Before Kris Allen won the eighth season of American Idol, he was already on his way to a successful singing career. In 2007, he self-released his album Brand New Shoes. Not only can he sing, he also has played the viola since elementary school, and taught himself how to play the guitar when he was just 13.
Music is in Kris’s blood. His father Neil, was both the guitarist and lead singer for the rock band Maxxzoid. While Neil left the band in favor of fatherhood when Kris was born, his influence was never far from his son’s life. Neil introduced Kris to the bands that would shape is singing career, including Journey, Queen and Garth Brooks.
In high school, Kris focused most of his talent on mastering the viola and guitar. He also learned to play the ukulele and piano. Kris earned All-State awards in music performance. He had become so skilled by this point that he was receiving offers to play in college orchestras, even though he was still in high school.
Like the guitar, much of Kris’s vocal prowess is self-taught. As a freshman in college, he decided that he needed to buckle down if he was to make a career of music. He tried his hand at song writing, then later joined his first band. He became a fixture of the Little Rock and Fayetteville, Arkansas music scene throughout his college years and up until his appearance on American Idol. He was even an opening act for another Idol contestant, Sean Michel, after Michel’s appearance on the hit show.
Kris may have honed his vocal skills at bars and nightclubs, but appearing on American Idol afforded him the benefit of actual vocal coaches for the first time. Kris was able to find his niche as a folk-inspired rock vocalist while working with Idol’s long-time vocal coach and arranger, Deborah Byrd. Years of practicing and performing had finally paid off when he beat out media darling Adam Lambert for the Idol win in 2009.
Kris’s ability to make any song his own was not overlooked by either his fans or the American Idol judges. He admits that he completely forgets how the original vocalist sang a song before he attempts it, effectively approaching the music with a blank slate. He plays with the phrasing, structure and emotion in the song until he strikes upon a balance that is both new and familiar.
While natural talent propelled Kris in front of millions of viewers, hard work, practice, and a willingness to learn from the best has kept Kris on top.
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