INTERVIEW: Kris Allen on “TEN”, what this tour means to him and reflections on his past
In chatting with Kris Allen recently on his first night of his TEN tour, it truly hit me how long I’ve been covering music. It really has kick-started a lot of reflection lately. Reflection that went down in this interview on both sides. My first year interviewing bands happened to be the year Allen took the crown on American Idol and we took quite the look back together.
This tour is something to be seen, a true story telling experience over two hours, and with our chat taking place on the first night of the tour I saw myself the preparation Allen had done in anticipation. His notebook filled with pages of song titles, story ideas and then a blank page for him to compose that nights set list. Find our chat below!
It hasn’t been too long since our last chat, it was late last year. For this album, maybe when did you realize this was something you wanted to do?
Earlier this year, some one mentioned to me, kind of brought it to my attention that this was ten years of you doing this. Like being on the show and everything else. I was like, ‘Oh man, that’s crazy’. And I just kind of let it sit there. But then I wanted to do something to celebrate bit also say thank you to the fans that have been on the journey for so long. So I wanted to do shows then my manager was like why don’t you do some songs? What if you revisited some songs and I thought that was a cool idea. So we just kind of did it. Right before my son Marco was born, and it’s been good. I think people enjoy it.
Then when it comes to it, I know it’s still so new, it’s only about ten days old. Really new. But when it came to picking the songs to do, obviously you have, ‘Live Like You’re Dying”, “Waves” but how did you go about choosing these songs?
So full disclosure, the plan was to only do songs from the first record. Like I went in the day of and was like I’m going to do “Live Like You’re Dying”, “Before We Come Undone”, “Red Guitar”, “Written All Over My Face” and “I Need to Know”. I know that those songs can kind of still live today. I’m still proud of them and they are core. Then I went in the day of and somebody went, “You need more songs, Kris.” I just went, “…what?”
And so I toyed with the idea of doing the whole first record. And I just didn’t think that it was going to be something that people would want to listen to. I just think some of them don’t stand the test of time, of ten years of time. So I picked a song from each record, from each of the other ones, that I haven’t done a version of. So it was finding which one of those kind of fit into that mold.
And at least from reading about it and hearing you talk about it, it’s kind of you covering yourself, these reimaginations. Did you really mess around with the arrangements of the songs? How long was that process once you were in the studio?
Kind of took it song by song. Each song needed a different treatment. Some of them needed to be completely stripped down and I feel like “Written All Over My Face” needed that. It didn’t need to feel like this rock song anymore. I don’t think I would ever write that song or record the song the way it was again. I actually liked the song at it’s core and was like “What can I do with this.” So I just stripped it completely down. Then there’s stuff like “Everybody Just Wants to Dance”, where stuff while I was recording happened. I started to do some things, thinking how I could make it groovier and stuff like that. So coming up with parts. “Red Guitar” was one of those that I had written before the show. I wrote the song, I made a demo of it at my house on Garage Band. And I remember the demo not having a chorus after the first verse, and I thought it could be kind of cool to do that. Because when we put a chorus after the first verse, I still liked that, but I was like what if I just take it back to what it was before. Back to where it’s at it’s impetus.
It must be really crazy for you to kind of look back at some of these songs.
It blew my mind. In a good way, a bad way. I had to kind of do some things that I had never done before. I’m not good at watching myself. I’m not even good at listening to myself. And I think that’s fairly common. But for this I had to. It was part of the process of putting this record together, putting this tour together. I had to go back and go, “What was this?” Some of it hit me pretty hard, like I can’t believe that happened. Because it still doesn’t feel real to me. It feels like a different lifetime, like a different person. It almost feels like I’m stealing a little bit, it’s just weird.
From Kris Allen ten years ago.
Yeah, I don’t know who that guy is. I don’t even know if I’d like that guy. Change is good and I think I’ve changed. But I think the ways that I’ve changed, arches, it’s just a lot. I don’t know if I’m a better human but I’m a better musician. I’m better at those things.
I mean, it’s true, it was ten years ago. You’ve gone thru a lot since the show. You have a family, the accident back in the day.
It’s been a lot. I feel like ten years doesn’t feel that long. Maybe in my lifetime’s case, it’s been a lot.
I mean, ten years, that’s when I first started interviewing bands. It doesn’t feel like it’s been ten years.
So you’ve been doing this for ten years. That’s great, but do you feel different?
Feel like you’re better at it?
I mean, I’ve interviewed you before so obviously aim not coming into this blind. But oh yeah. I didn’t know what I was doing. I’d be like, “What’s your favorite snack?” Or one time I left my phone on the bus after one and the guy I interviewed literally picked it up and was like, “Hello?” And I remember I asked him if people moshed to his music. But some of those bands are bands who I’ve interviewed like twelve times now over the years. And if I don’t say hi to them, they get offended.
I’m with you though. Because I think I run into people that were part of the journey a long time ago. I feel the same way, like that they don’t want anything to do with me. They don’t care about me. And they absolutely do.
Recently I saw one of my long time favorites play, Augustana. They did the song Boston?
Oh yeah, I was singing it today.
Aw! So he played a solo date a few weeks back, I knew he knew who I was but I’ve only interviewed him like twice. I was talking to a few friends outside after, I didn’t realize how late it had gotten. And he came up to me, grabbed my hand and just went “It’s really good to see you Colleen”. I was like this is weird but they were like no, you’ve been there supporting him. I think the first time I saw him play was when I was 20, I’m 31 now. But you never want to assume people remember you. You probably recognize people.
I do all the time. I see people at shows that have been going to shows for the past ten years. It doesn’t feel like, “Hey let’s just take a picture and leave situation”. It’s become more than that. I almost feel bad that they play for meet and greets sometimes because I’m like, ‘You know we’re going to talk after the show. I’m going to see you and ask how you are. This is just for like getting in the door early.”
They probably are the same way.
Yeah, I think in their humble ways, I think they think I don’t want to spend time talking to them. But I’m more than happy to. I like talking to people. Here’s what I’ve learned over doing this for this long, and in looking back on these last couple months, is that I didn’t do this by myself. I couldn’t have, I’m not good enough, I’m not selfish enough to do this for myself and by myself. I needed all those people to believe in me and come to me after the shows and go, “Kris, we love your new song. What are you doing? When’s the new record coming out? We love you.” That’s it, that’s all I needed. That’s what this tour is. It’s a thank you, in whatever capacity, to anyone who was been a part of this. It’s a thank you to them for being a part of it. For the last ten years.
This is a great little spot too.
Yeah, this is a small spot. It’s the first time I’ve ever toured alone. No support, no instrumentation. I’ll do shows here and there where I’m by myself, private shows. But this full tour, for two hours, it’s just me. I’m kind of nervous.
This is day one right?
Yeah, day one. And I don’t have a set list, as you can see. I’ve got a lot of songs and ideas but I don’t have a set for today. Working on it.
Then I’ll let you get some time to get ready. But this is day one, obviously a big venture, being vulnerable and being the only person up there. So maybe focuses or goals for this tour? What do you want this tour to be? Maybe the next few months for you?
I want it to be a celebration. I want it to be a look back but not in, “These are the good old days”. I want people to come to the shows and feel like, “Man, a lot has happened over the past ten years”. And I want them to leave going, “Okay but it’s not over. Awesome, I can’t wait for the next step.” That’s what I want.
That’s why there’s nine songs on the “Ten” record.
Because there’s things to come.
Yeah it’s not done yet. I want people to leave going, “All that has happened in the last ten years has been great but I can’t wait to see what’s next.” Maybe people care about that, maybe they don’t.
They most definitely do care.