Although guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Devon Allman shares a surname that will ring familiar to rock and roll fans, Devon has cultivated a sound all his own. He's mindful of his family's storied musical legacy and the contributions of other venerable rock pioneers, but also has an ear for what's next. The son of Allman Brothers Band founding member, vocalist and key player Gregg Allman, and nephew of virtuoso guitarist Duane Allman, Devon records and performs in blues-rock outfits Honeytribe and Royal Southern Brotherhood. Earlier this year, Devon wrapped recording sessions for his solo debut, Turquoise, scheduled for release in February 2013, and is currently on tour in the United States. Recently, Devon visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, and took time to share his thoughts on being an Allman, his influences both old and new (and familial), making music on his own terms, highlights of the Museum's collection and seeing the instruments played by Gregg and Duane Allman.
Rock Hall: What was your first memory of rock and roll music and what about it resonated with you?
Devon Allman: Driving to the south Texas beaches, age 5 with my ear against the back speaker in the car. I was small enough to lay across the dash listening to the local rock station and soaking up the sun. The first time I heard the sensual, otherworldly sax line on Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" I was smitten from that second forward.
RH: In the sphere of rock and roll, the name "Allman" commands a great deal of reverence. Have you ever felt added pressure or expectations given your famous father and uncle?
DA: I try to keep my head in the game and on my business. I'm much more concerned with becoming the best musician I can be, and what I can actually give back to music as a whole than to think about pressure, expectations or comparisons. It's counterproductive. It doesn't affect me in a negative manner. I'm my own musician. (pictured, right: Duane Allman's 1959 Gibson Les Paul, on exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum)
RH: How would you characterize your father's influence on you as a vocalist and songwriter?
DA: I look up to his voice and songwriting just as I look up to others from his era. They pioneered that fusion of soul and rock. I feel very fortunate to be of the next generation to help keep this all alive. I have not let his influence deter what my path is however – that would cloud my intentions of being a person that makes music. I simply am a huge fan of the timbre of his voice. It's one of the best on the planet – being my father or not.
RH: Who are some of the artists that have most influenced you – as a guitarist, a performer, songwriter…
RH: Are there any classic albums that you never tire of listening to? If so, which ones and why?
DA: Curtis Mayfield's first solo record, Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers, Derek & the Dominoes' Layla... This list is long – got a few days? In all seriousness, it's because these resonate with a timeless feel.
RH: What newer acts are you listening to?
DA: I really love the Shins, the Civil Wars, Frank Ocean, Lucero, and many, many more.
RH: What can fans expect to see and hear on your current tour?
DA: It's a cool show. I'm doing it in two sets with a short intermission. First set is a good chunk of the new solo record, Turquoise, which drops February 12, 2013. Throw in a couple Honeytribe songs from earlier in my career, a Royal Southern Brotherhood song (my current band) and some surprises along the way. Second set begins acoustic and rolls through some "chill-axable" material, and then we rev-up the end.
RH: What were some of the highlights of your visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum?
DA: Seeing Curtis Mayfield's guitar and hat, the Tom Petty lyrics for "Stop Draggin My Heart Around" and definitely seeing my pal Billy Gibbons' Eliminator car and without a doubt Muddy Waters' '58 red Telecaster. (pictured: Devon Allman (far right), son of Hall of Fame inductee Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band, visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, on Monday, December 3, 2012.)
RH: What's it like seeing Duane Allman's '59 Les Paul and Gregg Allman's Hammond B-3, both of which are on exhibition in the Museum's main exhibit hall? Stir any emotions, memories?
DA: It's bittersweet. I never knew Duane. People say I look just like him; my Dad says I remind him of Duane, and I'm just so proud – from more of a family perspective – of how many lives he truly touched before the age of 24 with such amazing music and very profound sense of himself and of the need for peace. He is sorely, sorely missed.