Devon Allman | Making His Own Magic Bubble

turqouise 75People that want to do music, be a celebrity or become a “rock star” really need to go to work at FedEx immediately.

 

Devon Allman is edgy, soulful, and vibrant. After years with Devon Allman’s Honeytribe, he has released his first album, Turqoise, while also playing in all-star band The Royal Southern Brotherhood. Allman took time to discuss with us his music, his philosophy, his variety of musical interests, and his touring plans for 2013, as he explained his soulful journey along the path of musical success.

Tell me about your new CD, Turqouise.

It came out about a week and a half ago, worldwide on Ruf Records. It’s my first solo. I had a band called Honeytribe since 1999 and helped form a group last year known as The Royal Southern Brotherhood with one of the Neville brothers. It was time to do a solo record, kind of get laid back and do a mature collection of songs. I really think this record will enable me to take a whole new step and really started focusing on being a songwriter.

What about your songwriting methodology? Do you have a certain way that you start a song? Do you start with music? Do you start with lyrics?

It really just varies on every single song. One might be a title I like, and I will reverse engineer that title with lyrics and hope that the music comes around, or it might be a riff or the first line of a song. This acts as a doorway to get you there, and then flower out. You know, I’m glad there is no set way. I’m glad that it’s a variable thing.

What is it that drives your passion for music? Were you just born with it, or did you get into it at a certain age?

I got into music at age five. Early on, I had this romance with vinyl records: I liked to watch them spin, I liked to hear the licks of the guitar, and I just liked to hear the music. I liked to read over the words and try to figure out what this writer is trying to say. Then I hit a certain, point when I finally got passed the notion that these people were not gods, but they were people who had really gotten good at their craft. And it was like, “I want to try that.” It really had nothing to do with the family I come from. It had to do with my own personal direction.

Are there any rituals you perform before a show?

That’s a good question. No one has ever asked me the good stuff like this before. I do a Five-Hour Energy shot. Then I usually ask the largest cat who is in the room, 6’2″ or taller, to crack my back. Sometimes I’ll call my son, my girlfriend really quick, tell them a love them. I try to throw on some music and just get in the mode; that’s usually the last half hour.

Do you have a favorite performance who enlightens you or made an impression on you?Devon-Street-Photo-with-Guitar

I remember playing in Germany a few years back; I was the headliner and there were 33,000 people. It was just a sea of humanity and that one always sticks out. If you can entertain this many people playing your electronic guitar, doing your thing, it shows you’ve chosen wisely on your career path. I kinda shit my pants, but the other half of me was like, “Yeah, dude, this is everything you’ve worked toward.”

Totally, I think that having a musical career is like having a career in athletics. You train and you push, you train and you push, and then you have something pop. It’s like the bar has been raised and everything else needs to be progressive from that point. You have all of these components come together. It’s a long shot, maybe its 30 minutes, 90 minutes, or however long a performance is, but you keep going up a notch. I can feel it.

I remember playing where people were just charged a dollar to come in the door to see me play. Then, there’s places in America where my tickets sold for 43 bucks.

It sounds like you just persevered through that. You got to that point because of your drive. How long would you say it took you to get where you could say to yourself, “Wow, this is a success”?

I think it was when I signed my first record deal; that was a really pivotal year for me. I was 29 or something like that; I had already been pushed 12 years. In that year, I got to do some amazing things. That first record took me to Europe for the first time. I jammed on stage with one of my biggest heroes, Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top. Just like taking these components and putting them in place, and at the end of that year of that campaign for that record launch, I was definitely in a better place than I was the year before. You hit these little notches in your timeline and you hope that you make the right moves with your music.

Do you think that it is how good you are and who you know in the music industry?

It’s really not any of that. I think a common misconception about the industry is that if you put together a band and you write great songs, and you push and push and push, that if you push hard enough, you will pop up inside of this magic bubble and you’re going to make it. My theory is that you make your own bubble. So you keep pushing and pushing and pushing, and magically you are discovered, and magically you turn into a rock star, which is like a whole other misguided thought out there.

There are people out there that want to do music, be a celebrity or become a “rock star.” They really need to go to work at FedEx immediately. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about you making music that makes people feel good. It took me a lot of years to do that. If you do that and do it in a pure way, I feel that the karmic side of music will take care of you. I wanted to do that; I wanted to be a rock star. That was the whole goal. It was like you can put my ass on TV. I wanted to sell a whole bunch of records. You really need to get to the core of why you do this; It just becomes a purer path. You work hard enough and you make your own bubble, then your bubble grows and your business grows, and as your business grows, the more you become successful.

If you could collaborate with anyone in the world, who would it be?

I’m actually doing a recording with Billy Gibbons, which is amazing. That’s about as cool as it gets. Hmmm, I don’t know…Stevie Wonder? Curtis Mayfield passed away, or I would pick him.

I’m sure the list could go on and on. Who inspires you? Who was your childhood inspiration for getting into music?

The Beatles first, then I graduated to Hendrix, and the Doors and the Stones, anything that’s like blues or soul-based. And then I found out all those cats kind of came up on BB King, Buddy Guy, Charlie Hooker, and all the blues cats. My iPod flywheel is pretty loose and twisted. I have everything from Chabanay to Nigerian jazz to Slayer to Megadeth. People would just really want to vomit if they looked at it.

Diversity is pretty cool, and you can learn something from everything.

I mean there are just some people with real tunnel vision. If they like rock, then all they listen to is rock. That’s so boring to me. My mind is constantly trying to find shapes and coloring from genres and sub-genres. I think you are only as eloquent and as masterful as what you put in the tank.

Tell us a little bit about your new album and where you’re going to be touring.

It’s pretty exciting; it’s gotten some major media reviews that have been fantastic—USA Today and the guitar magsI’m touring mostly with The Royal Southern Brotherhood this year, despite this brand new solo record, because that’s my priority. I’ve got five different tours to Europe this year, and I leave for Australia in a couple of weeks. It’s my first time touring Australia, which I’m really flipped out about.

They are starting to do blues festivals all over the world—South Korea and Dubai, Japan and India—and I want to do them all. I want to see the world and make my music while doing it. | Marsha Buehler

Devon Allman brings his solo show to his hometown of St. Louis March 16, with a show at Blueberry Hill. Doors 8 p.m./show 9, $15 adv/$17.50 dos, 21+.

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