Charm City Devils’ John Allen on Touring, New Single ‘Unstoppable’ + More
Charm City Devils have been flying high on the success of the first single from their latest studio album, ‘Sins.’ Their cover of ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ has received a lot of radio airplay and has turned into a fan favorite at the band’s live shows. Opening for Mark Tremonti‘s solo-project in New York City, we were able to grab a few minutes with lead singer John Allen.
Allen filled us in on everything from their new record label, the band’s latest single ‘Unstoppable’ and some new music that he’s been excited about.
During tonight’s set, you mentioned this was your first show in New York City.
Well, I guess we played a little showcase for a distribution company at a club years ago, but we really haven’t been back since. Ever since Crue Fest 2, we never got back, the closest we came was in Sayreville [New Jersey] at the Starland Ballroom, just an awesome place. But to be back in New York City, the crowd was so awesome, so warm. It was really nice.
You’ve got a few shows with Mark Tremonti’s solo project, you’ve got the new album that’s been out for a few months now. How is everything going?
Everything is great, it’s just tremendous. We released the record on a very small independent label and then [our new label] eOne Music picked it up and released it for real, like nationwide in late July. Things have gone great. We pick back up with Theory of a Deadman on Oct. 20 and that’ll carry on for a little while. We just did the Rock Allegiance Festival at Hershey Park with some legendary bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Fuel, Three Days Grace and Buckcherry. It was an honor for us to be on that show. It was incredible.
The first single from ‘Sins’ is also the song you closed tonight’s set with, ‘Man of Constant Sorrow.’ I know you’ve talked about that song a lot in past interviews, choosing to cover it because you’re a blues fan and you loved the movie ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ When you were deciding which song to cover, what other songs were brought up in the conversation?
I don’t want to give anybody ideas! What if we go back and want to pick it up? A lot of the songs were blues-based, but of course this song is more bluegrass and we completely mangled it and changed it. It’s tricky, we were trying to think outside of the box. But you know what? You can always whip out a Foghat song, man!
On the next album and in future live sets, will you bust out any more covers?
I’ve got no problem playing a cover song here or there. Early when we started we’d play ‘Highway to Hell’ in our set. We used to play a Black Keys song every now and again. When we play our stuff, I feel more of a responsibility to really honor the record and play it as close as possible to the original version. If you play a cover, it feels a lot more freeing and relaxed for me. We can have a lot of fun up there with it. ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ isn’t the case, though, because it took on a life of its own. We did change it, though, I mean, I did write a chorus for it that wasn’t there. Certainly there is still a responsibility there for that song.
You could tell you were having a lot of fun when you guys busted into Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child’ during tonight’s performance of ‘I Got Mine.’
There is so much pressure to be perfect, but then with a song like that you can just let your guard down and have a good time.
Your second single is out now, ‘Unstoppable.’ You told the audience tonight that the theme of the song follows along the lines of, “Things will get better.”
Certainly the title of it was something that I wind up talking about a lot. Never say die, you know, that kind of attitude. I’ve never given up, I’ve been doing this a long time. We’re lifers, man. I stopped playing music for a very brief time and I got pulled right back in.
Earlier you mentioned eOne Music, your new label. They’ve got quite the roster including Saving Abel, Hatebreed, Smile Empty Soul and Black Label Society. How does it feel to be a part of that family?
It’s crazy, they have such a wide array of bands, man. We’re very fortunate to be a part of that label. Hanging out with those guys, they’re good people. It’s really refreshing in our industry to be around those types of guys. It feels great. It is wonderful to be there.
2012 has brought with it a lot of new releases, some from familiar bands and others from brand new up-and-comers. Has there been anything out there that’s caught your ear?
Outside of the genre, I’ve been listening to Alex Clare. Her song, ‘Too Close,’ is incredible. I know it’s not what the rockers want to hear, but it’s incredible. I still love AWOLNATION. Monster Truck, I dig them. I love the new Three Days Grace track. The Shinedown record is awesome and so is the Halestorm album. There’s just so much good stuff out there. It’s a great time to be out and playing.
Since he covered ‘Man of Constant Sorrow,’ I have to ask if you’ve heard the new Bob Dylan album.
I love Bob Dylan. I’ve got his first album and it’s just incredible. He’s just a great lyricist and poet. I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for him. I didn’t know he did a cover of the song when we decided to pick up that challenge. Had I known that Dylan did a cover of it, I don’t think we would’ve gone into it. But, I will say, a lot of people covered that song, and none of them are like ours. We wrote our own chorus, we got rid of all the music, we just kept the basic melody of the song. We’ve had tons of positive responses to it. We did have one lady, though, who was so emotionally connected to the original song that her response was just awesome. She Tweeted at us and called our version of the song an abortion and said we should all die in a fire! I figured we must have done something right, man!
So what’s on the horizon for Charm City Devils?
Now that I’ve been home for a couple of weeks, I have definitely started coming up with a ton of new ideas, but an album is a little ways away. I’ll get busy here in the next few weeks, but I think we’ll be working this latest album for awhile now.