Tony Allen, Savannah native and front man for the punk rock band Dead Stays Alive, comes with all the accoutrements of a rock star: blue hair, studded and outrageous jewelry, tats, an entourage, and a killer voice that shakes whatever space, no matter the size, in which he wields a microphone. However, Google his name and more photos of Lindsay Lohan pop up than mention of his music, which, despite not being Jack Johnson catchy, has a decent fan base and, more importantly, is constantly evolving and improving. Unfortunately for Allen, a fleeting connection he made with the megastar years ago continues to dominate his reputation, which ultimately might hinder potential followers from paying attention to what he cares about most—the message behind his music. After all, the natural-born writer has a lot in the works, and much of his future revolves around the Savannah music scene. Currently, he’s in between tours and is enjoying the success of a newly released single. He’s also started looking back at his Southern roots, dabbling with country music by collaborating with other local talent. In short, he’s got a lot to share and a few rumors to dispel. Recently he met with South to set the record straight.
SM: You grew up here. How has a Southern upbringing helped you?
TA: You know, I’ve really appreciated a Georgia upbringing because in all parts of the world and country, they may not have appreciated me, they may not have appreciated the message of the music, they may not have appreciated my reputation, but they’ve all appreciated the good manners I learned as a Southern boy. My mama raised me all right, and that transfers very well. Everybody likes that.
SM: Your stint in rehab, where you infamously met Lindsay Lohan and battled addiction, made national news for quite a few months, if not years. Was it hard to have your personal problems broadcasted?
TA: It was a double-edged sword. It was horrifying and embarrassing. I went from walking in the park to running in the lion’s den. In hindsight, it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me because it made me realize you can’t hide behind [anything]. All of my [stuff] out there. This is what I did. What are you going to say about me? It helped me realize how sideways life can go. I saw it firsthand just explode. And it took a long time to get over that personally, professionally.
SM: What was the real deal with Lindsay?
TA: We dated for a while. I didn’t ever admit that at the time because I was going through a divorce, but it’s very much in the open now. It was jaw-dropping because our band was just starting to break and then suddenly there is this whole other level of celebrity. It freaked me out that people would jump out of bushes and follow you in cars. I was bewildered. How do you live in this bubble? How does that go on? They chased me all over Atlanta one time.
SM: What did that do to your life, personally and professionally?
TA: I’ll tell you what it did. I had so many offers, for lots of money, to sell stories, to sell pictures, and I sat back, and Scott [Michael] and I talked; and if you look back in history, you’ll see I did two interviews, period. I said, “You’ve got to knock this off. You’re not getting anything out of me.” I literally had seven figures thrown at me, and I said, “You know what, I will never be taken seriously as a musician if I’m Lindsay Lohan’s flavor of the day, or three months, or whatever.” So we had to sit on a lot of music—for a year—to separate me from that.
Images by Andy Silvers | Hair by Nick Gorlesky