"American Idol" alums just keep giving back. On April 1, season eight winner Kris Allen teamed up with season seven champ David Cook to co-headline a concert benefiting the internationally-recognized charity Soles4Souls, which was founded in 2006 with the aim of fighting poverty via the distribution of shoes and clothing.
Each talented artist took a turn at the mic and performed a variety of tunes for the intimate, standing room only crowd at Nashville's Bridge Building, which housed even more star power in the form of "Nashville" actor Oliver Hudson. The evening also saw Allen give fans a sneak peek at two tracks, entitled "Paul Simon" and "Everybody Needs to Dance," from his soon-to-be-released third album, which Allen called "almost completely done."
The event, which celebrated a brand new partnership between Barefoot Wine & Bubbly and Soles4Souls, collected enough donations to provide for more than 1,500 needy people.
Examiner spoke exclusively with Allen on March 31. The friendly singer-songwriter talked on a number of topics, including the best thing about being a dad to infant son Oliver, the best song from his upcoming album, and his opinion of co-concert headliner Cook.
How did you come to be involved with Soles4Souls?
Allen: We got offered to do the show, and I always look at what is it about, and check it out, and it seems right in line with things that I've done before. I really enjoy getting involved with things that are going to help people and this just seems like a great way to do it, when you talk about something as simple as shoes, and those guys are really doing it.
You're heavily involved with charities. You could really easily, as a musician, go into a bubble and just work on your music frenetically, but you decided you're going to help out consciously. What is it that inspires you to reach out as much as you do?
Allen: I've been doing things for a long time. Even before Idol I've been able to go on mission trips and kind of see he needs of the world and whenever anything happened for me, I decided to make it a priority... to put more attention on things like this, such as Soles4Souls.
What's the best word to describe working with David Cook?
Allen: I haven't worked with David often... when I was on ["American Idol"] he came and we got to chat a little bit and he's a great guy. He offered his number and said if you ever have any questions man just let me know... I've done that, I've actually taken him up on it I think it was right after the show, I texted and was like 'David, how do you do this?' and he was just really sweet about it. When you come off the shoe there's only a couple people that have gone through what you've gone through and he's one of them. So there's a bond there.
I know you're a new dad. How does being a dad influence your music?
Allen: Oh my gosh, so much. It's a motivator because your'e not doing it for yourself anymore. It doesn't matter what I think about [my music]; it's 'what is he going to think about it?' It's been cool to kind of get out of our own head a little bit and... think about things in a little bit different light. I think it's better; I think it made [my upcoming record], better having him in my life.
What's the tone of the new music?
Allen: I would say it's more personal.... I feel like I was in control over everything. In the last five years I've learned a lot and I've needed to learn a lot. I got connected with a really great producer here in Nashville, Charlie Peacock, and he kind of led me in the right direction. It just feels more mature... in the songwriting and the production. More mature in a good way, not in like a 'I'm making a Tom Jones record' [way]. It just feels like everything has a purpose.
The first record when you come off the show always feels really fast, really kind of disjointed. I had a long time to make the second one, and I love that second record. I feel like it was definitely me figuring [things] out. And then some things happened in my life. I had a kid and I also went through... a really bad car wreck, and I had a bunch of surgeries on my hand so physically playing has been a little bit different. It changed my songwriting and the way I play guitar. This kind of music just came out naturally after that, and it feels... [after a long pause] Everything happens for a reason, and so far it's been good. I've tried to make the most of the situation.
Is there a particular song that you're really excited about?
Allen: It probably goes through cycles, but I keep going back to one because it was the first song that I wrote. It's called "Beautiful and Wild." I wrote it and was like 'this is it. This is what feels really good.' I felt really proud of it, like the lyrics are really good. I think that song kind of birthed a lot of other songs as well.
And just because I can, I have five quick and easy questions for you.
Favorite TV show?
Allen: "Boy Meets World."
Favorite musical act?
Allen: Michael Jackson.
Last movie you saw?
Allen: "The Land Before Time."
Best thing about being a dad?
Allen: When he puts his arms up and wants me to pick him up.