Devon Allman Interview - Honeytribe

We live in a very interesting time in the music industry. The bands we all grew up listening to are on the brink of a much deserved retirement and amidst a sea of awful music being pumped onto the modern airwaves, the torch is being passed to a new generation of guitar icons. Enter Devon Allman, the son of Gregg Allman, onto the blues rock scene.  His band Honeytribe formed in 1999. After some moderate critical success following their debut album, the band took a lengthy hiatus while Devon took time off after the birth of his own son. Now, Honeytribe is back and hitting the road hard, taking time off only to record new material.

Honeytribe’s sound is resonant of a hard working blues band. Though Devon Allman’s voice in unmistakably similar to his father, his guitar playing has taken on a life all its own. Often being compared to guitar greats like Carlos Santana and his uncle, Duane Allman, we at thought it was high time we caught up with this rising star to see what all the hype was about. We found that Devon Allman’s Honeytribe have indeed earned their role as the leaders of the next generation of great soulful blues rock. Tell me about this new record.

Devon Allman: This was our second album and I tend to think that the second album is the most important. Typically people will listen to a band’s first album and be a little more forgiving if it sounds bad. I thought our first album was pretty cool but for the second record, we really focused on the composition of the songs. I think a lot of people expected a really guitar heavy album and there are certainly moments when that is true but I think people were surprised that it had such depth at the composition level. Its sort of a blend between sci-fi and blues, hence the name, “Space Age Blues”. And you had some help in the studio this time…

Allman: Ron Holloway played with Dizzy Gillespie and is one of the world’s finest saxophone players and I asked him to play on the album and he agreed, thank God. Huey Lewis is also on the album, he was recording next door in the same studio and he overheard the session and was really digging it so he asked us if he could make an appearance on the record. And he played his ass off, he did a really great job laying down some harmonica tracks. Huey is an idol of mine from back in the day and to have him play on the record, it was really special. These people who leant their talents to this album helped to achieve that merge of sci-fi and blues that I was going for. That wasn’t your first visit to that studio for you. What brings you back to that Ardent Studios in Memphis?

Allman: I did my debut album there as well. Its always had a special place in my heart, Memphis itself has such a rich musical history.  My dad had made an album when I was 17 and I remember sitting there thinking that I would really love to make an album there one day. So, that’s always been in the back of my mind. A lot of the records I loved growing up were recorded there too, like the old ZZ Top records. The staff is great, the place is really homey and its nice being in away from the big cities like New York and LA to give it that down home atmosphere. Did you get to use any special goodies on the record that you don’t usually use in your live rig?

Allman: Yeah, there were a couple of Independent Pedals that I used, one was called “The Last Temptation of Boost” which is a play on the “Last Temptation of Christ” movie, which I thought was hilarious. It was a great boost pedal too. I used a couple custom distortion boxes. We used a variety of amps on the record; I have a signature series amp that I used a lot. We used some old Silvertones to get that old time tone. And we used an armada of guitars. I brought like six or seven of my own and then used some of the studio’s guitars. The album has a bit of a vintage feel to it. Did you use much for vintage gear?

Allman: The thing I leaned on most to get the vintage feel was the Silvertone amp. It was really cool, it was from the 60s. As far as guitars go, I have my 59 Historic Les Paul Custom, and that thing is all over the record. I did some overdubs with a cool Strat and a Telecaster made by Kurt Linhof. I’m going to beat the dead horse now and ask you how you came to find your own style and voice being from the Allman family.

Allman: I think a lot of people think that by virtue of growing up backstage or on a bus that my career was just given to me and its not. I’m just like any other player. I became the summation of all the music that caught my ear as a kid and certainly The Allman Brothers were part of that mix as well. As a young guitar player I just tried to digest as much as I could. When I started out I was a rhythm player and a vocalist. I was scared of anything beyond the seventh fret, that seemed like no mans land for me. Ive only been playing lead for six years now and Im learning new things every day. I maybe should have practiced soloing more when I was starting out, I envisioned myself as a singer/songwriter but once I dove in and fell in love with the craft lead guitar, I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t gotten into it earlier because I do have a knack for it. I may not be able to do all the super fast things that some guys can do but I can do the one thing that you cant really teach, and that’s to feel. So I think what I lack in chops and speed, I make up for it with feel. That’s what the blues is all about.

Allman: Definitely bro, you’ve got to have feel, I see these guys who can rip out these crazy runs and its impressive and its cool but by the time they’re 30 and have had their heart broke and had a child and experienced that love, and all the things that make us deeper as human beings, that will be reflected in your playing if you have feel. So, maybe I learned to play lead when I was supposed to. You had a kid; did that effect you as a musician?

Allman: It did in the beginning because I didn’t really want to dive into touring nonstop. It didn’t really affect my approach to the instrument per se but it did change that way I approached the business end of things. Now that he’s getting older and he’s in school, it made sense for me to get back out and start making records and touring again. Has your kid stared to show any interest in the guitar?

Allman: We started him on guitar lessons in the last few weeks and its amazing how fast he’s picking it up. He’s been doing piano lessons for a couple years but Ive been setting him down for the last couple weeks and giving him lessons and he’s just eating it up and learning quick. He can be a doctor or a lawyer or whatever he wants and I’ll be happy. What was it like playing with your dad, that’s got to be a cool feeling?

Allman: I've sat in with the Allman Brothers and my dad’s solo band from time to time and that’s always cool. But at the end of the day I just want to play and it doesn’t really matter where or with whom. When I do sit in with the Brothers, its like two years of lessons condensed into five minuets. They are definitely in the top echelon of musicians. I always call them The Jedi Council. Do you ever go to your dad for musical advice?

Allman: I like to do things my own way. I’ve never gone to him for musical advice. Its just that I was to build Honeytribe up myself, just like they built their legacy themselves. I don’t want to feel like someone held my hand through the experience. It’s hard work but I’m having a blast. I get to wake up everyday and play guitar and talk to people like It’s been a beautiful thing. Lets go over your live rig.

Allman: I started endorsing Fuchs Amps last year and I’ve got a Signature Amp through them - it’s a 100 watt amp with a 2x12 cab and its just killer. My number one guitar is the ‘59 Historic Les Paul that Gibson gave me, Les Paul actually signed it himself which was an amazing night for me. As far as effects go, I’m not a big fan. I like the direct plugged in sound, but I use a Dunlop Wha Wha. That’s about it. Have you got a new album in the works?   

Allman: We’re on tour all year for Space Age Blues and I’m about three quarters done writing the next album which I hope to have out later this summer. I think its going to be called “Elephant”. It’s going to be drastically different. I think what people expected on the last album as far as it being really guitar - heavy, they will get on this next one. Its going to be like the old boogie-woogie early ZZ Top records. The focus is going to be less on composition and writing and more on dance-ability – if a chick cant dance to it, its not going on the record. We’re trying to keep the good stuff alive – that’s our mission statement. Five years from now, when the Rolling Stones and the ZZ Tops of the world take their much deserved retirements, we want to be still out there keeping that style of music alive. Back to the Space Age Blues album, what do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned in making this album?

Allman: I would say to trust your vision. I had a vision going into the studio this time, to marry the concept of blues and sci-fi. I had my doubts going into it about whether or not it was a stupid idea. But I went with it and it turned out better than I envisioned. So I think next time I will trust my creative instincts a little more going into an album.

For more information on Devon Allman and all things Honeytribe - visit The Tribal

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