Timing is everything: Devon Allman discusses teaming up with Duane Betts, BBQ, the state of music today

The Devon Allman Project begins a swing through New York Tuesday, July 24, with a stop at Bearsville Theater in Woodstock. This is followed by dates in Rochester, Albany, Baldwinsville, and Pawling. The man with the legendary Allman Brothers bloodline has teamed up with another Allmans progeny, Duane Betts on a tour that has both men joining forces to display their own projects as well as pay tribute to their fathers’ legacies. NYS Music recently sat down with Allman to discuss the tour, being a father and the state of music today.

NYSM: So is the band starting to gel yet?

Devon Allman: Oh yeah, we rehearsed really hard six months prior. We were doing three to five days a week rehearsal for six months. I wanted us to come out already primed.

NYSM: You’re working with Duane as well on this tour.

DA: Yeah, he’s got a new EP out. He was in his dad’s band for years and a band called Dawes for maybe a year or two. So this is like the first time he’s come out and done his own stuff, fronted his own band. It’s exciting. He’s great.

NYSM: You’re sharing a rhythm section?

DA: Yeah, it’s an eight-piece band at the end of it. It’s a brilliant thing.

NYSM: Doing the tour with Duane Betts, a guy you kind of grew up with. This is something you guys, in a way, dreamed of doing, correct?

DA: We were hanging out with our dads. Their band was experiencing a pretty big renaissance. But that’s where we made our first bond just from being on that tour. I don’t think when we were kids we really had dreams of playing together, but as we grew into adults and started touring and making records, we talked about it. We knew it would be special. And that’s really what it’s all about. We don’t want to go out there and be a tribute band. There’s only one Allman Brothers. But we can certainly do our part to help keep some of their music alive.

NYSM: What was the trigger that made you guys decide, “We need to do this together?”

DA: It was just timing. I lost both parents inside of five months. I took a year off. I didn’t have the heart to go and perform. So I kind of rallied around my family. I spent a lot of time around my siblings and my son. Duane was wrapping up with Dawes. I knew I was going back out there. And I wanted to go back out there in a bigger fashion. So it made sense to team up. Timing is everything.

NYSM: So you’re going to be in Syracuse soon. You make your home in St. Louis, right? That’s a big BBQ town. (Laughs). Are you a partaker of the BBQ?

DA: So they say (laughs) I mean, I go back and forth with being a carnivore and not being a carnivore. St. Louis is really a big baseball town and a good blues town. And we have our own pizza. A lot of people don’t realize there is a St. Louis-style pizza and it’s amazing.

NYSM: Well, if you’re in a carnivorous stage while you’re up here, be sure to check out some of our BBQ.

DA: Is that where Dinosaur is? Oh yeah, I’ve partaken.

NYSM: Did you always feel that pull to become a musician? You were obviously exposed to music at a young age. Did you want to become a musician right off the bat?

DA: I fell in love with music when I was four years old. My mom used to spin a lot of vinyl. I was infatuated from then on. I saw my first concert at nine. I saw Cheap Trick. When Rick Neilsen pulled out that five-neck guitar, I mean that was it. The epitome of cool. I have to get in on this immediately. I started playing guitar at 13. I had dreams of it but I really never thought I’d get to do what I do. I just thought it was an untouchable magic act to tour and make records. I got lucky and I got to do it. And I put a lot of work into it too.

NYSM: You’re producing too, right? Also started your own record label?

DA: Yeah, it’s gonna launch this fall. I’m excited about it. I want to give some younger artists a chance to develop a following, become bonafide recording artists. I haven’t put a record out since Ride or Die. That one came out in, I think, late ’16. I’m definitely due. I’m going in the studio this fall so I’ll have a new record out in probably January.

NYSM: Is that going to come out on your label or are you going to shop it around?

DA: I’ll shop it around. We’ll see.

NYSM: I have a son the same age as yours. Does he have any interest in music? Are you persuading, dissuading him in regards to music?

DA: I’m really letting him feel his way. He played piano for years and years and he played some guitar. I don’t know. He starts college in the fall and he may end up playing music, he may not. I’m not really sure. But I would never persuade him and I would never try to steer him away from it either. I think his love affair, his passion, his career, that’s gonna be up to him.

NYSM: Absolutely. This is a bit of a scary time for me. This is my first kid going to college. You just hope you did things right along the way, ya know?

DA: I mean, I’ve spent 45 years either being somebody’s son or being a father to a son. That’s all over, it’s scary new territory. It’s exciting, but it’s also sad. I’m gonna miss having my kiddo around every night.

NYSM: What do you listen to?

DA: I spin vinyl at home, keeping my mom’s tradition alive. I probably have 500 records. It’s everything, man. There’s Nigerian jazz to thrash metal to Miles and Coltrane. I like to listen to jazz when I’m cooking. I cook a lot. Man, there’s everything.

NYSM: Any new artists that have been catching your ear lately?

DA: Yeah, man, Caroline Rose. She’s a badass. She really is. She’s a gifted songwriter and storyteller and singer. She’s great. I love the new Lucero record. Always loved Lucero. They’re from Memphis, friends of mine. I love just about everything from Jason Isbell lately. I love his records. He’s a friend. There’s good new music out there. You just have to dig for it.

NYSM: Do you recognize a renaissance of outlaw country happening, in artists like Isbell and Sturgill?

DA: I think it’s more a renaissance of organic music in general. Doesn’t matter the flavor. I think people that really get into music are looking for something that is real. There’s so much crap out there.

NYSM: Do you think a lot of it has to do with the environment the country is in now?

DA: No, I think it has to do with the fact that somewhere along the way, it might have started with MTV, ya know, as soon as you could become a TV star by way of music video, I think people started wanting to get into music to become a star, not to make good music. And that’s where it really started getting shitty. If somebody grabs a guitar and wants to tell you a deep story about something they’ve been through, that’s gonna hit you a lot harder than someone who grabs a guitar because they want to be on TV. I guess, since time immemorial in music we’ve had that. There was bubblegum music in the ’50s and ’60s. So it is what it is.

NYSM: So you have a good stretch of Upstate NY shows coming up, hitting up Woodstock’s Bearsville Theater. Have you been to Levon Helm Studio?

DA: No, I haven’t.

NYSM: Well, if you ever get the chance, that’s like a church.

DA: Yeah, I know. I’m a huge freak of The Band. I just got their whole vinyl collection, every album. Amazing.

NYSM: Speaking of Woodstock and taking in sites, do you ever get a chance to take in the towns that you’re touring through or is it more a load in, play your show, head on to the next?

DA: I’m able to a little bit more now because we finally graduated up to a tour bus so we’re arriving to the towns, waking up around 10:00 – 11:00 on the bus, ya know have the whole day until you get called for soundcheck. I went and did a little guitar shopping in New Orleans, vinyl shopping, got to take my men out for sushi in NYC, try to make the most of it.

NYSM: It’s good to finally have a bit of that luxury, if you will.

NYSM: We’ll see you on your upcoming Upstate dates. Thanks for your time.

DA: Thanks for your time today, I appreciate you. We’ll see you up north soon.

The Devon Allman Project is currently on tour with Duane Betts. New Yorkers have several opportunities to catch this unique show. Betts opens the show, performing music from his recent EP using Allman’s rhythm section. Allman follows with a set of his own material and for the encore, all the musicians take the stage to pay tribute to the Allman Brothers.

The tour hits Baldwinsville’s Bud Light Amphitheater at Paper Mill Island on Saturday, July 28. Tickets are still available for the show through Ticketfly.

Devon Allman Project/Duane Betts Tour Dates:

July 24 – Bearsville Theater – Woodstock, NY
July 26 – Party in the Park – Rochester, NY
July 28 – Bud Light Amphitheater – Baldwinsville, NY
July 29 – Darryl’s House – Pawling, NY
Aug. 3 – Flood City Music Fest – Johnstown, PA
Aug. 4 – Jergel’s Rhythm Grille – Warrendale, PA
Aug. 5 – Music by the Bay – Ajax, ON, Canada
Aug. 7 – Music by the Bay – Ajax, ON, Canada
Aug. 8 – Kent Stage – Kent, OH
Aug. 9 – Arcada Theater – Saint Anne Woods, IL
Aug. 11 – Riverside Park – Rushville, IN
Aug. 12 – Prairie Magic Music Festival – Valparaiso, IN