Kris Allen on songwriting collaborators, video concepts, and nasty rumors about his debut disc
American Idol‘s eighth season may have ended almost five months ago, but the workload hasn’t slowed a bit for reigning champion Kris Allen. With his debut album slated to drop Nov. 17, the Arkansas native spent his “days off” from the Idols Live summer tour logging studio time with a bevvy of A-list songwriters and producers, and the pace of recording has only intensified since the tour concluded in mid-September.
We caught up by phone with Kris yesterday afternoon to talk about his competitive release date (against John Mayer, Shakira, and Leona Lewis), his recent trip to London, and those nasty rumors that his label is concerned about the quality of his material to date.
Let’s talk album scoop: Any new collaborators you haven’t announced or Tweeted about?
I worked with Kevin Rudolf the last couple days. Me and Joe King [from The Fray] are getting back together and working on some stuff we already had written, which will be really cool. And I’m working with his producer [Mike Flynn] on that song, as well as one other track.
There was some buzz in the blogosphere late last month saying that aside from your single, “Live Like We’re Dying,” that the rest of your album was “a mess.” I’ve heard four tracks so far, so I know that’s not true, but would you like to address those rumors yourself?
You know what? I actually heard about that. The way I heard was I was following Rickey.org on Twitter, and I guess he had said something about it. And I was like, “I don’t know why anyone would say that or where anyone would get that news.” Because the way we feel about things is that everything’s going great.I think there are times where you’re like “Oh my gosh. What are we doing? Blah, blah, blah.” But I think that’s with any album. But, what we have right now, and the finished product, I think is going to be really great.
Can you talk about some of your favorites that you’ve recorded so far?
Probably, but they’re not on the album for sure.
Why not float the title of one of them? Once it’s in the blogosphere, it’ll be tougher for the label to not include it, right?
[Laughs.] I had said something about “I Need to Know” in the past. I really like that one.
Yes. I heard about that one already.
I have a song that I wrote like a year ago that I really love that we’re gonna really push for. It’s called “Red Guitar.”
So you wrote it pre-Idol?
What’s it about?
You have to figure it out. You have to listen to it.
So it’s open to interpretation?
Yeah, exactly. I know what it means to me, but it might mean something else to you. [Mike Flynn] and I were working on the track last night. It was fun to be in the studio and working with a producer who sees your vision for a song you wrote.
I haven’t heard much about your collaboration with Chris Daughtry yet.
Me, him, and Mike Elizondo wrote a song together, and we think it sounds really cool.
What was it like working with Chris?
Chris is great. He reached out to me early on, during the show, I think during top-4 week. He gave me his number and was telling me if I needed anything to just give him a call. He was a really, really nice guy, and he kind of knew what I was going through, and was just kind of rooting for me. And now we have the same manager, so that makes it easy.
Last time we spoke in late September, you did not yet have a concept for your video. What about now?
We have the concept. I think we’re gonna shoot it maybe this weekend.
I know you enjoy a good riddle, like when you teased your collaboration with Eg White on Twitter. Can you drops some hints about the video?
It has to do with time. That’s all I’m gonna say.
Who’s directing it?
I’ll Google his name promptly! Hey, while we’re on the subject of your enigmatic Tweets, how did your London writing session with Eg White go?
We wrote a couple songs, one which we think is really, really good. And I was also working with Andrew Frampton, one of the two guys who wrote “Live Like We’re Dying” with The Script. And we came up with a really great song.
You’re about five weeks away from releasing your album. Anything unexpected you’ve learned about the recording process?
Maybe the production element of things has been surprising to me. Before this, I’ve always thought: “This song has guitar, piano, and drums in it.” And you almost kind of have to put that element of production into things to make them pop out. So that’s been fun for me, to work with that stuff, to hear it and just love it. For the most part, yes, the album is very guitar-driven and very piano-driven, but you throw in a little sound or effect, and it [enhances everything].
How close to done are you at this point?
We’re still writing some more songs for the album, and just putting some finishing touches on other tracks, going back to do some minor vocal takes, and that’s kind of it. We have a lot of songs that are almost done, and with a little bit of work we’ll have them completely done.
So your CD comes out Nov. 17, the same day as Simon Cowell’s chosen diva Leona Lewis and Avril Lavigne, who’s sitting in as a guest judge for a season 9 audition episode of Idol. Which one are you more stressed about going up against?
John Mayer. [Laughs.]
And let’s not forget Shakira’s new one drops that same day, too. Incidentally, I have “She Wolf” on the same playlist on my iPod as “Live Like We’re Dying.”
They kind of go together pretty good. [Laughs.] What kind of mix is this?
It’s my “new songs” playlist. I downloaded “She Wolf” maybe a week before yours, but you’re catching up to her in the play-count department. And for the record, I purchased your single with my own money. It’s no promo copy.
Thank you for my nine cents. I really appreciate that.
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