Q&A with Midwest-based musician Kurt Allen, knows how to combine blues rock with wise touches of old school blues

"Some of the most important lessons I have learned are: Never quit because it's hard, you can never stop learning, this is a very brutal business, don't be afraid of NO's, you're going to hear plenty of them, nothing good comes without busting your tail, not all is always as it appears. There are so many lessons from music and life in general that are very important."

Kurt Allen: Blues Rock & Funky Rules

For over a decade, Kurt Allen has been fusing gritty old school blues, vintage soul, swampy Bayou funk, and more into a relentless blues-rock machine. His songwriting reflects craftsmanship honed by years of commitment, and his albums take the listener on an unforgettable ride to almost every corner of the blues universe. Kurt's latest release, Live From The Red Shed (2022), is classic modern blues-rock. A true road warrior with a hardcore touring schedule that sees him playing 150-200 dates a year, Allen -- like most everyone else -- was derailed for most of 2020-21 as the live music world shut down. As soon as things began to open back up, Allen was burning up the miles all over the lower 48.                                      (Kurt Allen / Photo © by Rob Smith)

And by the good graces of the Blues gods, he also ended up with a stellar live recording from The Red Shed in Hutchinson, Kansas. Over nine tracks, Allen flexes his guitar muscle in a way only hinted at on previous studio releases. Peppering the set with songs from his entire catalog, along with new and previously unrecorded tracks, Live From The Red Shed is an unfiltered testament to the power of live blues.

Interview by Michael Limnios                Special Thanks: Kurt Allen & Doug Deutsch

How has the Blues and Rock Counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

I'm not sure I could refer to it as a Counterculture for myself. I was raised with the Blues and Blues Rock, it's been a part of my daily life for as long as I can remember. I first heard Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker" when I was 5 years old, at that moment, I was captivated! At that instant, I knew what I wanted to do. Blues and Blues Rock has been a foundation for myself. It's been driving force and played a heavy part of every aspect of my life since I could remember. Most of my journey's, decisions and goals are rooted in music, Blues and Blues Rock.

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from?

I would describe my music sound as Funky, Gritty, Blues Rock! I have always been primarily influenced by the British Blues Rock Kats from the 60's and 70's. However, my love for Funk, soul and Groove based music always creeps into my writing and playing. My music philosophy and song book have always come down to what has a good groove. I'm always trying to create song that have a great riff, combined with a groove and a good hook. I want people and myself to feel the groove.

My creative drive comes from many places. It might be a conversation with a friend or a complete stranger. It could be a line from a movie, a sound from my surroundings, a good experience, a bad experience, relationships, it can truly come from anywhere depending on mood.

"Blues and Blues Rock has been a foundation for myself. It's been driving force and played a heavy part of every aspect of my life since I could remember. Most of my journey's, decisions and goals are rooted in music, Blues and Blues Rock." (Kurt Allen / Photo © by Mike Schwabauer)

What moment changed your life the most?

Again, hearing Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker" at 5 years old was the catalyst that set me on this lifelong journey. Then, My Uncle showing me his guitar and amp collection when I was 7 years old and him then beginning to teach me to play. Ever since then, there have been very few days over the years that I haven't picked up a guitar and played for minimum a couple minutes, or tinkered with one of the many other instruments I have acquired over the years. 

What´s been the highlights in your life and career so far?

I guess I would say my biggest highlight to this point would be having an album on a recognized chat for 18 months consecutively. Being nominated for multiple awards by the Independent Blues Awards and all the great gigs and venues we have played over the years. I truly hope there is plenty more to come and this thing is just getting started. I hope there will be many more albums, nominations, bigger venues and crowds.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I consider this a loaded question! My first instinct is to say talent and quality music, but there is plenty of it out there, it's just not in the mainstream. There are some insanely talented musicians out there that aren't getting noticed or given a chance for one reason or another. Which leads to the second part of the question. My biggest fear for music in general going forward is how corporatized it has become. It seems to me that talent will be overlooked for that will make a quick buck as opposed to music that will be around for years to come. There so few artists anymore that remain relevant beyond a single or possibly one album. I'm afraid that if this trend continues, we will never experience bands like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and countless others that are still well known after 50 years. I hope it the scenario where things go in cycles and music with instruments and songs written by the artist become the most prevalent again. Fingers crossed!                                                         (Kurt Allen / Photo © by Rob Smith)

"Personally, I think soul and emotion is far more important! There's absolutely nothing wrong with skill and technique, without at least a little skill and basic technique the soul and emotion is hard to achieve."

How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

My preparation for recording is, in my opinion, very simple. By the time we record something or go into the studio, we typically have been playing those songs for quite some time. I like to roll stuff out to live audiences before it's recorded.  In my opinion, we can find out if the song works, if it catches people’s attention, if they are moving to it or if it needs more work or if it's a throwaway song!

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

I have no idea about the Socio-cultural implications. I'm not a physiatrist and don't even pretend to be one on off days, lol. I focus on things that affect me directly or those close to me and everything else I just do my best to tune out. My goal is to make the people that are listening to our music happy. If listening to our music puts a smile on their face, gets them dancing, singing along with the songs, and telling their friends about this group they dig, that to me is a positive effect. 

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Some of the most important lessons I have learned are: Never quit because it's hard, you can never stop learning, this is a very brutal business, don't be afraid of NO's, you're going to hear plenty of them, nothing good comes without busting your tail, not all is always as it appears. There are so many lessons from music and life in general that are very important.

What's the balance in music between technique skills and soul/emotions? Why is it important to we preserve and spread the blues?           (Kurt Allen / Photo © by Rob Smith)

Personally, I think soul and emotion is far more important! There's absolutely nothing wrong with skill and technique, without at least a little skill and basic technique the soul and emotion is hard to achieve. For example, listen to any of the old Delta Blues Kats, BB King, Albert King, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Son House, Elmore James, Big Bill Broonzy and so many more.  Most of those kats had soul and emotion oozing from their music the technical side of it took a back seat most of the time. Their technique came from the people they learned from or what they heard on their radios and those kats weren't learning from classically trained musicians or Professors from Berkley. For them it was, in my opinion, dependent on the soul and emotion.

The second part of that question is kind of along the same lines. The Blues should be preserved because those are the guys that started it all. Without them, we wouldn't have 80% of the music today.  People like Eric Clapton, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and many others were pulling records from stores in England and that was honing what became the first wave of Blues Rock. From there it has only continued to branch out and continue to grow. Just about everything on Pop, rock, R&B, Soul, Funk, Top 40, Indie and more owes it existence to the Blues. Without the Blues the world would be a much different place.

Kurt Allen - Home

 Kurt Allen Band are on tour:
September 30 (Sat) - Wichita KS@The Rusty Nail
October 6 (Sat) - Evergreen CO@Little Bear Saloon
October 7 (Sun) - Lamar CO@The Buzzards Roost
October 13 (Sat) - Cross Plains WI@The Red Moose
October 14 (Sun) - Laurie MO@Great American Campground & Dive Bar
October 20 (Sat) - Ormond Beach FL@Blues & Brews Bistro
October 21 (Sun) - Naples FL@Z's Music Kitchen
October 22 (Mon) - Brookville FL@Camping With The Blues
October 25 (Wed) - TBD
October 26 (Thur) - TBD
October 27 (Fri) - Pensacola FL@Fluonders
October 28 (Sat) - Fairhope AL@Bone&Barrel
November 3 (Fri) - Omaha NE@The B Bar
November 4 (Sat) - Kansas City MO@Outlaw Cigar

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