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"American Idol" Winner Kris Allen on Rocking Softly, Covering Dylan

May 26, 2009 5:52 PM ET

He's only been Season Eight's American Idol for five days, but Kris Allen is already moving on from last week's star-packed finale and thinking about his next steps. In an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone's Brian Hiatt, he reveals how he pulled off covering Dylan on the show and whether he would have entered the competition without his guitar.

People say you're the "soft rock" guy on the show.
It's nice to hear "rock." People call Coldplay soft rock, and they're amazing. For me, all the stuff that I did on the show, I feel like were pretty conducive to what I'm going to do on an album, that pop-rock kind of thing.

You're one of the few singers to do a Bob Dylan song ("Make You Feel My Love") on the show.
I was trying to beat the system, I knew it was a Bob Dylan song, and they were like, "Let's do country week," and I was like, "I know Garth Brooks did this," so I was trying to beat the system, but it just ended up working out. I love Bob Dylan, he's an amazing writer.

People saw larger significance in the contest, that there was a cultural battle being fought. What's your take on that?
Me and Adam talked about it — we are really good friends — and people were talking about I'm getting the Christian vote and Adam's getting… we're not running for president, we're not running an election here, we're just trying to be musicians and be artists, and I hope that's what people are voting on and people are calling in for, and I know that's not always the case.

Now you have a career to think about. What kind of approach do you want to take to your career, what do you want to achieve?
More than anything, to be respected and be in the music business and just sell albums and make great music, that's all I want to do.

Idol seemed like a strange place for rock artists to come from at first, has that changed?
Yeah, I think so. I think once they incorporated the instrument kind of thing that a lot of the rock people were going to jump on that bandwagon. There have been a couple — Chris Daughtry is one of them — who had an instrument and came along.

Would you have entered five years ago before instruments were permitted?
Probably not, man, because I probably wouldn't have done well, to be honest with you. I think for me, the thing that got me the furthest was my ability to play and my ability to arrange songs and all that kind of stuff and make them mine and show that I'm an artist, not just a signer.

"Falling Slowly" was a song you don't think of on Idol. Had you seen the movie, Once?
Yeah, I'd seen the movie, and I was trying to think of a song that week, and I was like, "What's something I can really relate to?" I'd seen the movie, and I was like, "I really love that movie, and I'm gonna take a chance and sing this song," and I knew it was going to be risky and not a lot of people were going to know it, but it won an Oscar, so I knew it was a very respected song. I went up there, and that week, I had watched it like three times, because I really wanted to feel the song, and I went out there and I just sang it, man.

Since you were the underdog and now you're the winner, do you feel like you have to prove you're worth it?
No, I think that hasn't gone through my head. Throughout this whole competition, I think people were maybe ... not underestimating me, but just not ... Danny and Adam were frontrunners throughout this whole thing, and they're great, and kudos to them, they deserved it.

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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