Make no mistake, Devon Allman’s music is at the forefront of the blues rocker’s mind, not the expectations associated with his unmistakably famous name. But it didn’t start that way.
“I think coming out into the beginning of my career as an Allman, it just was the impetus for me to say, ‘I don’t want to sound anything like the Allman Brothers, so I wanna play different style,’” the son of Gregg Allman said of his 19-year-old mindset. “Once I let that go and tried to be the purest I could be, then that wasn’t a problem anymore. I let other people decide (what they thought of my music).”
Allman is now 43, with 10 years of national touring and eight albums under his belt. He’ll visit Harlow’s Restaurant and Nightclub on Sept. 3 for a passionate show that he says will take listeners on a ride through his musical journey, from his early years founding and leading blues rock band Honeytribe through the hits of supergroup Royal Southern Brotherhood to his most recent venture, his solo career. He might throw in some Eric Clapton or Rolling Stones covers and a few instrumentals, too, which he calls a “lost art when it comes to upbeat rock music.”
He also will headline this summer’s final Concerts at Common Beach in Tahoe City (3-7 p.m. Sept. 6) before a full fall tour across the states, what he calls a part of his “crazy kind of gypsy lifestyle.”
Allman “cut his teeth” in the blues scene of St. Louis when he was in his early 20s, although he struck his first chord at the age of 13. From Day One, the teen struggled to find his own musical identity that differentiated him from his father and struggled to ignore critics, who said he’d had his career handed to him as an Allman.
“You don’t want the first thing on your mind to be, ‘Oh, I’m an Allman, I have a lot to live up to.’ What you wanna have on your mind is, ‘How am I gonna be a better artist today?’ It took maturing (for me) to get there,” Allman said during a phone interview from his home in the St. Louis area, where he’s on the board of directors for the National Blues Museum.
Raised by his mother, the young Allman didn’t meet his father until he was in high school. He said he eventually learned how to tune out doubts – his own and those of critics. He earned his stripes like everyone else, he said, often “playing to nobody” or “playing for hours and earning no money.”
Allman went on to form Honeytribe in 1999 and join Royal Southern Brotherhood in 2011, occasionally playing with his father, whom he said he now likes to “veg out” with to watch Dallas Cowboys games when neither is performing.
“I think that’s because we play so much that when we are off tour we just want to be normal and not think, ‘I gotta be on now or play something meaningful.’”
Allman, who plays in more than 50 countries in half a year’s time, said that when he sees the Gateway Arch of St. Louis he immediately thinks about family dinners and get-togethers. The artist has recently entered a solo period, which allows him to write his own music and have a family-oriented schedule as father of a teenage son, but he said he’ll always alternate such stretches with band work, which allows him to collaborate and learn from peers he respects.
For example, while part of the blues rock supergroup Royal Southern Brotherhood, Allman said he had to “up his game” to sing right after Cyril Neville, whom he considers one of the finest living vocalists.
“He really taught me to believe in my voice and sing with all the passion that I have,” Allman said. “That’s one (experience) that will always stick with me. I’ll always be a different singer because of Cyril Neville.”
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 3
Where: Harlow’s, 2708 J St., Sacramento
Information: 916-441-4693; www.harlows.com