Interview: Kris Allen

bill bodkin lives like he’s dying…

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Three years ago Kris Allen strummed his way into the hearts of the American populace becoming the 2010 American Idol. His humble smile and his reserved manner combined with his intoxicating voice and unique take on modern day (remember his take on Kanye’s “Heartless”?) and legendary musical classics (he killed it with Bill Withers “What’s Going On?”, made him America’s singing sweetheart.

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Fast forward a few years in the future and as American Idol rolls into a new season, we find Kris Allen, no longer on a major label, grinding it out on the road, performing in more intimate venues, and with a busted hand.

Yet, speaking to him on the phone you can literally hear that famed smile coming across Allen’s face as this writer regales with a silly tale about his mother-in-law voting for Allen 25 times in one day.

“Is she coming out to the show tonight?” Allen inquires sincerely.

When I respond no, you can literally hear the disappointment in his voice…but then as it seems to be part of his mantra this year, he looks at the bright side of things. “Well…thank her for the votes, every single one of them counted.”

And this is why Kris Allen is our American Idol — he exudes a never-say-die attitude, relishes working hard and is always on the look out to do the right thing for others — all qualities of what an American should be “idolized” for.

And Allen has plenty of reason to be upbeat these days. On January 1, he announced via Twitter that he and his wife were expecting his first child. Allen, when speaking of this subject, totally has the ‘I’m-super-excited-but-I’m-super-nervous’ tone that every soon-to-be-dad has. And being a dad is a big part of how he wants to define his new year.

“I want to work on being a good dad first and then work on new music second” he states with the utmost resolve.

And new music will be coming much more freely these days and Allen can’t hide his excitement.

“It’s really exciting, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. But that’s fun. I think the fans are seeing the excitement and that spark of creativity, now that I’m in charge.”

And this new role of holding the reigns of his career comes from Allen’s decision to split with RCA Records after the release of his sophomore record, Thank You Camelia. While Allen enjoyed the recording of the album, due mainly to the fact he actually got to play on this record as opposed to his first post-Idol release, he enjoys having complete control of the reigns. Nowadays, he get into the studio without label expectations and create and release new music at his own pace and frequency.

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His first foray into his own, self-produced material came in December of 2012 with a holiday EP with the highlight being his cover of Burl Ives’ “Holly Jolly Christmas.”

“Every Christmas we’d bring out the VHS copy we had of the claymation version of Rudolph. It had Burl Ives as the snowman singing…that’s Christmas for me.”

He also created a song that has helped the country heal. While performing some of his Christmas songs online for his faithful fans, he decided to perform a newly inked song “Where Are You, Amy” and dedicate it to the victims of the senseless Newtown, CT school tragedy.

“I had written the song months before the tragedy. I was just thinking the lyrics and the song hit home with everything. For some reason it made sense. I can’t imagine what these people are going through, but I think music can really help people.”

Helping people through music is a mantra Allen seems to live by. On his current tour, he’s brought the charitable group World Vision on the road with him. Allen encourages his audiences to visit the World Vision booth and help sponsor a child over in Africa. He hopes that the sponsoring can help provide food, education and hope for the future for a child in Africa. “They shouldn’t have to worry about [eating] they should worry about wanting to become doctors or whatever they want to be.”

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Of course, one can’t talk to Kris Allen without asking a few American Idol questions.

“If you want to know if my season was the best…of course it was,” Allen laughingly boasts.

But in all seriousness, what does the former winner think of the current seasons?

“I watched a lot of last season. The people I was recording with were really into it, so they DVR’ed it. I thought [last season] was more about contestants than it had been. This year…I have no idea. My boy Keith [Urban] and Randy [Jackson] are still up there, so hopefully they’ll keep it focused on what’s right.”

And if Allen were to collaborate on a song with a cast member from his season, who would it be?

“I really enjoyed Anoop Desai,” says Allen. “He’s become a really great songwriter. I’ve got a lot of respect for him. If I had to call anyone [from that season] to write a song with it’d be him.”

So while American Idol might be unveiling a new season of hopefuls, there’s one Idol still out there busting it in front of crowds with a bright, unfettered future in front of him.

Kris Allen performs tonight in Philly at World Cafe Live. Tickets are available by clicking this link.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site’s podcast, The BreakCast.┬áHe is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

1 COMMENT

  1. I just saw his new show and I don’t know how else to say it, you are really missing something if you don’t go. You will have a blast. If you like a down to earth artist with a fantastic voice, musical skills, songwriting ability, etc., plus just a mostly very fun, sometimes moving show, you’ll love it. Afterwards you feel like you know him, and his band. They have a great time up there and everybody there has a great time, too. Recommended.

  2. Kris Allen is one of the hardest working people I know and has a golden voice and heart of gold. He is always thinking of others. I have been to many of his shows. They are so fun and entertaining. Do yourself a favor and go to one of his shows. Congrats to Kris and Katy on their “little baby on the way”. We are so excited for them and so thankful that they survived the head-on collision on New Year’s Day!

  3. Lovely article .Tell your mother in law she should try to see Kris Allen tonight.Kris’s beautiful voice,incredible musicianship and charming personality really shine live.
    By the way ,did you know that he announced his head on collision and baby news in same tweet.He broke his wrist and had surgery less then a week ago and is performing with a huge caste and a lot of pain.He did a concert in Ct last night a few miles from Newtown,and sang that song.It was beautiful and heart wrenching.
    His new album.Thank You Camellia,is a great album which got wonderful reviews from EW and USA Today.Kris is a very gifted songwriter.
    Kris actually won in 2009,not 2010.

  4. This is such an awesome article and exactly what Kris deserves – for people to recognize his incredible talent! Thank you for giving Kris his due!

  5. Thanks for the interview. Looking forward to seeing Kris on Jan 14 on his Out Alive tour. Will be my 4th time seeing him live and he is awesome. Just a slight correction. Kris did do a Bill Withers song during his season but it was the memorable “Ain’t No Sunshine”. He also did “What’s Going On” but that was a Marvin Gaye song. Just 2 of many super performances that WON him the title that season.

  6. how the hell have I not seen this before, I love it & i LOVE LOVE LOVE KRIS, whoever has a chance to see him live and is too lazy to go, he’ll be missing out on a huge life changing experience! Yes, I said that & I mean every word!