Duane Betts holds a presence when he enters a room. Perhaps it’s his vintage threads, often sourced by his designer wife, Lisa Hadley Betts, or maybe it’s his laidback demeanor that draws attention. Whatever it is, Duane is commanding without even realizing it. And that’s before mentioning he is the son of a founding member of The Allman Brothers Band, Dickey Betts.

Apart from the aforementioned intrigue, Duane’s career has continued to blossom like a burst of spring. In the following interview, the musician tells tales of concerts past, including his first stint with his father’s group in the mid-90s, before bringing the chat up to date with his latest roster of projects: Delivering his first solo set, Wild & Precious Life in 2023, and putting on the inaugural Horseshoe Music Festival in partnership with Lisa, who joins in on the discuss, and preludes their 2024 return, which will expand and include two separate regional locations.

Cascading through memories, we land on favored live moments before moving on to Duane’s pick for the group he’d most like to jam with (It might surprise you!). Before closing our conversation, we collectively merge into his Grand Ole Opry debut, ultimately leaving the reader with a whim hope for new music.

One of the best parts of speaking with musicians, seasoned or new to the scene, is the commonality that they all must start somewhere, likely scared shitless. Can the same be said for you? It is worth noting your first on-stage was also with The Allman Brothers Band in 1994, a pretty big deal for a kid, regardless of the familial tie.

Duane Betts: I was a drummer from 6 years old up to 13, and then I switched to guitar. I think of the guitar as being a melodic instrument, I found I could express myself in different ways. I had really devoted myself to drums. But once I was playing with my friends in bands, and we’d be practicing, and we’d take a break, and then I’d watch what they were doing, and then I’d go and pick up the guitar [and] I noticed that things started coming more easily to me.

When I was really young, my dad put a guitar in my hand, and I shunned it. It was too difficult, and I was like, “I want to bang on some drums. Give me a drumset.” But sitting in on guitar is much different than drums because two drummers were in the band at the time. And you’re put out in front center stage in the spotlight. So I was really nervous. And the funny story is that we were staying at a hotel in Denver, and I forgot my guitar in the room on purpose to not sit in. So, it was the opposite of what you would think of being excited.

Then we get on the bus, and my dad goes, “You’re gonna play tonight, right? You brought your guitar?” And I go, “Oh, man, I forgot my guitar!” And he goes, “Oh, that’s OK. We have plenty of guitars. You’re playing.” So it was like a rude awakening. And you kind of get pushed out into it. And it went fine. It went great. It was at the Gerald Ford Amphitheater, and I was like 15. And I did a solo, it was a Willie Dixon song called “The Same Thing.” One that Warren sang. And then the next night was Red Rocks…

Did you get on stage for the second night?

DB: I didn’t play. I asked to take the night off. I wanted to– again, it’s the opposite of what you think. “Oh, man, you get to jam on a song at Red Rocks.” I was like, “Can I please not play tonight? I just want to enjoy it and not be stressed.” You know?

Then, the next show was in Oklahoma City a few days later. That was the next time I sat in. And it was 110 degrees, and there were about 1,000 people there–a small crowd for the band at the time. It was just super hot. I went to play a solo and I broke a string, and I froze like a deer in headlights. That was my second experience, and it was traumatic. From then on it got easier, and then it was like a regular thing for the next few years.

What’s your favorite Allman Brothers song?

DB: My favorite Allman Brothers song is “Blue Sky” or “Melissa.” I mean, those are perfect songs. There are different types of songs, but as far as my dad’s stuff goes, “Blue Sky.” I mean, “Seven Turns” is a beautiful song. I usually say “Blue Sky,” but “Seven Turns” is a wonderfully written song, too.

2023 was a big year for you, Duane. Wild & Precious Life dropped in July and served as your debut solo album.

DB: I put out a solo LP, which kind of took a while… [But] I had put out an EP back in 2017 before the formation of Allman Betts Band. But I never was really a singer before that, so I hadn’t put out records under my own name. I’d always played guitar with a lot of folks and done some songwriting and stuff, but never records under my name.

So, I did that. Recorded at Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi’s place down in Jacksonville– Swamp Raga–and I had Derek lend a hand, Marcus King lent a hand, Nicki Bluhm, who’s a great talent and friend of ours. Jim Scott mixed it. We were really pleased with the results, and I’m looking forward to doing another one, and have written half–look forward to getting into the studio, maybe in the Fall.

Since you touched on the Allman Betts, I should mention your last name was added to the project with Allman Betts Family Revival, correct?

DB: Allman Betts Family Revival is something that we’ve been doing annually, right after Thanksgiving, and it goes up to before Christmas. So it’s an annual tour, and it’s basically a tip of the hat to the Allman Brothers Band catalog of both of our fathers– Devon Allman and myself.

It was started by Devon Allman as a celebration for his dad after Greg Allman passed away. Then it went on and on, and now I think we’ve done it for seven years. It felt appropriate to add the Betts family name, and we all agreed because we were basically playing a good amount of my dad’s material, too. So we added the Betts name for the first time last year. So now it’s the Allman Betts Family Revival, and it’s just a great way to get together with your friends.

2023 also brought the inaugural Horseshoe Festival, which was a joint venture with your wife, Lisa Hadley Betts.

Lisa Hadley Betts: Horseshoe became an idea primarily because Jackson Hole’s been my home for the last 25 years. That’s where we met, and I just saw something missing when it came to music. When I married Duane and brought him into that community, they really embraced him and would come to everything he did. I’m talking about the community of Jackson.

But I’m a creative. I’m a designer. I make one-of-a-kind pieces. I do accessories. I do beaded bandanas and I do leather jackets. But I came from the outdoor and ski industry, I was a designer for them–technical outerwear designer.

I started doing more one-of-a-kind pieces, because I worked in mass production, and I completely appreciate that, but I really wanted to do something later on that was more making the pieces that you would keep for a lifetime. When we got married and I started going to festivals and different events–I’m the person who, of all my friends, I’m the planner. I plan the holidays, I plan the birthdays–so that comes naturally to me anyway. I just wanted to create something that was different that I hadn’t seen. And I wanted to do something that started the right way from the ground up.

How was year one?

LHB: We start the event with a land acknowledgment ceremony with the local Native Americans. We have an eco-production team that manages all the trash. And for our first-year event, we diverted 84% of the trash from the landfill, which is pretty amazing.

That’s fantastic.

LHB: Jackson is a three-day weekend. We added Mammoth this year, so we’re doing two this summer. And we do three evening shows, supergroup style. We do theme nights. So we have an Americana night, and obviously a Grateful Dead-Allman Brothers night, and Duane curates the music with our friends from this community.

DB: It’s basically like, call up your friends. Let’s throw some tunes together and bring in some wellness. Let’s bring in a lot of designers. Let’s keep the food on a really high level, [we’re] really picky about that. And, yeah… Let’s have a good time and throw a party.

LHB: We try and curate it so it’s desirable for the artists. Because we know what it’s like to be shipped in and out of places. So they come the whole weekend. The music’s only at night so people can go do things during the day.

Also, during the day is the White Sage Market, where I curate other designers who are making one-of-a-kind pieces or they’re doing vintage resale. And we hope to grow that into its own thing. And then we have a chef that sources all the food from local farms. And do a couple of givebacks. There’s a lot of facets to it. [Laughs].

It sounds like you all have it dialed in.

LHB: It’s going to be Summer Solstice weekend, June 21 through 23 in Mammoth. And then Jackson Hole is Labor Day Weekend again, August 30 through September 1.

DB: She has all the pieces. We did a Duane Betts & Friends show at the top of Snow King Mountain the year before, and that was something that was kind of what led into this. We were just like, “Why don’t we just do this again?”

Since you mentioned Duane Betts & Friends, my mind goes to all the greats you’re played with. Is there a particular artist or live music moment that sticks out to you?

DB: Well, I’ve been fortunate enough to play with some really legendary musicians. Obviously, playing with Phil Lesh. And with Jackson Browne.

Probably playing the last show my dad played at Peach Fest. That’s probably my greatest. Because he played really well that night. He had been going through some health problems, and it was trying like the first show was a little rough. The second show was a little better. The third show was good. The fourth show…you know.

He was building up momentum.

DB: Then, Peach Festival turned out to be his last show, and it was triumphant. There are pictures of him with his fist raised. It’s the most beautiful experience.

LHB: Nothing can top that.

DB: But also, when I was playing with Dawes backing up Elvis Costello at Newport Folk Festival. There’s no family emotion in that. So that would probably be the coolest thing.

Are there any artists you haven’t played with that you’d like to jam with?

DB: I could just pick somebody that I’d like to just walk on stage and jam with, it would probably be Khruangbin.

What’s your approach during improvised moment on stage?

DB: I try to just be free and start telling a story.

I’ve never received that response. It is like picking up a story.

DB: And playing melody. I think that’s one of the things that makes me a little unique. I’m not the most technically astounding guitar player, but I know how to bring you on a journey. And you have faith that maybe I’m not gonna let you down, but you don’t know where it’s gonna go. It might go off the rails a little bit. [Laughs.]

I feel like I can’t move on till we touch on your Grand Ole Opry debut, which occurred last summer.

DB: It’s the ultimate throne. It’s very professional. The band is very professional. Everything was amazing. It was such an honor, but it is a throne and it was a little nerve-wracking. It’s a big notch on your belt.

What an honor.

DB: I was just elated after getting that done, and the relief, and knowing that I did a pretty good job. [Laughs.] I was so pleased to do that. And I have to thank my friend Maggie Rose. She’s a regular there, and I’ve done a few dates with her, and her and her husband Austin helped facilitate that for me.

I mean, it just so lined up that I was putting out a record. I had all the goods to go with the requirements.

Looking ahead, where do you want to lend your time? What projects are piquing your interest?

DB: Yes. Above all of that, my priority is to get back in the studio. That’s where my head’s at.

I could do two or three records with what I have, but a lot of the stuff that we have written we didn’t use in the past, so, it’s like, “Well, if we didn’t use it three years ago, like why?” Why, if it wasn’t good enough then? But we just wrote about eight or nine over the last few weeks.

My writing partner, Stoll Vaughan–who I’ve written with for going on 14 years or so now–he and I got together over the past few weeks and wrote. I know a good handful of those are really solid. So, yeah, that’s about half a record.