Despite being born into a musical family and emerging as the winner of "American Idol" in 2009, there is an innate talent in singer/songwriter Kris Allen that he can't quite put his finger on. "I feel like I'm a good songwriter, but not because I've become a good songwriter," says Allen. "It's just something that comes from another place."
Tapping into that "other place" has proven successful for the Arkansas native. In an exclusive interview with GRAMMY.com, Allen discusses his experience on "American Idol," the origins of his musical talent, singing versus songwriting, and his 2012 release, Thank You Camellia.
Allen embraced music at an early age, first learning to play viola and then guitar. While studying business at the University of Central Arkansas, he began focusing on songwriting and recorded an EP, Brand New Shoes, an experience that led Allen to audition for "American Idol" in 2008. He won the competition the following year, besting GRAMMY nominee Adam Lambert. Though Allen has released two full-length albums since, the lessons he learned while on the show continue to be relevant today.
"The biggest [lesson] I [learned] from the show was that, in [the] very small amount of time that you get to sing, you have to take people through a journey, and that is not an easy thing to do," he says. "Now, when I [perform] live … I feel like a skill that I've learned [is how] to take people through that journey … through the ups and the downs [of each song]."
After "American Idol," Allen continued on his journey and in 2009 released his self-titled debut album, which peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard 200 and featured the Top 20 hits "Live Like We're Dying" and "Heartless," the latter a Kanye West cover. Released in May, Allen's sophomore set, Thank You Camellia, peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard 200.
"I got to spend more time in the studio on this record," says Allen. "And I think it shows in the personality of it. I think my personality comes out a little bit more on this record than the last one." The album features 11 tracks co-written by Allen, including the single "The Vision Of Love," which Allen hopes will inspire people to effect big change in small ways.
Before having two hit albums on the Billboard 200, Allen admits he was "on his way to giving up" at one point during his career, but he encourages aspiring artists to press on.
"It's not this far-fetched [idea] to make it in the music industry," he says. "As long as you're trying and working hard at it, it's always going to pay off in the end."