Three Great Things: Allen Stone

The soulful singer-songwriter talks about the outdoors activities that keep him going.

Three Great Things is our series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. In this installment, Washington State-based singer-songwriter Allen Stone gets energized by his activities.
— Josh Modell, Talkhouse Executive Editor

1. Spikeball

I discovered Spikeball on the road a few years back. It’s like volleyball, but with a trampoline. The trampoline is in the middle, and you bump, set, spike. You hit it back to the opponent, but instead of over a net, you hit it onto a trampoline and off. It’s collapsible and super easy to bring on the road. You can set it up pretty much anywhere, and it’s a blast. You need four people to play. I never have to recruit anybody to play, we have plenty of players on the road. It does take that effort of setting it up and tearing down, and considering how much setting up and tearing down you already do on tour, sometimes it takes a little convincing. It’s all about the volley, that’s why I like it so much. 

The funnest thing that can happen in Spikeball is you get a 15-return volley going, where you’re running all over the place and diving and hitting, and you keep the thing going for a long time. It’s not very fun when somebody just wins on the serve. It’s a blast when you get some momentum. I saw it on ESPN the other day, a Spikeball championship. There’s an interesting backstory; it was around in the ‘70s or ‘80s, but it pretty much just went away, like Pogs. And if I’m remembering the story correctly, two young guys became obsessed with it, I think they were just out of college, and then basically brought it out of obscurity, started producing the kits again, and now there’s a flurry. I saw a guy with a Spikeball shirt on the other day, when I was at a music-blog taping, of all places.

2. The Kenai River

I’ve had the luxury of going fishing for salmon on the Kenai the last couple of years, and I just fell in love with it. It’s so gorgeous, and also far enough away from the world that you can really get a breather. I went up with my father in law and my father, and we had so much fun. We do the typical luxury fishing trips, where we hire a guide and he takes us right to where the fish are, and he baits our poles. It’s kind of like training wheels for fishing, really. We came back with tons of fish. It’s a retreat for me, a sanctuary of sorts. There’s quite a few bears up in Alaska. There are all these spots along the river where the brush is pushed down, and our guide told us that his cousin came out a couple nights before and counted 27 grizzlies on a five-mile stretch of the river. The river’s not that wide, and I was a little sketched out.

3. Snowboarding

I’ve never snowboarded in Alaska, but where I grew up, in Chewelah, Washington, one of the last industries keeping it alive is skiing and snowboarding. There’s a ski hill about five miles from where I grew up, it’s kind of a ski-bum town. Growing up, I was at the hill every weekend, and still to this day… The wintertime is the only time I will for sure have off, as a musician. It kinda shuts down during Christmas. So I always get up the mountain and get away, get up in nature during that time. It’s a wonderful sanctuary and vacation for me.

 It’s hilarious to me how it’s maintained its family-friendly reputation. “Bring your family up, it’s fun for the whole family! Bring your kids up and tie them to slippery sleds and then just send them down the face of a mountain!” It’s so incredibly dangerous the more I think about it. I’m still surprised my folks let me get into it, but I’m sure I didn’t give them any other options. People are opposed to karate or jiu-jitsu, like, “It’s so violent,” but let’s send them down the rocky face of a glacier! I never got seriously hurt, I lucked out. I had so many friends hurt themselves really badly on the hill, but I never had any really bad injuries. 

But man, I had the worst thing happen! Last year, I went up with my best friend to Breckenridge, and I was coming out of the trees — and these are gigantic hills and there are so many people up there now — and this other lady was too and we collided. Luckily she had her helmet on, but we ran into each other and she took the brunt of the impact. I probably had a good hundred pounds on her. That was terrifying. It’s one thing to hurt yourself, but another to hurt someone else. I didn’t do anything stupid or wrong, but when you’re involved in somebody else getting hurt, it kicks you back for sure. Luckily she got up and shook it off and skied down the hill. I followed her down, thinking she was going to black out or something. I wanted to make sure she was fine. She kinda had to shoo me away eventually, like “You’re creeping me out!” But it was a nice reminder of how incredibly dangerous standing upright and sliding down a hill on the snow is. Especially when you use your hands and fingers to make a living! But as long as I can stand upright, I’ll do it.

Allen Stone is a singer-songwriter from Chewelah, Washington. He has released four albums, the latest of which is Building Balance.