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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A most bittersweet experience for South Hill’s Allen Stone

Singer-songwriter and Spokane resident Allen Stone penned “A Bit of Both” for NBC’s “American Song Contest.” He made it to the semifinal round after Monday night’s performance.  (NBC)

It couldn’t have been a more bittersweet experience for Allen Stone when he competed on NBC’s “American Song Contest” this spring. The Spokane-based singer-songwriter won the national juried vote on the music reality TV series but lost his mother three days after the competition concluded in May.

“It was the best of times and worst of times,” Stone said. “I had a tremendous experience being part of ‘American Song Contest,’ but my mom passed May 12.”

Sandra Lee Stone died two weeks shy of her 65th birthday after a two-year battle with ovarian cancer.

“It was so tough on my mother,” Stone said. “She always supported my career, and so it was fitting that the last experience my mom essentially had was being on the set of ‘American Song Contest’ not long before she passed away.

“The producers knew she was sick. Everyone could tell, but she was right there for me rooting for me to do as well as I could.”

“American Song Contest” executive producer and showrunner Audrey Morrissey said the crew knew it wasn’t easy for Allen, she said. “But we supported him no matter what he wanted to do.”

Stone had a huge decision to make regarding the finale. Stone was slated to sing the moving “A Bit of Both” in Los Angeles, but his mother was moved to hospice care.

“I called the producers and told them the situation,” Stone recalled. “My mom had days, not weeks or months, left to live.”

The producers gave Stone the choice of taping his catchy tune or staying in Spokane. “They said they understood if I wanted to stay here,” Stone said from his South Hill home. “The producers said that family is most important.”

However, Stone’s mother encouraged him to finish the process. Stone flew into Los Angeles to capture “A Bit of Both” and he was on a flight back home two hours after the taping. When the votes were cast, Stone was the lone participant hanging at home.

“The producers sent a guy to my house and my wife (Tara Lawson) and my mom watched that last show together,” Stone said. “My mom was on her death bed, but the cameraman who flew here was so cool. We broke bread.

“It was an amazing night. I have to give a shout out to everybody on the show. They were so kind and so accommodating. It was great to share those last moments with my mom in that manner.”

Stone, 35, made his mother and the state of Washington, who he represented, proud by winning the juried vote while up against 55 singer-songwriters from around the country.

“What Allen accomplished was significant,” Morrissey said. “First off, I’m a big fan of his going way back. … Allen is so talented. Allen winning the juried part of the show was significant.

“He blew us away as a singer-songwriter and as a person who just lights up a room. He has so much to be proud of considering what he accomplished on our program.”

It was an impressive showing for Stone, who finished first among the 10 finalists with juried points from those in the music industry. Stone won the most regions with New England, Midwest, Mountain, Mid-Atlantic, Pacific West and Southwest.

“That was such an amazing experience that I was able to share with my family,” Stone said. “I’ll never forget it.”

Stone didn’t win the contest since the national fan vote, which carries the most weight, catapulted AleXa of Oklahoma to first place overall during the initial run of the reality-TV music contest.

“The voting system was explained to me several times, but I never understood what the producers meant,” Stone said.

It doesn’t matter since Stone made a huge impact winning the industry vote. Stone, who will perform Friday through Sunday at the Stone Family Field Trip at Zephyr Lodge in Liberty Lake, has moved on.

“I had no choice but to take the next step,” Stone said. “I’m looking forward to our event. A lot of people are coming out. It’s going to be intimate. It’s capped at 600 people a day. That’s going to be fun and I’m working on a new album. It’s getting interesting.”

But Stone can’t help but look back at his mother and his experience on the contest.

“It was incredible,” Stone said. “Michael Bolton was there and he competed. That was sick! All of the contestants stayed at the same hotel, and we became friends.

“When I look back at it, in life you have the chance to go through doors and it’s up to you to walk through them. Since I said yes, I got to meet Kelly (Clarkson) and Snoop (Dogg).

“Meeting Snoop was incredible. I asked him about his career. I asked if it was all perfectly coordinated or random chaos. This is a guy that has said ‘yes’ throughout his career. He was on Death Row Records and up for a capital murder charge and where is he now but on a cooking show with Martha Stewart … Snoop has his footprint on every American pop culture moment.”

Allen said he learned a lot from Snoop and the show.

“My mom had the chance to see it,” Allen said. “I think about her all the time. I can only move forward for her, myself and my family.”