The Weekly conversation: Gregg Allman
Wed, Jan 9, 2013 (6 p.m.)
Photo: Danny Clinch
What sorts of things are you able to do with a Gregg Allman show that you can’t do with an Allman Brothers show? That’s a good question. It’s like, no holds barred. I can play anything. Well, we can in the Brothers, too, but I started this band because there were certain songs that I’d written over the years that the Brothers just didn’t play. Starting in 1973 with a record called Laid Back, which is still one of my favorites if not my favorite. … It was just kind of a different thing to stir in with the Brothers, just a different breath of air. And then, when I would write something, there was a place for it within one of the two bands. It’s worked out real good.
How did you select the musicians for your solo shows? I kind of left it to fate, with one rule: I had to be in awe of everybody that played. They are all people that I knew that played so much better than me—and people I knew I could learn from. I knew that these people would make me have to start stepping it up to keep up. That’s basically how I put this together.
- GREGG ALLMAN
- January 12, 8 p.m., $49-$79.
- The Pearl, 942-7777.
How does surrounding yourself with people that challenge you affect the outcome of the songs you write? It kind of opens up new avenues and you get everybody to put their own little extra piece in it. I mean, like when I write a song for the Brothers, I’d show it to them in its skeletal form and let everybody put in their own stuff. Unless there’s certain things that you want to be in there, like a certain guitar fill or horn fill between words. If there’s anything you want to stay in the song, you always show it to them the first time like that. That can be a dicey situation, showing them the song. Because after you write a song, you hear it in your head—you know exactly how you want it to go and it always comes out totally different (laughs). Well, not totally, but it’s always for the good.
You’ve worked with some serious guitar greats: your brother Duane, Dickey Betts, Warren Haynes, Derek Trucks. What do you think it is about your music that attracts those talents? I don’t know. I try to keep it honest (laughs). There’s one song that I wrote in waltz time—“Dreams”—and anybody who’s ever sat in with us and played it and gets a solo, they wanna come back (laughs).
I know what you mean; 3/4 time has always felt more natural than 4/4 to me. There’s something very comfortable about it. Oh you’re a player? Well, “Whipping Post” is in 11/4, and when I wrote it, I didn’t know 11/4 from Adam’s house cat. My brother had to tell me what a time signature was. Alls I know is I wanted three sets of three and a deuce to get back up on the next three sets. Like, “1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2, 1-2-3, 1-2-3,” and so on. Because it felt like, every time you’d get to the two, it somehow had momentum to where the next set of three seems a little more sturdy, more strong, a little more excitement, a little more everything. It gets heavier each time, and that, I’ve figured out in years past, is the major attraction of that song.
Your memoir, My Cross to Bear was published this year. What inspired you to put it all down on paper? Well, I started writing that in 1982. It was just a journal, and I had this one roadie—oh sorry, technician (laughs); we don’t call ’em roadies anymore. Anyway, this guy could remember where the Brothers had played and when. I mean, a remarkable memory on this guy. You could ask him, “Where did the brothers play September 9, 1980?” and he’d spit it right out. If not, he’d go to this little book he had and then he’d spit it right out. And he was there to help me with the hardest part of doing an autobiography—the chronological order, trying to remember what happened and when. And most of it, being a journal, was dated and everything. Then, I had to fill in all the places that I didn’t sit down and write that day. That day turned into that month. Because you know, religiously keeping a journal is for somebody who’s not as busy as me.
Are you making any New Year’s resolutions? Yeah, I’m not ever going back to the hospital again (laughs). I had a [liver] transplant, then I had a bunch of complications from it. I had four pretty serious operations, and I’m just now starting to heal up. They lasted all through 2010 and ’11. I’m so glad its all over—well, I’m hoping it’s all over. I feel great at the moment, and I hope to God it stays that way.