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Kris Allen

Wednesday

Nov 29, 2017 – 8:00 PM

33 West Street
Annapolis, MD 21401 Map

  • Kris Allen

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with Marie Miller
On New Years Day in 2013, Kris Allen and his then-pregnant wife Katy were in a head-on collision that left thesinger/songwriter/guitarist with a career-threatening shattered wrist. In the two years that followed, he underwent three surgeries, re-learned how to play guitar (despite regaining just 30 percent movement in the damaged wrist), recorded his third album, and toured relentlesslyincluding a two-month-long stint that started just one week after his accident. The American Idol season 8 winner ultimately retreated from the whirlwind and immersed himself in a songwriting spell that yielded more than 70 new tracks. Culled from that collection of songs, Allens fourth full-length album Letting You In finds the Nashville-based artist delivering his most intimate and dynamic work to date.The follow-up to 2014s Horizons , Letting You In builds off the soulful musicality Allen first showcased with his platinum-selling 2009 single Live Like Were Dying. But with its sophisticated songcraft and vulnerable lyrics, Letting You In reaches a new depth of feeling that infuses each track with undeniable emotional power. Looking back, I think I tried to put off dealing with my feelings around the accident for as long as I could, says Allen. But in the past year Ive realized how much it all affected me, and that definitely came out in the writing of this album.Allen recorded in Nashville with producers Konrad Snyder (Mat Kearney, Owl City, Milo Greene), Ian Fitchuk (James Bay, Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors, Griffin House), and Grammy Award-winner Brown Bannister (Amy Grant, Kenny Rogers, Steven Curtis Chapman) and made a point of exploring both the bright and dark elements of everyday life. Theres almost two different sides to the record, Allen notes. On one hand youve got these happy love songs, because thats my lifeIm a happily married guy, everything with my familys really great. But internally I was going through some things and trying to figure out my life, and the rest of the album very much came from that.The latter category of songs includes My Time Will Come, whose lyrics reflect on Allens struggles with self-doubt (Lately Ive been making friends with the doubts in my head/Hanging on every word that theyve said). But with its lilting guitar melodies and soaring vocals, the song ultimately emerges as an anthem of gritty perseverance. On If We Keep Doing Nothing, Allen offers a poignant look outward. Written in the wake of the mass shooting at Oregons Umpqua Community College, the songs throwback-soul arrangement of stark guitar tones and stirring organ lines provide a powerful backdrop for a determined meditation on gun violence.While Letting You In takes on its share of weighty matters, the album radiates a hopeful spirit thats got everything to do with Allens easy warmth and open-heartedness as a songwriter and vocalist. One of Letting You In s most uplifting tracks, Way Up High blends cascading guitar lines, breezy melodies, and slice-of-life storytelling that came to Allen while flying back home after spending days away from his family. Usually when Im writing a song I start with the music, but with Way Up High the lyrics all came to me in poem form, he says. I just tried to get down all these thoughts that were rolling through my head at the time, in a very stream-of-consciousness sort of way, and it all felt really natural. And among the love songs that make up much of Letting You In is Waves, whose gospel-inspired harmonies and spirited piano work perfectly together in capturing the tenderness of Allens opposites-attract serenade to his wife.Allen first picked up the guitar at age 13, after spending much of his childhood singing in church in his hometown of Jacksonville, Arkansas. Writing his first song in his late teens, he self-released an album at age 22 and auditioned for the eighth season of American Idol the following year. Several months after his Idol victory Allen put out his self-titled major label debut, with lead single Live Like Were Dying climbing to the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. In addition to releasing his sophomore album Thank You Camellia in 2012, he spent the next several years sharing stages with such artists as Maroon 5 and Keith Urban, as well as landing Billboard, Teen Choice and Peoples Choice Awards nominations.In the aftermath of his accident, Allen devoted himself to relearning guitar, adjusting his technique to adapt to the lack of movement in his wrist. At first I thought Id never be able to play again, he recalls. But once I got my cast off, I spent more time playing than I ever had in my life. Through all that I realized that I shouldnt take my craft for granted, so I really focused on developing it and becoming even stronger as a guitar player than I ever was before.Along with rebuilding his guitar skills, Allen revamped his approach to songwriting and soon saw a resurgence in his creativity. When Ive made albums in the past, thereve always been other artists and songwriters that I was using as reference points, says Allen, who names Stevie Ray Vaughan and Stevie Wonder among his earliest inspirations. But this time I shut myself off from all that, and just focused on making music that was completely true to me.That process proved both thrilling and daunting, but in the end instilled him with a new sense of purpose as an artist. When I first started making music, it was very much coming from a place of Are people gonna like this? he recalls. But as I was making this album, it really became more about being genuine and writing songs that feel good. My hope is that if those songs mean a lot to me, theyll mean a lot to the people listening, and that theyll get some of that hopeful feeling too.Not too long after the release of Letting You In , Allen delivered his first full-length Christmas album, Somethin' About Christmas , which is a delightful combination of originals and Christmas classics. Some of the Christmas classics that may ring a bell include Jingle Bells (featuring former contestant of The Voice, Caroline Glaser) and Winter Wonderland (featuring Jillian Edwards), just to name a few. The originals on this album, such as Somethin About Christmas Morning (featuring Gabe Dixon) and Peace and Happiness, provide a jazzy and joyful feel, which is what Allen was wanting to create. I genuinely love Christmas music and how it can transport you to such a joyful and fun place, he says. I think for a lot of people, it is those traditions in Christmas that they love, and I wanted my album "Somethin' About Christmas" to become a new tradition for people to enjoy this time of year. For fans looking to get in the Christmas spirit, Allen has decided to hit the road this winter for a Christmas tour.
$27.50
Kris Allen: When he was seven years old, Kris listened to a cassette of Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” and his life changed forever. “I’d be alone in my room and I would sing and dance and try different hats on. I’d stand in front of the mirror and try to moonwalk, but it just didn’t work. One night my dad walked in and caught me. I stopped in my tracks but he thought it was hilarious.”

Despite that embarrassing moment, Kris’ parents, Neil and Kimberly, were always supportive of their son’s interest in music and never once suggested that he consider any other career than the one he was most interested in. Neil was a musician himself – he played guitar and sang lead vocals for a rock band called Maxxzoid. He also had a record collection and Kris enjoyed listening to his dad’s albums, especially artists like Garth Brooks, Journey, Queen and Foreigner.

When Kris was born on June 21, 1985, his dad gave up his music career and went to work at a car dealership to support his family. Kris’ talent was apparent as early as the fourth grade, when he learned to play the viola and joined the school orchestra. “I tried to be cool and play baseball. Playing viola is not the coolest thing in the world. I kept going but stopped right before college.”

By that time, Kris had already picked up another instrument. “At 13, I was a chubby little kid trying to play the guitar. My brother Daniel would go swimming all summer so I was home alone and no one knew what I was doing all day.”

Kris never took a lesson, so his guitar-playing was entirely self-taught. By the time he enrolled in college, he knew he wanted to play music professionally. “When I was a freshman I realized I needed to start writing songs.” During his sophomore year, he played his first gig at a local bar. “It was in downtown Conway and the place was filled because it was the bar’s opening night. It was also their closing night. I don’t think it was our fault, because everyone said we played well. That night is when I got the encouragement to keep going.”

Kris played gigs in nearby Little Rock and Fayetteville and recorded a CD when he left college in the middle of his junior year. He continued to play gigs at night while working as a salesperson at Hibbert Sporting Goods during the day.

Though not an avid television viewer – Kris and his wife Katy don’t own a TV – Kris did see the Season 6 episodes of “American Idol” when his friend Sean Michel won praise from the judges during his audition. “It was great to see someone from Arkansas make it to Hollywood.” Living with his parents during season 7, Kris became hooked on “Idol.” In July 2008, Kris’ brother Daniel decided to audition in Louisville, Kentucky, and asked Kris and a friend to go with him. “I didn’t have anything else to do so I was down with that,” says Kris. “We arrived and there were 12,000 people standing there and we were the last ones to sign up. It was intimidating.”

Kris and Daniel survived the first round of judging but only Kris made it into see Simon, Paula, Randy and Kara. Randy was the first to say yes, followed by Simon, then Paula and Kara. Kris and Katy were married that same month and after the honeymoon flew to Hollywood. “I was just hoping to get a little TV time so someone would recognize me and I could start a music career,” says Kris.

Kris made it from Hollywood week to the top 36 to the top 12 and survived elimination week after week, heading into the finale with Adam Lambert. When Ryan Seacrest read the name of the winner, after a long pause he said. “Kris Allen.”

Kris’ path to victory included memorable performances of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and Kanye West’s “Heartless.” Kris was praised by the judges for his original arrangements of such well-known songs. “What I do is completely forget about the original version and ask myself how I can play the song when it comes to phrasing, chord structure and emotion. I hear what it’s going to sound like in my head and run with it. Hopefully it’s a way that no one has ever thought of doing it before.”

Since the finale, Kris has had multiple songs appear on the Billboard charts. “That was crazy!” he exclaims. “Four months before that we were all unknown. That first moment I knew I had five songs on the Billboard chart was very cool.” At the same time, his finale song “No Boundaries” was No. 1 on the iTunes chart. Kris found out when a friend sent him a text message. “I had no idea. That was crazy, too!”

Now Kris is getting ready to travel all over the United States on the “American Idols Live” summer tour. He’s writing songs and preparing to record his debut album for 19 Recordings/Jive.

It’s been an incredible journey for the 24-year-old who came very close to giving up on having a music career. “I was going to return to college and get a decent job so my wife and I could have a comfortable life together, which would have been fine. But things worked out a different way, and I’m really happy!”

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