Getting to Know Doug Allen
Doug Allen is a Connecticut guy with a tasty alt-country Nashville sound. He has combined his love of nature and music and is loving playing songs for all kinds of audiences. His reminiscences about learning how to play guitar and how he began songwriting will resonate with all singer-songwriters. Doug is one of 24 musicians chosen as Emerging Artists at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in Hillsdale, NY.
Falcon Ridge is celebrating its 25th anniversary the first weekend in August and the Emerging Artist showcase is always one of the highlights of the festival. The musicians are chosen by a three-member jury and are given the opportunity to perform two songs (not to exceed ten minutes). The audience votes for their favorites and three or four acts are asked to return to the main stage the following year.
To learn a bit more about Doug Allen, visit his website.
When did you first pick up the guitar?
Well I picked it up or tried to about three times before it took… People and books kept trying to teach a lot of music theory or simple songs I didn’t know like “Old Beggars Waltz” and I was like “What?… this isn’t rock n’ roll, I want to play songs I know.” So I’d put it down and then be drawn back to it sometimes years later. A high school friend ended up teaching me a few chords to a Neil Young song in the cafeteria and then it stuck with me… after that I haven’t stopped playing since.
You recorded your last CD in Nashville. Was there a reason you decided to do it down there? Are you a fan of the Nashville sound?
Good question… I’ve been spending more and more time in Nashville over the past few years and just love it there, such a great music scene and it feels like a good fit. I had written a few country songs and I figured I’d go there to get some real lap steel guitar on it. No one really plays that up here in the Northeast. I am also very inspired by a lot of new country, like Zac Brown Band, Keith Urban and Dierks Bentley. Their sound influenced me to record my last CD there. The Nashville players and engineers are just terrific and so versatile. It was a trip to record with some well-known musicians in country music, all so creative… I loved it and hope to do it again soon with a new batch of tunes this fall.
When did you start writing your own songs?
I started writing my own “song ideas” as a small kid way before I learned to play an instrument… I’d lie in bed at night and before I’d fall asleep, the ideas would flow and I’d say “hey that would make a pretty cool song” but I never wrote them down until I had a guitar and a girlfriend for inspiration : )… so probably high school.
I love playing all sorts of gigs… Solo, duos and band shows. I often think of all the cool people I’ve met and places I’ve seen that I would not have without music in my life.
Solo acoustic gigs can be very intimate and cool but shows with the band are nice too because you can really feed off the energy of the crowd when you have the bass and drums kickin’ behind you… for instance, we played in front of impromptu mosh pit on the 4th of July this summer with a ton of sweaty, dancing college students and ya just can’t beat it… I don’t think that could happen at a solo acoustic show… but I’ll keep trying! : )
You’ve opened shows for some pretty impressive artists including Jewel, Blue Oyster Cult and Gregg Allman. Tell us about your time with John Entwistle from The Who? How about Edwin McCain?
Wow… Playing in front of John Entwistle was sick! His band was doing some solo shows around the country while The Who were on a break. He played a bunch of Who songs he cowrote and it was SOOOO LOUD! We actually had to stand outside the club to hear it! It was just too loud to be in the same building with them. He was a real nice guy and let our bass player use his bass rig for our opening slot. Very cool. Too bad he’s gone now. Glad I got to meet him. What a legend.
Opening up for Edwin McCain was one of my more memorable gigs. We played on the big stage at Webster Theater in Hartford one summer night a few years back. He’s a terrific singer! And his band is awesome! He was such a nice and down to earth guy… we chatted for a bit after the show and I asked him about his band… he said “yeah man I’m lucky I still have the same guys playing with me now that I did when I started, we’re all friends and have been together since the beginning.” It’s no wonder… their closeness comes across clearly in their live show. I’d love to play with him again.
How did you get your song “Blue Room” placed in the Renee Zellweger / Meryl Streep film One True Thing? How many takes did it take to get that scene just right?
That was another by chance thing… a few years back I got a little discouraged by the music biz and decided to take a break and try acting in film and TV. I got into doing “extra work” (background crosses etc.) and the agent for that submitted my CD for a band scene in an upcoming movie. They sent it to LA and Universal Pictures picked me and my band to be in the film One True Thing with Renee Zellweger. But the neat thing was I didn’t have a band at the time so I just hired some session guys I met on another movie and one guy I had recorded “Blue Room” with years before. The bass player (Scott Spray–Johnny Winter’s group) suggested we record “Blue Room” for Universal because we only knew 3 tunes in total from the one rehearsal we had. Universal asked us to learn “I’m Alright” by Kenny Loggins and “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds but we learned my tune, too, just in case we’d get a chance to play it and we did! While shooting the scene in the movie they decided to go with my “Blue Room” …a total surprise… we hashed out a deal and the rest is history. : )
Here’s a clip of Doug playing in the film mentioned above:
*The judging panel changes year to year. Many thanks to this year’s panel, Carter Smith, producer of Common Ground Community Concerts in Hastings-on-Hudson NY, Dennis O’Brien, talent buyer for the Newtown Theater in Newtown PA and Kathy Sands-Boehmer, booker for the Me & Thee Coffeehouse in Marblehead MA now in its 43rd year of presenting great acoustic music.