A Conversation with Royal Southern Brotherhood’s Devon Allman
Devon Allman is a busy man these days. Last May, Royal Southern Brotherhood, a blues rock supergroup featuring Allman, Cyril Neville, Mike Zito, Yonrico Scott, and Charlie Wooton, unveiled its self-titled debut release after forming in the summer of 2011. The album and the band have had a warm reception. The disc landed at number five on the Billboard Blues Chart and has recently been nominated for Best Rock Blues Album for the upcoming 34th annual Blues Music Awards. In 2012, the band toured extensively behind the release in both Europe and the US, and more of the same is scheduled for the year ahead. As if that wasn’t enough to keep him running, Allman’s first solo record,Turquoise, came out mid February.
I recently caught up with Allman while he was on the road to Chicago. For someone juggling the demands of two bands and a new release, he seemed remarkably calm and easygoing. Despite his hectic schedule, he’s clearly enjoying the ride. “It’s definitely the busiest time in my career, and I’m grateful for it,” he told me. “It’s been exhausting from time to time, but it’s worth it. I’m living the dream. I’ve got two bands rolling down the highways, going all around the world. It’s very exciting.”
For Allman, continuing to pursue his own music while playing in Royal Southern Brotherhood can have its advantages. “That’s kind of a cool thing,” he noted. “Everyone in the band will be putting out solo records as well as Royal Southern Brotherhood records.” Switching between the two “actually serves both sides quite well,” according to Allman. “In my own band, I’m the focal point and singing all the songs, and in that band (RSB), I’m more of a support role, and that’s cool. When I’m burnt out, singing every song, every night, I get to go and be in a support role where I’m featured about one-third of the time, and then, when I’m feeling like ‘oh, man, I wish I was singing a little bit more,’ then I go out with my band. I like both very much, and it’s effortless to switch gears between the two.”
It was Rueben Williams, a music industry veteran who was already managing the careers of Cyril Neville and Mike Zito, who first suggested the idea of bringing these talented, independent artists together to form the dream team that’s RSB. “I think that mentality of leaving the egos at the door and making sure the songs are the boss was really the only thing that made the group even happen,” Allman commented. “When they first called me about the idea, I really did think they were nuts,” he laughed. “That’s like putting five quarterbacks out on the field and saying ‘go play football.’”
As it turned out, things went smoothly from the start. “When we first got together, it was cool. It was like let’s just jam. Cyril was writing down in his notebook and the drummer was just drumming a groove and we’d drop in some guitar. Man, we jammed for eight hours, two or three days in a row and came up with a bunch of riffs and song ideas. We birthed the band right there, and a lot of material came out of those jams,” recalled Allman. “It was very instant chemistry.”
What started out as a musical experiment is rapidly turning into a full-time gig. “We’re very delighted with how quickly the band took off and was so accepted,” Allman said. “I think when we first started, everyone was questioning what’s the future of this, and are we just riding this one wave, but when we got out on tour, that changed. Everybody was really into it. Instead of something that we would do on the side of our careers, this became the main thing…I think it’s a good wave to ride because it’s a special mix of people. And who knows how long that window is? Five, ten years? Who really knows? But I’m here until the end for sure.”
Royal Southern Brotherhood headlines Tulsa’s Mayfest on Friday, May 17. Visit the Mayfest website for the complete music lineup.