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, lived-in 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 co-writing 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 co-write 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 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."
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