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Devon Allman digs deep inside for his first solo album

Devon Allman.jpg

He carries one of rock ’n’ roll’s most famous surnames. Slowly but surely, though, Devon Allman — son of Gregg Allman — has made a name for himself.

The younger Allman, a singer/guitarist for Honeytribe and the Royal Southern Band, released his debut solo album, Turquoise (Ruf Records), in February. There’s a lot of personal, yet universally relatable, meaning in Allman’s lyrics — especially in “When I Left Home,” “Into the Darkness” and “Turn Off the World” — and Turquoise’s enjoyable blend of blues, rock, soul and even a little bit of world music is a great reflection of his wide tastes and travels.

Allman talks about writing the songs for Turquoise, the importance of taking a break from the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, his eye-catching guitar strap and other subjects. When you started to make Turquoise, did you always intend for it to be your first solo album, or could it have been a Honeytribe or Royal Southern Band album?
Devon Allman: “This was kind of the first time I was able to make a record without the framework of what one of the bands is expected to do. There’s a particular way about Honeytribe, the approach to making a record or playing live. This was more subdued; this was just about writing songs.”

You mention Tom Petty by name in the lyrics to “Don’t Set Me Free,” and you cover his song “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” on Turquoise. Growing up, was Petty a main source of musical inspiration?
Allman: “Absolutely, yeah. I remember him permeating the radio waves when I was growing up in the late ’70s and ’80s. I’ve always looked up to his music. When it came time to do my first solo record, I wanted to think about what was a good blueprint, and I always came back to The Rolling Stones and Tom Petty — song-based stuff.”

“Turn Off the World,” which closes the album, is about the importance of taking a step away from everyday life — and in your case, “wash off that rock ’n’ roll,” as the lyric goes. Is that something you had to learn to appreciate to do over time?
Allman: “Yeah, I think so. I think that comes with maturity and age. When you’re in early 20s and you’re taking a vacation in Cancun, it’s party time. My life — and so many others — is so fast-paced that anymore, when I want to go lay on a beach, it’s just to reconnect with nature, get the sun on me and really unplug from the world: no e-mails and no cell phones. It has really become a sacred thing for me and [helps me] to recharge my batteries to get ready for the next crazy musical adventure.”

Now when you do take those little breaks, are you total disconnected from music? Or are you getting inspiration and ideas from being around things?
Allman: “I always have my radar up; it’s kind of hard to turn that off. Having the pace slow down is what’s important for me. Traveling the world and playing music is a very romantic quest, but it is extremely draining — you’re always in transit. So it’s very important to slow it down and just take a step back. But the musical radar never goes down, bro — that’s 24/7. I may be laying on the beach, slowing it all down, but I’m still thumbing through every guitar magazine and listening to every record I’ve wanted to catch up on.”

Your guitar strap is one of the most unique I’ve ever seen. It almost looks like a belt or something from a horse and carriage. What’s the story behind it? And how comfortable is it?
Allman: “It was made famous by my uncle Duane. He wore that strap exclusively in his very short time on earth. The creator of the strap called me up when I started touring the world and making records. He said, ‘Man, I sure would like you to have one, just like your uncle.’ And I just thought that was a really nice tribute, so I’ve always worn it ever since. In fact, I went into business with the guy, and we sell them together.

“It’s not extremely comfortable (laughs). It’s definitely leaning toward the cosmetic rather than the fully functional. But at the end of the day, it’s a fitting tribute to my uncle, and it’s kind of an iconic piece, and it’s something I wear proudly.”

It’s coming up on that time of year when The Allman Brothers Band does its annual residency at the Beacon Theatre in New York. What’s the likelihood that you’ll make a guest appearance?
Allman: “I love sitting in with them, especially at the Beacon. It’s the same time every year; it’s become a tradition. This year, I don’t know: I think my touring schedule won’t allow it, but it will be the first one I’ve missed in a long time. And the only reason I would be missing it is because Turquoise has some wings, and I have to go out there and support it.”

— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior

Devon Allman on tour (schedule subject to change):

* March 1: Center Stage — Kokomo, Ind.
* March 2: Goodfellas — Pekin, Ill.
* March 7: The Blockley — Philadelphia
* March 8: FTC Theater — Fairfield, Conn.
* March 9: Chan’s — Woonsocket, R.I.
* March 10: Rockwood Music Hall — New York
* March 11: J&R Music World — 23 Park Row, Manhattan (in-store performance and meet-and-greet)
* March 13: Callahan’s Music Hall — Auburn Hills, Mich.
* March 14: Woodlands Tavern — Columbus, Ohio
* March 15: Reggie’s Music Joint — Chicago
* March 16: Blueberry Hill — St. Louis