It’s no secret that America is searching for an artist to transform the current state of modern music, fix the economy and find a way to help the Chicago Cubs end their century-long battle with futility. Sadly, American Idol-winner and current harmony heartthrob Kris Allen may only cross one of the aforementioned goals off of his “to do list” this year.
“I’d like to do a lot of things in my life,” laughs the laid-back pop star. “But right now, I’m just focused on trying to grow through my music.”
Ever since Allen burst onto the scene with a 2009 American Idol victory, the 24-year-old singer/songwriter from Arkansas has become an iconic pop-culture figure thanks to his boyish good looks and Southern charm. “The whole sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll thing didn’t suit me, I guess. I’m just more of a country guy,” Allen says.
His aw-shucks attitude and adamant refusal to follow Lindsay Lohan down the celebrity walk-of-shame (which smells a lot like stale beer and Dave Coulier’s apartment), have allowed critics to pigeonhole Allen into a role that doesn’t aptly reflect his range as a musician. “Obviously I know what the perception of me is,” he says. “But I don’t think how I act offstage defines me when I’m on it. I’m always going to be the kind of person I was raised to be, but that doesn’t mean I can’t grow as an artist.”
Since shaking Ryan Seacrest’s adorable little hand after the American Idol finale last year, Allen has been trying to find his direction as a self-described “pop ’n’ roll” star. He has spent countless hours scribing songs that he feels properly reflect his unlikely journey to the apex of stardom and the challenges that lie ahead. “I always try to be real with what I’m writing.” Allen says. “I think people appreciate honest music.”
He admits that if he wants to enjoy a long and storied career, he’s going to have to turn his sincerity and passion into ubiquitous ballads.
Allen acknowledges that the business has dramatically changed over the last 20 years, noting that the value of a hit song is higher than a carefully crafted album. “It’s no secret that this entire industry is focused on singles and getting that one song that’s going to get popular on the radio,” he says.
With the advent of iTunes and Attention Deficit Disorder, the music world has haphazardly fallen into a one-hit wonder paradigm that places pressure on musicians to consistently record hit songs in order to stay in the limelight.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t in the back of my head when I sit down to write sometimes,” Allen says. “It’s impossible to describe how to write one, but the minute you play it—you just know.”
His first single, “Live Like We’re Dying,” soared up the charts and helped his debut album reach No. 11 on Billboard in November.
The airtime his prominent tune earned established the humble crooner as a mainstay artist and allowed him to avoid the post-Idol jinx that has led some cast members from seasons 2-7 to pursue work in the ever-growing “Where are they Now?” reality show industry.
“When it’s all said and done, it’s still just about the music and not the ride,” Allen says. “It lets me live my dream and share the experience with people across the country.”
One of the places Allen will entertain fans is Las Vegas. On April 23 at the Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel, he will open for country star Keith Urban for what will no doubt be a raucous crowd. “I really love this town,” Allen says. “There’s so many great people and amazing things to do. The poker tables are probably my favorite.” Allen quickly adds. “Oh, and my show, of course. I’m looking forward to that, too!”