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Honest Music From A Drifting Outlaw

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An Interview with David Allen, The Drifting Outlaw

By Johnny Griffith

Mainstream country music these days is designed to trick your senses as a consumer. The artist who lay out multiple tracks of autotune, stage show songs, have likely never seen a tractor in real-life. It’s easy to get disillusioned with the product, especially if you want a touch of genuine in your life.

Luckily here in East Texas, we’ve got plenty of local musicians who are the real deal; David Allen might be one of the most authentic of the “Outlaw” country artists. Originally from the central valley of California, Allen moved to Texas at an early age and has been working the stages in this area for years. With a sense of authenticity and respect for where country music came from, David carries on that outlaw spirit with the likes of Waylon, Merle, and Cash.

We caught up to him recently in between dates and got to know him a little better:

Johnny: Your bio says you picked up the guitar for the first time at age 17. What caused you to grab one for the first time and how long did it take you to figure out this was something you wanted to do as more than just a hobby?

David: A good friend of mine (Darin Justice) was taking some guitar lessons and asked me if I wanted to start a band with him. I said yes and either I could play the bass or the drums. I couldn’t afford a $1200 drum set, so I bought a used bass for $150.

Johnny: Who were some of your early musical influences?

David: I was a huge Kiss fan, we both were! He had introduced me to Kiss and from there I was a “hair band” fan. It wasn’t until I graduated and started dating a barrel racer that I started listening to country music. She introduced me to Sawyer Brown and from there I fell in love with the “story” and meanings of the country music.

Johnny: At what point did you decide to start writing your own material and where do you draw your inspiration from?

David: When I finally got an acoustic guitar and started learning chords, I started writing songs. I just thought that was what a musician was supposed to do. So I learned to play “C, F, G” chords first. I must have written 20 songs with those three notes. Forward, backwards, sideways. When I got bored, I would learn a new key. I am still learning today to play progressions, and I will write three or more songs to every new chord I learn.

Johnny: Your music definitely has a component of the old “outlaw” country of the late 70’s early 80’s and one can definitely pick up threads of “Willie, Waylon, and the boys.” How would you describe your sound?

David: I’m embarrassed to say that I am new to the Waylon sound. That being said, I think he was the greatest writer, singer, and survivor of Nashville. I discovered Waylon about four years ago and he has become my greatest influence. There is an honesty and energy in every song he sang.

Johnny: Where did the nickname “The Drifting Outlaw” come from?

David: From Waylon’s “Outlaw” movement together with his mentor Hank Williams, who in my opinion was the first to change Nashville and move them into a more honest direction. Hank’s “Drifting” Cowboy Band.

Johnny: What would you say your percentage of originals to covers are in one of your shows? Or does it depend on the crowd?

David: It depends hugely on the crowd. The bigger the crowd, the more covers. Maybe I’m doing it backwards, but my original songs are so personal that I will do a lot more of them in an acoustic setting than with the full band behind me.

Johnny: What is the current lineup of you stage band and do you primarily play with a full band or do you do some solo shows as well?

David: Both, and I love both in their own way. The acoustic is personal and I will talk a lot more and do many of my originals. Mostly, we are a full band, and I love the band I have now and I like them to show off!

My lead guitarist, Jimmy Piatt, is the best I’ve ever played with, professional, modest, and always prepared. On bass I just lost the Rockabilly Hall of Famer Neil Sheckles for a better offer as a house band leader, but I have Super Dave Visniski now and we are as powerful as ever. Last, but certainly not least is my drummer Mark Wynn, who I’ve known for almost 40 years. I learn something from all of them every time we play. They are all great men and fantastic musicians!

Johnny: You’ve been playing music in this area for a while now, do you have a favorite memory so far?

David: A couple. Not sure if I should name the venue, but one night a drunk feller was dancing with my wife and decided to pick her up to spin her. He underestimated his strength and she is small, but all muscle. So about half way up they fell backward, he hit his head on the corner of the stage step and started to bleed pretty good. I start my show now with “We are the band that doesn’t stop playing till there is blood on the floor!” A few songs later another, more sober, young man asked her to dance and as they crossed in front of the stage I yelled down to him, “You’re taking your life into your own hands”. I was speaking about the accident earlier but it scared him pretty badly because he thought I meant he shouldn’t be dancing with my wife. The second memory was more ironic. I had just finished a Waylon tribute show and as I was packing up, five police came busting through the door and arrested me! Made me feel like I was in Nashville recording with Waylon.

Johnny: Any shows coming up that stick out as “must see” events?

David: Anything with the full band! Everybody is surprised at how good the show is the first time they come. We are consistent with every show. The more people, the higher the energy on stage and in the audience.

Johnny: What’s on the horizon for The Drifting Outlaw through the rest of the year?

David: I really want to finish my album. This is my second, but really the first because I didn’t like some of the sound on the first and wouldn’t release it.

Johnny: What can a first timer expect to see at a David Allen show?

David: You will be surprised!! We are the best country band in East Texas! You will get a four hour show of honest country music.

For more information on David Allen, visit him on the web at reverbnation.com/davidallenthedriftingoutlaw or facebook.com/DavidAllenOutlaw.

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Bands

October 13th, Award-Winning Band MercyMe in Concert

October 13th, Award-Winning Band MercyMe in Concert

MercyMe will be in concert at The Oil Palace is October and is guaranteed to sell-out!

Since their debut in 2001, Grammy®-nominated, multiple American Music Award and Dove Award winners, MercyMe has sold more than 8.5 million units in CD, single and DVD sales, garnered 27 No. 1 multi-format Christian radio singles and four consecutive mainstream radio hits with ‘I Can Only Imagine,’ (No. 4 AC/Top 25 on Top 40/Hot AC), ‘Here With Me’ (No. 4 AC), ‘Homesick’ (Top 10 AC), and ‘So Long Self.’

Their radio success has continued with recent singles ‘Flawless’ (No. 1 for 15 weeks) and ‘Greater’ (No. 1 for 16 weeks)​, landing them the Top Christian Airplay Artist spot on Billboard’s 2015 Year End charts.

MercyMe made history in 2014 as ‘I Can Only Imagine’ surpassed 2 million digital downloads, making it the first song in Christian music to go platinum and double-platinum in the digital domain. In 2009, Billboard named MercyMe’s ‘Word Of God Speak’ the No. 1 Song of The Decade and the group the No. 1 Artist of the Decade in both the Christian Songs and Christian AC Songs categories, recognizing them as one of the industry’s most notable talents.

They have sold out venues throughout the US and Canada, including Radio City Music Hall, and have appeared on The Today Show, CBS This Morning, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Fox New Channel’s Fox & Friends, CNN, ABC News, and in the pages of Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times, USA Today and more.

Their most recent project “MercyMe, It’s Christmas!” debuted atop the Billboard Top Holiday Albums chart and became an instant classic. Their eighth studio release, “Welcome To The New,” garnered Billboard Music Award nominations in all three Christian categories and two Grammy® nods; the album is available in stores now.

Tickets start at $19 and are available at oilpalace.com. The Oil Palace is located at 10408 State Highway 64 East, Tyler, (903)566-2122.

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Blacktop Mojo: Burning Up The Roads To Success

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By Johnny Griffith

About a year and a half ago I sat down to interview Blacktop Mojo, a Jacksonville based hard rock band riding a wave of momentum after several successful years together and an upcoming album release. The end of that interview finished with this:

“Blacktop Mojo can still be heard around East Texas on a regular basis, but I would definitely suggest checking out their website for more information and a sample of their music if you haven’t heard them. If it’s in your wheelhouse, get out and support a great local band that won’t be local for much longer at the rate their Mojo is working.”

As it turns out, I was a little more prescient that I anticipated as Blacktop Mojo’s stock has only risen in the ensuing months. With a successful album release, ever increasingly distant tour stops, and mounting accolades from industry critics and magazines, local BTM shows are becoming harder to come by.

In case you might not have heard of Blacktop Mojo, their sound can be described as “modern rock that got dragged through a puddle of southern rock and then dipped in a little bit of grunge”. The band was originally formed in 2012 and the current lineup includes Matt James on vocals, Nathan Gillis on drums, Chuck Wepfer on rhythm guitar, Ryan Keifer on lead guitar, and Matt Curtis on bass.  

With a huge sound and chest shaking vocals, Blacktop Mojo brings a high energy rock show that leaves fans wanting more everywhere they go. While in the midst of rehearsals last month for their most recent tour that kicked off in San Antonio on April 20th, we caught up with them to see what had been going on for the past year and a half and what was on the radar for the rest of the year.

Johnny: So it’s been about a year and a half since our last interview with you guys and the last time we talked there was an album in the works. When did “Burn The Ships” release and how was the process different from the first time around when you recorded “I am”?

BTM: “Burn The Ships” released in March of 2017. The biggest difference between this record and our first record, “I Am”, was the amount of time we took for pre-production. On “I Am”, we spent about two weeks getting ready and arranging the songs before we went in to record it, where on “Burn The Ships”, we spent about eight months demoing and playing around with different ideas.

Johnny: How has the reception been to the album so far and do you guys have your own personal favorite song from it?

BTM: The reception to the album has been incredible this far. We’ve had countless positive reviews and feedback from publications all over the world. Also, our first single off of the album entitled “Where The Wind Blows” reached number 27 on the Billboard Active Rock chart last summer.

Johnny: You guys got to open for Bon Jovi last year in a sold-out stadium. Tell us about that about how you guys got that honor and a little about the experience?

BTM: We actually won that honor in a contest the band was putting on. We submitted some of our original music and were picked by Live Nation and the band’s management to open up the show. The experience was beyond amazing and the crowd was very receptive to us. We cannot thank the Bon Jovi camp enough for the opportunity and for treating us so incredibly.

Johnny: Obviously that put you in front of a lot of potential new fans but what would you say the biggest takeaway from that event was?

BTM: Our biggest takeaway from that night was that whether you’re playing in front of 20 or 20,000 people, you should treat it the same way. Make everyone feel like you’re playing in a stadium even if it’s an empty room.

Johnny: Blacktop Mojo has been trending steadily upward the past couple of years with several accolades from industry publications, over 40 thousand likes on Facebook, a new album, and you guys seem to play everywhere and anywhere. What kind of effect has the increased exposure and success had on the daily routine and what kind of new challenges have came along?

BTM: Our daily routine hasn’t changed much when we’re home. We still write and rehearse on a regular basis and go about business as usual. The increased exposure has made touring opportunities more readily available for us and has increased the number of people we can reach with our music, which is super exciting for us.

Johnny: You have a pretty extensive tour coming up that you’ll already be on the road for when this goes to print. Is this the biggest tour BTM has embarked on and what goes into planning a 2-month long road trip that covers, as best I could count, 32 states, both sides of the country, Canada, and 43 shows?

BTM: This is our most extensive tour to date. A lot of planning, routing, and generally putting the puzzle pieces together has gone on over the past few months by us and our team to make this happen. We couldn’t be more excited to get back out on the road and see our friends across the country.

Johnny: I’d say it would be time for a break after that sort of trip, but you guys are right back at it, playing Rock Fest 2018 up in Wisconsin with some huge names, do you guys ever have to step back, take a breath, and say to yourself “this is our reality”?

BTM: We are very blessed to be able to wake up and do what we love every single day. They say “you never work a day in your life if you do what you love”, so I don’t think we’ve ever really thought about taking a break.

Johnny: Were you able to see yourself at this point back when you played your first show at the Neches Fall Festival or the first “official” show as BTM at the Shelton Gin back in 2012?

BTM: It would have been hard to imagine getting to do what we do now back then. We’ve always just been happy to be able to play music for people.

Johnny: With what’s on your plate for the first half of this year, I almost hate to ask, but what’s on the radar for the second half of 2018 that you can share with us?

BTM: We have plans to keep touring throughout the rest of the year and are currently writing music for our third record.

Johnny: What has been the best memory from the ride so far?

BTM: It’s hard to pick just one from all of it. One of my favorites so far was riding back into town off of our first tour last Summer/Fall. We’d been out on the road for over 60 days straight with 7 of us basically living out of our van. We were tired, beat up, and hungry, but everyone was smiling and joking with each other. It really felt like we had accomplished something.

For more information on Blacktop Mojo and when they’ll be back at a location near you, check them out on the web:

www.blacktopmojo.com 

www.facebook.com/BlacktopMojo.

 

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