www.allenstone.com
2010: "Last To Speak"
2011: "Allen Stone"
Smooth Dialects is a recently founded soul/jazz ensemble led by the gloriously smoky pipes of vocalist Maria Jordania. For more information, visit www.Facebook.com/SmoothDialects.
With his confident, passionate delivery and a touch of emotional quiver on the back end, Allen Stone's vocals draw immediate comparisons to classic R&B crooners such as Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. As a result, his appearance almost mandates a double take.
With his wavy blond locks, trademark fedora, goofy grin and a pair of mammoth glasses perched on his nose, Stone is a poster child for defying convention and makes a compelling case for not judging a book by its cover.
Stone says he enjoys eliciting a few surprised looks and that filling a mold or preserving people's preconceptions about music is not high on his list of priorities.
"That is the music that really resonates with me," he says during a recent phone interview. "Even though I'd rather go camping, I've still got that swanky, R&B crooner style of music.
"R&B music is typically a sexy genre of music, and that's not what I'm trying to be at all. In art, it's always about the people who get it and not the people who don't. It's not a constructive avenue to walk down to worry about the couple of people who don't get it."
Plenty of people seem to have gotten it just fine. USA Today called him "a pitch-perfect powerhouse." Outlets such as CNN, Esquire and Billboard all have named him an artist-to-watch even before he was added to the ranks of the Dave Matthews-founded label ATO Records.
After a booker for "Conan" saw one of Stone's YouTube videos, he landed spots performing on the late-night show, which led to similar appearances on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "Last Call With Carson Daly," among others.
Stone's self-titled second album, which he independently released in 2011, reached the Top 10 of Billboard's Heatseekers chart and crested the top five on the iTunes R&B/Soul chart. The album was Stone's homage to artists such as Wonder, Gaye, Donny Hathaway and Lee Fields, all of whom were strongly influential to him growing up in the backwoods of Northeast Washington.
Onstage, Stone says, he approaches stagecraft by putting to work the lessons he learned watching his father, a pastor, keeping a congregation riveted.
"I feel like a little bit of that was passed down to me through him," Stone says. "Seeing him preach ... every Sunday for my whole life, I learned things about the dance with entertainment, [because] at the end of the day, that's what he was doing."
Friday, July 19, Stone will headline this week's Nightfall concert series. He's not sure whether the occasion will mark his Scenic City debut, but with 500 shows under his belt in the last two years alone, his uncertainty is forgivable.
Whether it marks his debut or a return, Stone says he hopes to create music that resonates with the audience.
"The attempt is to have everyone on the same wavelength and feeling the same things or feeling something," he says. "I want everybody ... to all jump on the train, really, and take it for a ride."
Contact staff writer Casey Phillips at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...