Q&A: An interview with Honeytribe’s Devon Allman

Devon-Allman-for web

Published Oct. 19, 2009

The Sarasota Blues Festival always has an after party at the Five O’Clock Club every year. But this year, there’s an alternate after party at Pastimes for all those blues fans who enjoy their late nights with more of a jam band feel. Honeytribe will be rockin’ out the Gulf Gate scene courtesy of front man Devon Allman. I talked with Allman over the phone about life on the road with one of America’s premier power trios:

Have you played in Sarasota a lot?

“We’ve done the Blues Fest, the Van Wezel, the Five O’ and Pastimes a few times. It’s a cool little room, it’s always packed out uncomfortably and it’s a good time.”

Who do you meet up with when you come down here?

“I always hang out with Pedro (Arevalo). He’s always been an honorary fourth member of the Tribe. Love him.”

What’s been the hardest part of playing 300 shows a year for 3 years?

“Just trying to find good food, good sleep, trying not to miss your loved ones too much. Just making sacrifices to keep the music you love alive. It’s freaking worth it.”

How does the power trio compare to the original line-up?

“It’s cool, this band was started in ‘99 as a seven-piece, then went to six, then five. We’ve been doing the power trio for a year and it’s awesome. I can see how Cream and Hendrix loved it. It gives you so much freedom. A lot of people come up after the show and say ‘it’s great, it’s so powerful.’”

Was it strange coming from the north (St. Louis) and being so connected to the quintessential southern rock band?

“Well, I’m from south Texas so I’m from further south than most people who call themselves southerners. St. Louis might seem north to Jacksonville and Mobile, but it’s not that far north. We never beat our chest and say we’re the continuation of southern rock. We’re a kaleidoscope with blues and R & B and jazz. We don’t sound much like Lynyrd Skynyrd.”

Where did the name Honeytribe come from?

“I saw Buddy Guy play when I was about 23. That night I saw him he went from knocking your teeth in to so ultra quiet it was almost a whisper, and that dynamic was something I wanted. Honey is very sweet and Tribe is very fierce, and that just kind of embodies the vibe of the band.”

Did you write a lot of music during your four-year hiatus?

“I took time off just to be human and be a daddy. I did write a bit and did a bunch of acoustic shows to keep food on the table, but it was more about making sure my son understands what I’m doing. It wasn’t a hugely productive time, but I still played 200 shows a year.”

Did your father push for you to get into music?

“It was a completely and totally organic path to music on my own. It’s a common misperception that I grew up back stage with a guitar in my hand, but that’s not the truth. I grew up in the suburbs and played soccer. We do our own thing and we’ve had a lot of amazing shows. It’s great to be able to do it independently and not have some jack-off in a suit tell us what to do. It’s about taking it to the people, that’s what we do. Honeytribe is different than a lot of bands that come out these days. MTV is great but the side effect is people wanting to be celebrities rather than making great music. I was five when I heard a Beatles record, and I asked ‘what can I do to give back to music?’ When I ask what I can give back to music rather than what I can get from it, it all falls into place.”

Your father was known more for the keys. Do you get into the keyboard much?

“I definitely play, but I’m not very adept. I can’t take a solo on keys. I’m doing a song on the new album where I play piano. Guitar just seemed so much more badass when I was a kid. That sustaining note, that’s what makes it so cool. It’s like a modern day horn.”

Are your live shows pretty set or is there a lot of improvisation involved?

“It’s not a complete question mark, but anything does go. Typically every season I kind of change up the beginning of a show or a song. There are never two shows alike. We’ve never used a set list, ever. That probably works for a lot of artists, but not for us. We just do what we’re feeling and what the crowd’s feeling – just wing it man.”

Any plans for a new album soon?

“We finally have a date for the studio … where we did Torch. We’re gonna be in there for five weeks, which is amazing since Torch was done in two. It’s gonna be really nice to stretch and have a chance to be more free. It will be called Space Aged Blues. We’re looking at a May 2010 release. We’re finishing up North America in the fall and heading to Europe throughout Christmas and then hitting the studio. We work a lot but we love to do it. We’re doing our part to keep it alive.”

Do you realize your Pastimes show is the same day as Blues Fest?

“Which is crazy, but I think good. I called Barbara and she was like, ‘What the hell?’ They do an after party at the 5 O’ but that’s more of the older crowd and our show is more for the younger people that like jam bands. I think there’s something that night for everybody. It’s a strong market, and we got so many friends around there. They know they’re coming because Honeytribe will kick their ass. A lot of people come thinking Gregg Allman, but they leave with a whole new respect. They leave saying, ‘I got a new band to follow.’ It’s a great feeling.”


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