Tone Talk with Deborah Allen

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Deborah Allen

Deborah Allen is one of those rare artists who forged their own path to success and ended up building a world-class career in the process. An extraordinarily talented singer, songwriter, producer and performer, Deborah’s unique abilities as an artist may be matched only by her enthusiasm and creativity as an individual. It is that formidable combination of spirit and talent that keeps the Grammy-nominated entertainer in demand.

“I was born singing,” Allen asserts. “I guess it would be hard to pinpoint exactly when my career in music became a full-on pursuit, but I’d say by the time I was eighteen I was sure that music was what I wanted, and I just forged ahead. There was no Plan B in sight.”

Fortunately, after moving to Nashville, Plan A worked out in grand fashion. Although most often associated with her signature smash, “Baby I Lied,” the true measure of Deborah’s influence in contemporary music is underscored by the hit singer’s diverse radio success. Songs like “I’ve Been Wrong Before,” “I Hurt For You,” “Rock Me,” “If You’re Not Gonna Love Me,” “Wrong Side Of Love,” and “Break These Chains” are just a few of the singles that made their way up the Country, Pop or AC charts during her career.

In some ways, “Baby I Lied” confirmed the idea that an artist could have success in different formats with the same song – a precedent that would prove to be years ahead of the crossover trends of today. “Baby I Lied” not only appealed to Country and Pop radio listeners, earning multiple Million Air-Play Awards in the process, but it also resulted in a pair of Grammy nominations for the Delta songstress – one as a vocalist and one as a songwriter.

Ironically, songwriting has often been the most overlooked aspect of Deborah’s career, yet literally, hundreds of artists have benefited from her abundant catalog of material. With more than 1,600 compositions published, Deborah’s songs have been recorded by a laundry list of acts, including LeAnn Rimes, Brooks & Dunn, Patty Loveless, Conway Twitty, Tanya Tucker, Janie Fricke, John Conlee, Isaac Hayes, Diana Ross, Sheena Easton, Fleetwood Mac and more. In addition, her songs have been featured on several major motion picture soundtracks, such as Coyote Ugly, River Rat, Clinton and Nadine, as well as in River Phoenix’s final film, The Thing Called Love. For Allen, songwriting remains one of the most consistent aspects of her career and one that she insists is just as satisfying as the performance element.

“Waking up in the morning with a blank piece of paper and by sundown having a song written on it is an amazing feeling,” Allen reveals. “For me, that’s definitely one of the most rewarding parts of my career.”

And though Deborah Allen might have taught herself to become an award-winning songwriter, she was simply born a natural entertainer. The charismatic artist has toured the world numerous times and continues today to deliver engaging performances that incorporate Deborah’s inimitable sense of theater, showmanship, and energy.

Throughout her phenomenal journey of hits and accomplishments in every facet of her career, Deborah Allen remains true to her vision. From her discovery by Roy Orbison to her friendship with Shel Silverstein, her work with Prince, and her 2011 release, Hear Me Now, Deborah creates art entirely on her own terms. With a distinguished career built on success after success as a performer, songwriter, and producer, the dynamic Delta singer from Memphis, Tennessee, has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. That’s simply not Deborah Allen’s style.

What is your definition of tone and how has it changed over the years?

My definition of tone is a texture or color of sound that inspires or enhances the interpretation of a song or piece of music. It can be refined and used to evoke a mood or create an emotion.

Which guitars, amps, and pedals are you currently using and why?

I mostly play acoustic guitar, so on live events, I generally go direct. However, I do have a Peavey amp. I recently performed at a songwriter show with Gary Baker and Bryan White. They both had a guitar filter called blueSky and it offered some amazing sounds that were perfect in that intimate setting. I am definitely getting a blueSky!

How do you keep your sound consistent onstage?

Since I plug in and go straight into a direct box, my sound is very simple.

What does your practice consist of?

My practice consists of rehearsing and accompanying myself on my original songs and staying prepared for performances. I like to learn new licks and let them inspire me to write new songs.

What is your advice for young women who hope to work in the music industry?

I think the number one thing is to get out and be heard! Network with like-minded people. Also, focus on being excellent at your craft. When it comes to guitar, years ago I had the privilege of attending a Howard Roberts two-day guitar seminar. One of the greatest pieces of advice he gave during the seminar was about the best way to improve. His advice was to learn something and then teach it to someone else. In doing so, it innately raises the integrity of your personal standard, because you are responsible for teaching someone else. Also, I would say short spurts of consistent practice are more effective than occasional marathon practice sessions. And really, just get out and play! Playing with friends makes music so much more fun… it’s like dancing as opposed to exercising… so much more fun! And the result is greater confidence!

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