Kris Allen * Jillette Johnson
Ticket price is subject to change at door
On his new album Thank You Camellia, Kris Allen delivers on everything his fans love him for and more. The album is a showcase for the easy, livedin richness of Kris’ voice as well as his knack for crafting hook filled pop melodies and writing heartfelt lyrics that explore the ups and downs of love. These talents were very much on display on Kris’ 2009 self-titled debut album, which featured the 1.7 million selling hit single “Live Like We’re Dying” and was released a few months after the Arkansas native won the eighth season of American Idol. For Thank You Camellia, Kris has cranked everything up a notch by cowriting every song and being heavily involved throughout each stage of the writing, recording, and production process. “There's a lot of heart in the album,” Kris says. “I spent a lot of time on these songs; my blood, sweat, and tears went into making them work. I feel like it is the best representation of who I am as an artist sonically, musically, and lyrically. It was a big deal for me to cowrite every song. I wanted to let people know what I have to say. As a singer songwriter, that’s important to the fans. I wanted them to know exactly what’s going on in my head and how I feel about the things I go through, whether they’re good or bad.”
With the subject of love as his starting point, Kris dug deep to traverse the emotional terrain of his relationships and emerged with a batch of songs that felt true to his experience. “Out Alive,” “My Weakness,” and “Better With You” celebrate the spirit of fighting for what is good, while “Teach Me How Love Goes” and “Leave You Alone” find him sorting through the wreckage when it’s not. “Love is the one thing that I know and the one thing I don't know,” he says. “I know how to love. I know how to love my family, I know how to love my wife, I know how to love my fans. But I'm also still trying to learn how to do those things well. I’m still not where I want to be. So there are positive, uplifting songs like ‘Out Alive’ and ‘Better With You,’ and others that are about the struggles. ‘Teach Me How Love Goes’ is definitely about feeling that you don’t know what you’re doing and wanting a guidebook on how to make it work,’ while ‘Leave You Alone’ is about
getting into a fight and saying, ‘I’ve done everything I can do. I know that I’m wrong, but I’m too stubborn to admit it.’ I think a lot of people can relate to that. I want people to hear the songs and think, ‘I’ve been through that. Kris is like me.’ Because I am.” On the face of it, the album’s first single, “The Vision of Love,” sounds like a straightforward love song, but it’s actually an inspirational tune about helping others that Kris says is a powerful reflection of how he feels about.
“Irrepressibly buoyant... Allen delivers his lyrics
with an earnest confidence (an occasional
swagger) that keeps his songs from becoming
treacly... cohesive, warmhearted charmer."
— Entertainment Weekly
“Kris takes and eclectic music mix and makes it
accessible, with lyrics that take a tender and
ultimately positive view of the world."
— USA Today
New York, NY · Ann Arbor, MI · Melbourne, AU giving back. “If we see someone going through something terrible, whether it’s a friend or a kid in another country with no food, do we do something? Are we going to do help our neighbor who can’t put food on the table? We can’t just sit around and do nothing,” says Kris, who visited Rwanda last year with TOMS to deliver shoes to those in need and has also done work for such non profits as Music Empowers and The Trevor Project.
“We shot the video for ‘The Vision of Love’ in downtown L.A. and there was a guy nearby handing out food to homeless people,” Kris says. “I thought, ‘That’s what the song is about. It’s not about me dancing around on the roof of this building.’ It’s about giving back in some way and, as cheesy as it may sound, the world living in harmony and peace.”
Helping those sentiments go down easy is Thank You Camellia’s big pop rock sound, which he achieved with the help of his producers, former Sugarcult singer Tim Pagnotta (who has also worked with Neon Trees); Curt Schneider (Augustana, Five for Fighting); and Nasri & Adam Messinger, known as The Messengers (Justin Bieber, Chris Brown). “I think we go to a lot of different places sonically,” Kris says. “’Out Alive’ sounds really huge to me, ‘My Weakness’ has a reggae feel. There are some airy guitars, some cool percussive sounds, and poppy background vocals that were really fun to do. It’s an upbeat record, but it also makes you think a little.” As an artist who is constantly on the road (he toured for a year and a half behind his debut album, playing headlining shows as well as opening for Keith Urban, Maroon 5, Barenaked Ladies, and Lifehouse), Kris put a lot of thought into how the songs would go over onstage. “I wanted them to really pop live, whether I’m performing acoustically or with a full band,” he says. “I always want people to walk away impressed. I want them to hear a song and freak out every time, not just think, ‘Oh, that’s nice.’ I like the idea of people’s reaction going from ‘Who is this guy’ to ‘I love this guy!’”
Having already performed some of the album’s songs live, Kris is gratified by the early response from fans to Thank You Camellia, whose title is inspired by supportive friends he stays with in L.A. who live on a street called Camellia. “The reaction has been really good,” he says. “Even my buddy who is very honest with me said, ‘I liked your last record, but this one is even better. The songs are deeper. It feels exactly like you.’ He’s known me for ten years, so that was good to hear.”
On August 14th singer songwriter Jillette Johnson released the smoldering and passionate debut EP Whiskey & Frosting (Wind Up Records). It’s an intimate and boldly emotional five song collection of stately pop from a unique and unflinchingly honest artist. Johnson’s commitment to her distinct vision is thorough and uncompromising, from her willingness to explore the raw and controversial in her lyrics, to her unwillingness to give into tempting hot ticket career opportunities. Johnson audaciously declined a high exposure spot on the television talent show The Voice to keep her creative autonomy.
“I realized those paths would be inauthentic to me. I know how to write my own music, and I want a say in my career,” Johnson explains.
Whiskey & Frosting is one of those rare and revelatory debuts where you experience a young songwriter with a highly mature sense of artistic self. The NYC based singer piano player wrote all the songs on the EP, and her upcoming album. The piano based songs unfold with honeyed drama and grandeur, showcasing Johnson’s soaring vocals which manage to both be comforting and spiritually rousing.
“Two of my favorite things are whiskey and frosting,” Johnson says laughing. “The title came directly from an impromptu birthday party with friends where I ate the frosting off cupcakes and drank whiskey. I was telling my producers about the night when I realized how similar those two things were to my writing style. I don’t write happy songs without some melancholy feelings in there. I like to paint an entire emotional picture. There is depth, sorrow, and overly sweet tones. Many of the songs are about living as a young person in New York City, living irresponsibly and exploring consequences.”
The bravely vulnerable “Cameron” explores the struggle of a transgendered person and emerges a universal anthem for staying true to oneself. Johnson sings: cameron's in drag, makes his father mad / Since he was a little boy / He always felt more comfortable in lipstick These days the world is full of aliens /The world is full of aliens but you are a human/You're not an alien/ You are a real live human / Aren't you, Cameron? At its fundamental core, “Cameron” is about making tough choices to be authentic, a definite thematic thread in Johnson’s life.
“I didn’t know I was going to write about a transgendered boy, the words just came out and I thought, ‘Oh, this is about someone trying be someone they don’t appear to be,’” she reveals. “There is a sensation I get when I want to create. I have energy coursing through my veins, and I just let my hands fall and run with it. I don’t always know the initial reference point, but then I go back and make sense of what I’m saying. It’s pure subconscious inspiration and relentless editing. “Cameron” ended up being inspired by a transgendered kid I’m close with, but
the song also captures the need to feel at home in your own skin.”
Jillette Johnson got signed to Wind Up on the strength of “Cameron.” “That song was a turning point. Talent makes people notice you, but songs bring people to action,” she figures. Inking a deal was the culmination of many years of steadfast pursuit of her ideals and her dream to be a professional musician. “I was convinced by the age of 4 I was going to be a rock star,” she says with a smile. At 6 Johnson began taking piano lessons, and by 8 she was writing her own songs. Her formative influences were the Les Misérables Soundtrack, and artists such as Joni Mitchell, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Carole King, and Sarah McLachlan. “I learned song structure from those beautifully articulate songwriters. Joni said so much with beautifully quirky lyrics, Carole had a way of simplifying—those two parallels formed me as a lyricist.”
At 18 she left her small town of Pound Ridge New York, population 4,000, to move to NYC’s vibrantly creative Loho neighborhood. From 12-18 she had been making migratory visits to soak up the city’s buzzing inspiration, but her move cemented a creative relationship between her youth, the city, and her soulful compositions.
The EP also features highlights like the elegant and stirring “When The Ship Goes Down,” and the buoyant and heartfelt “Torpedo.” “Pauvre Coeur” juxtaposes gorgeously spare classical-flavored piano against bluntly confessional lyrics about a dried up romantic relationship. It’s one of the most arresting moments on the EP. Here Johnson sings: If I recall it was a Friday/ Gentle hum before the war/You were high and watching poker/ And I had just walked in the door/ You started screaming at the TV/ Saying, make a play you filthy whore / And I was trying to make you see me/ Like the way you did before
“I wrote that from a perspective of strength. I haven’t been in a lot of relationships—the longest has been my music career. Music comes first, anything that got in the way suffered. This was about my first serious adult relationship. It became emotionally abusive as it reached the end, and I lost myself. When I rediscovered myself, I found the strength to leave,” she reveals.
The EP, and the upcoming album, were produced by Peter Zizzo, widely respected for developing Vanessa Carlton and Avril Lavigne, and Michael Mangini, esteemed for his work with Joss Stone, Bruce Hornsby, and David Byrne. The duo’s innate understanding of Johnson’s singular vision, and respect for her fully-formed composi-
tions helped them enhance the power and dynamics of the music. “They maintained the spirit of the songs—they still are a 100% my songs—they’re just turned way up on the amp,” she says.
Reflectively, Jillette Johnson says: “I have a specific point of view and I follow my instincts. My sensibility has been in tune with my emotions. I’m always honest with what I feel. I’m passionate with my songs to a fault.”