Photo by Jay Blakesberg

What do you remember discovering about the band once you joined?

I remember one time Dickey telling me that whenever they played twin guitars, or harmony guitars, Dickey always played the melody and Duane always played the harmony. That surprised me because for some reason, in my mind, I thought it would be the other way around or like a 50-50 kind of thing. But Dickey is an extremely melodic guitar player, and the way he explained it to me was that Duane had a really cool sense of harmony, so Dickey would just start playing a melody off the top of his head, which he’s so great at, and Duane had such a great ear and such a great sense of harmony that he would just start harmonizing with it on the fly without any rehearsal. So a lot of the stuff that you hear on live recordings, like Fillmore East, the reason that it’s kind of loose in a jazzy way – meaning that some of the notes aren’t parallel or perfect – is because it is unrehearsed. They were making it up as they went along, which gives it a kind of timeless jazzy sensibility, more so than if it were perfect I think.

Not the easiest shoes for you and Derek to fill.

In the beginning, when Derek and I started being the two guitars in the Allman Brothers, we talked about how strange it is, from an outside perspective, that neither Duane nor Dickey are in the band. The only thing that makes it justifiable is how great the band sounds right now, but I obviously felt weird about it as a fan and because Dickey was the one that brought me to the band.

Did you ever feel like an outsider?

I’d been playing with Dickey for about three years, playing guitar and slide guitar and singing in his band, and we had written a lot of songs together, and several of those songs wound up on Pattern Disruptive, which was Dickey’s solo record that I did with him. And then coincidentally, a song that I co-wrote called “Just Before the Bullets Fly” wound up being the title track of Gregg’s latest solo record. And that was a total coincidence, those incidents were unrelated. So when the Allman Brothers reformed and I was introduced, I’d already written songs with and for Dickey and for Gregg, so they were both comfortable with me as a songwriter and that made a big difference. They accepted me pretty instantly and made it a smoother transition than it could have been. I think looking back, the fact that they allowed me not only to sing in the band, but to be one of the songwriters – a lot of bands would have been threatened by that.

The setlists began to vary more once you got involved.

In the beginning myself, Allen Woody, Kirk West and Gregg were all pushing to vary the setlist more than we were at that time back in the ‘90s. And Gregg said to me in front of the rest of the band, “Hey, you wouldn’t have a problem if we didn’t play ‘One Way Out’ every night, would you?” And I said, “Hey man, I was sick of playing that song before I ever met you guys.” I played that song in every bar band and cover band that I was ever in, you know? Obviously it was so much more fun playing it the real way with the real folks but I definitely made my point that we don’t have to play that song every night. Our relationship has been that solid for a long, long time.

If Woody hadn’t passed away, do you think you two would have eventually rejoined the band?

I have no way of knowing if Woody and I would have found ourselves back in the Allman Brothers. We definitely were not thinking that way when we left. We were leaving to concentrate full-time on Gov’t Mule and not looking back. Of course fast-forward, Woody passes away and Dickey is no longer in the Allman Brothers Band so I get the call from Gregg, “Hey, we’d love for you to come back.” Had Woody not passed away, it most likely would have never been a consideration. But based on those circumstances, I found myself in a situation where it made sense to me.