Saturday Special: In Conversation With DD Allen

Photo Credit: Sean Batts

DD Allen has been making music for over six years now and his musical talents brought him to the attention of music maestro, Dave Griffiths, he then scored the big time when he managed to (unintentionally) grab the attention of James Blunt (Face the Truth). Over the last few years, he has played gigs both here in the UK and in places abroad such as Holland. Even though lockdown and COVID have managed to slow things down for him he has still been able to make music, and one of those has resulted in his latest single, ‘Paper Masks‘.

” I’ve lost 18 months near enough so it’s time to push on with the debut album”

Photo Credit: Rhona Murphy

Adam Humphries: So, you have been making music since 2016, half a decade, how has everything been going for you since?

DD Allen: You’re making me sound old talking in half-decades man. No, I really started in 2013. I made a solo EP called Sydney Afternoon for about £100. But you’re right, 2016 is the year I released my first professionally recorded single. I feel pretty honored. I’ve recorded in incredible studios, played awesome festivals, sold out some shows, and toured in Holland. I’m excited about where things are at the moment, especially with the sound.

AH: What’s your real name and are you going to share it with What’s On readers?

DA: My real name is Drew David Allen. I put the first EP out under my real name but there’s an R&B singer in America called Drew Allen. All our songs started getting mixed up in the digital stores so I started using the stage name DD Allen in 2016. Most people know me as DD now but you can call me Drew.

AH: What was it that first inspired you to embark on a career in music anyway?

DA: I’d say performing at the Purbeck Valley Folk Festival in 2014. I got a standing ovation from around 800 people and an encore request. I remember thinking OK, I might be able to make a career out of this.

AH: How was it finding your niche when it came to singing and songwriting?

DA: I found my niche straight away. I started out songwriting as a storyteller and that’s pretty much what I am now, albeit with a few more guitar riffs in the melody. When I started making my own music, I’d moved away from home for work and found myself in a pretty reflective mood after a while. I started listening to Bob Dylan a lot. And the way he writes songs really intrigued me. I’d spent years before that not really paying attention to anything. I’d flunked school and couldn’t even get onto any music courses because the tutors said I didn’t have the aptitude for music theory. But I listened to Dylan’s music relentlessly for weeks, especially how he uses narrative and metaphor in his writing. Then all of a sudden I started paying attention to everything around me. And I found myself turning everything I saw into songs. I didn’t study any kind of formulas, I just wrote stories alongside a basic guitar melody. Folk music I guess. So, on the songwriting side of things, nothing changed for me. I still write lyrics the same way. The only thing I’ve evolved is the melody. Or the sound.

AH: So overall, as a solo artist, which musicians influence your style of music?

DA: I play mainly with a band behind me although I still play the odd solo song in a live show. You’ll hear a lot of Ryan Adams and City and Colour in the style we play. I also get a lot of people saying they hear The War on Drugs in the music. I think that’s mainly because our style isn’t really genre-specific. But I like that.

Photo Credit: Sean Batts

AH: You gained some interest from well-known musician and singer, James Blunt. How did it feel to be recognized by him?

DA: You spend most of your time as an emerging artist dealing with rejection in one form or another. So, when someone as big as James Blunt thinks you’re good enough to open a show for him it feels incredibly special. I mean, James is trusting you with his audience. The show at the BIC in Bournemouth is still my favorite moment. I’d only been performing my own stuff for about a year. And I went from playing in front of 30 people to 3,600. There’s a recording of the show on my SoundCloud channel. I’m proud of that moment.

AH: Now, since July of this year, we’ve gradually been coming out of lockdown. How did the actual pandemic affect you as a musician?

DA: We were supposed to hit the studio and record a couple of new songs when the first lockdown hit. It was pretty tough mentally. I don’t do isolation very well. And rules aside I got pretty nervous. I saw a singer in one band I know go down with COVID and he couldn’t sing for four months. I heard of another guy who still couldn’t sing six months on.

I started watching the news a lot and felt pretty strongly about the things I saw. I felt like too many people didn’t take the virus seriously early doors and nothing was going to change until everyone did. The George Floyd killing shocked me as well. I couldn’t believe how some people tried to defend it. I knew I’d regret not writing about the times so I put a song called ‘Paper Masks’ together. The only thing was that for me and about a year in time, everything centered on this song. I had people telling me nobody wanted to hear anything about the pandemic. I had others telling me I’d split my audience by nailing my colors to the mast about the George Floyd murder. But the more people told me not to do it the more determined I became to make the song happen. It was a nightmare getting Paper Masks made. I even got pinged by the NHS app two days before the official video shoot so we had to reschedule. Everything was late but we got the song out eventually and I’m glad it happened.

Photo Credit: Rhona Murphy

AH: What will you be looking forward to as a musician?

DA: The main thing is getting back in the studio. I’ve lost 18 months near enough so it’s time to push on with the debut album. I’m pretty buzzing at the moment. I’ve got two new guitarists and two female backing singers in the band now. So, we’re making a big sound. It’s very exciting. I can’t wait to get back on stage. We’re starting to lock a few shows down for 2022.

I’m a bit late to the party with stripped-down live shows. But I’m starting a regular series of live-at-home performances shortly. I’ve written about 70 songs people haven’t heard yet so I think it’s time I shared some of the material. I’ll do some solo performances and maybe a few duets. I might even throw an odd cover in.

AH: And finally, where can people and fans hear your music?

DA: I have eight singles out on all the main channels including Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal, and Amazon. There are official music videos on YouTube, including the video for Paper Masks. Plus, there’s some extra stuff on Soundcloud. I’m planning to put some outtakes and remixes up on a private link. You’ll need to join the ‘DD Allen Rebels’ group on my Facebook page for those. The live-at-home streams are going up on Instagram.

Wherever you want to listen or join the conversation on social, just type ‘DD Allen’ into the search bar and you’ll find me.