Kris Allen knows he's not garnering as much attention as Adam Lambert — and that's OK with him.
Since foiling Lambert at the "American Idol" finale last May, the 24-year-old singer-songwriter from Conway, Ark., has not appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine and declared he's gay. His music can't be heard during the credits of the apocalyptic action flick "2012." And you won't find him posing in a racy Details photo shoot with a naked woman.
"I don't mind," an always modest Allen says while perched in "Idol" overlord Simon Fuller's quiet office 10 stories above the Sunset Strip. "I think that's how I went through the competition as well. I did my thing, and it worked out. And that's how I'm going to do my music career. I'm just going to do my thing, what I like to do, and hopefully it works out."
His thing now is his self-titled album, which comes out Tuesday, a week before Lambert's "For Your Entertainment" is scheduled for release. As one might expect after watching his soulful "Idol" renditions of Kanye West's "Heartless" and "Falling Slowly" from the indie musical "Once," Allen's album is filled with melodic ballads and toe-tapping rock tunes.
Allen teamed with experienced producers like Toby Gad, Steve Kipner, Andrew Frampton and Saalam Remi, but contributed more than just his voice and guitar-and-piano-playing prowess. Allen's name appears on the songwriting credits for all but four of the album's 13 songs — including "Red Guitar," a ditty Allen wrote for his wife, Katy, before his "Idol" run.
"I bought my wife a red guitar for her birthday a long time ago, hoping that she would play it," he says. "She never learned how, so it became a wall decoration in our apartment. One day, I took it off the wall and started playing it, and just started writing a song that ended up being about the guitar itself, which was not the greatest guitar in the world."
His beaming wife's face became a constant presence in the audience during Allen's "Idol" tenure, a move that judge Simon Cowell teased at risk of scaring off female fans. Throughout the post-"Idol" zaniness — the tour! the recording! the trip to Disney World! — Allen says she's kept him fully grounded and embraced their move from Arkansas to La La Land.
"When we were on the 'Idol' tour this summer, poor Kris was always working on his album," says Allison Iraheta, the plucky fourth-place "Idol" crooner who also earned a record deal alongside Allen, Lambert and third place finisher Danny Gokey. "He co-wrote so many of his songs. We rarely got to see him. He was always off working, working, working."
Allen admits he doesn't mind being mobbed by fans in public because "people are usually nice about it." But he's still not totally comfortable with on-camera interviews, despite some post-"Idol" media training. His goofy nice-guy demeanor remains refreshing, even when the chime from a friend's rather coarse text message interrupts the interview.
"If I just had one word to describe this entire experience, it would be nuts," Allen says. "It's just nuts going from being a happily married guy into the music industry and this crazy world of entertainment. But in the end, I get to do exactly what I like to do, and that's make music. That's what makes me happy. That's the thing that has always driven me."
Allen is looking forward to touring with his band next year and hopes to keep an Allen family Christmas tradition going strong this holiday. Every year, Allen's mother gives him and his brother, Daniel, a new pair of pajamas and a board game, which they play — no matter how long it takes — before going to bed. He already knows what game he wants this year.
"The new Monopoly with the big towers," he says, his eyes widening. "You can build cities. It's weird."