Organist/keyboardist Peter Levin played with the Gregg Allman Band until the legendary musician’s unfortunate passing last year. Over the years, Levin has become a highly sought-after musician, also serving as a long-time member of The Blind Boys of Alabama and currently making the rounds with the Devon Allman Project. Most recently, the keyboardist has put his efforts into the industrial hemp industry, and specifically CBD/cannabidiols (What Is CBD?), which have been found to help medical conditions including epilepsy, PTSD, and a number of mental disorders and is also used for anti-inflammation, nausea reduction, sleep aid, and more.
Levin co-founded the Denver-based company, Pure CBD Exchange, in early 2017, which creates and sells a number of products from concentrates, tinctures, extracts, lotions, creams, and more. As Live For Live Music previously announced, Pure CBD Exchange will host a benefit for the Weed For Warriors Project—a Veteran-founded non-profit that provides “Veterans with medical marijuana information, a safe place to fellowship with other Veterans, and safe access to free medicine with proof of service/ current medical recommendation”—on Saturday, March 3rd, at Pearl’s in Denver, Colorado.
New Mastersounds & Circles Around The Sun Members To Join Peter Levin At Weed For Warriors Benefit
Hosted by the Peter Levin Band, Levin will be joined by a number of other recognizable figures in the music community, including guitarist Eddie Roberts (The New Mastersounds), drummer Mark Levy (Circles Around the Sun), and saxophonist Nicholas Gerlach. The event has just announced the additions of several more musicians including drummer Cody Dickinson (North Mississippi Allstars), bassist Paul Frazier (David Byrne), guitarist Aaron Maxwell (God Street Wine), and singer Lamar Williams Jr. (Les Brers). Besides the incredible music that will be played, any event that benefits Veterans of the Armed Forces is something we can all get behind. Get tickets here!
We had the opportunity to chat with Levin about a number of topics, including music, his friendship with Gregg Allman, the upcoming Weed For Warriors Benefit, and his recent venture into the realm of alternative health measures with Pure CBD Exchange. Read our interview below!
Live For Live Music: You just were on Rock Legends Cruise jamming with a bunch of great musicians. How was that experience? Have you played the event in past years?
Peter Levin: Rock Legends Cruise was amazing! This year had a great collection of bands. Bad Company and Sammy Hagar were headlining, and Jason Bonham and Michael Anthony were playing in Sammy’s band. Those cats were incredible and Bad Company has hits for days—Paul Rodgers had the whole boat singing at times. I was there playing with Devon Allman and his band, the Devon Allman Project. Devon and his band are sounding great. It’s a cool mix of some real ear-friendly originals and some nice vibey instrumentals where the band can really open up and jam. Devon also played one or two of his dad’s tunes, which obviously means a lot to me personally. Eric Gales sat in with us on the last night for “Purple Rain”, and that was really special.
That’s the cool thing about being on a cruise like that. There are definitely a lot of old-school legends and bands I grew up listening too, but also younger acts, like Brandon “Taz” Niederauer and his band, who I sat in with too. DeShawn “D Vibes” Alexander on clav and me on the Hammond hit “Red Hot Mama” and were giving some love up to Bernie [Worrell]. Taz and his band were ripping. But that’s the thing, a lot of great musicians from a lot of different musical backgrounds and everyone being cool always makes for great music. It was a total blast. I did that same cruise in 2016 with Gregg and the band. Seas were a bit rougher that year and the wind was crazy for our outside set, but it was still a great time. We all had fun, Gregg too, and we played some great music.
The Devon Allman Project with Duane Betts – “Blue Sky”
[Video: Brett Diaz]
L4LM: It’s been almost a year since the passings of both Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks. You played with the Gregg Allman Band from 2014 until his passing after a chance encounter sitting in with the Allman Brothers Band during a Beacon run several years prior. Losing both Gregg and Butch in such a short span of time hit the community hard. As a musician that played with such a legend regularly, how does a loss like that affect you?
Peter Levin: Well, Gregg’s passing is coming up a year in May. That whole couple of months in there—last year was real tough. Butch’s passing was a real shock, and so was Colonel Bruce’s. Wind out of the sails type stuff, totally out of left field. Both those guys meant so much to so many, and they inspired and taught so many. There was a real heavy blanket around the extended ABB family at that time, like an unsettling emptiness. Gregg’s situation, for me personally, was a little different. I had been in the band about three, three-and-half years, and we had become friends too in addition to just being bandmates. I would go down to the house occasionally to work on some writing, sometimes with Scott [Sharrard] too. Sometimes it would just turn to a hang. Out of those sessions, Gregg and I did write a song together called “Troubles At Your Door”. That was a real gift, something I will never forget.
Gregg would also come down to some of my own recording sessions sometimes as well or come hang at my studio when we’d be gigging in NYC. We would talk about my music, and he would always offer his advice extremely graciously, which was incredible. Some really amazing memories. Whether it was hanging or writing, those times were really special, and I was lucky to have that. So his loss hit me pretty hard, as it did many, because of that more personal relationship through being in the band. Still, at random moments, I can get pretty emotional and depressed about it. I miss that musical outlet and playing his music with him and the cats. He was really happy with the band and always had a smile on his face when he talked about it. I miss air-jamming Chuck [Leavell]’s piano riffs in complete synchronicity. Most of all, I just miss the guy, his unique energy, and the music we all made.
L4LM: You have played with a laundry list of incredible musicians: Gregg, Blind Boys of Alabama, CSN, Aaron Neville, Allen Toussaint, and many more. How do you come in and not only immerse yourself in their vision but stay true to who you are as your own musician?
PL: That’s an interesting question. First of all, I guess I immerse myself into the song itself and/or the style of music. Playing within the boundaries of a song or style, especially if you are working with vocalists like the Blind Boys of Alabama or Aaron Neville, is important. I try to maintain a balance between playing whats necessary and what I consider my own embellishments. Sometimes with singers, I can lead a little more, you know? Guide them or the band to the chord change with some well-timed voice leading. For instrumental-based music, I take the same approach—let the melody stand out and do what I can do to support it, whether I am shadowing the melody itself or putting the melody in the top note of my chord voicings, which I do with vocalists a lot too. Really it’s about a good feel and being dynamic. You ramp up as the singer or band does and fall back as they do too. Maybe being totally malleable is a good way to think of it. You have to be able to adapt to any musical vibe or situation in an instant.
Having backed up many different artists through many different genres over many years, I’ve become pretty proficient at balancing all those factors out pretty quickly and efficiently. For some types of music, it’s easier than others. Having good ears, I can actually hear and see the changes in my head without actually having to play them. Then, it’s just getting the vibe, which is important too—making sure your parts blend and mesh with what’s happening, not just throwing stuff down because it sounds cool to you or it’s some “hip” riff. That’s how I stay true to myself, putting my own style on the changes and trying to play every tune in the best, most creative way possible without taking anything away for the singers and instrumentalists.
L4LM: What are a couple of moments in your career where you stepped back, took a second, and thought to yourself, “Whoa! This is actually happening!”?
PL: I definitely have had a few of those moments. One of the most memorable was sitting in with the Allman Brothers in 2013 and 2014. I had been with the Blind Boys for about five years and ran into Warren [Haynes] backstage at one of the March shows at the Beacon in 2013. The Blind Boys were in town doing a tribute to Prince at Carnegie Hall. Warren asked if I’d play a few with ABB the following night because the Blind Boys were gonna sing a few. The next night came, and we started off the second set sitting in. It actually hit me in the upstairs room of the Beacon when we had a quick rehearsal before the second set. Warren was calling out changes and I was sitting next to Gregg playing keys. It was amazing! I couldn’t believe I was there about to play with some of my heroes and some of my biggest musical influences.
That’s where I really met Gregg for the first time too. So we started the second set—ABB, Blind Boys, myself, Joan Osborne, John Popper, and the Juke Horns—and it was incredible. I just kept looking around with this huge smile on my face that I couldn’t hold back even if I tried. I grew up up the street from the Beacon and had been seeing ABB there for years prior. It was all going down right in my hometown, in my own backyard, with friends and family right there in the audience. It was incredibly surreal and a real high on life moment.
In 2014, I had already joined Gregg’s band. I came up to Mountain Jam where ABB was doing a set. Gregg pulled me aside at some point backstage and told me how happy he was with my playing. He was really pleased how I jumped right in and was playing everything he wanted to hear. Now, that was a big moment for me. I couldn’t believe it. It was hard to maintain for second. Gregg was one of my musical heroes, one of my biggest influences, so you can imagine how much that meant. Then he asked me to sit in. He pulled out the set list, maybe fifteen tunes. He asked with a sly smile if I knew any of the tunes on the list, fully knowing already I knew every one. So I jumped up for “Don’t Keep Me Wondering.” It was great. Looking back, I think I started it a little slow, but shit, I was pretty nervous, which I never really get.
It jumped up a level when Warren and Derek [Trucks] started teasing “Elizabeth Reed,” one of my all-time favorites. Gregg asked if I was cool on it, and I was—I had been playing it all my life. That was unbelievable. Playing that song with ABB, something I had dreamed about my whole life, was coming to fruition. Once Gregg heard I was cool, he leaned over and told me to take his solo. That’s really when it hit. I couldn’t believe where I was right then and there and couldn’t believe he let me step out. That meant so much to me; I’ll never forget that feeling. So I launched into the solo and cued out with Gregg’s riffs from the Fillmore East version. It went real smooth. Oteil [Burbridge] looked over, smiled, and pointed after he heard me playing Gregg’s cues. It was an amazing moment. During the solo, I just remember thinking that it was all a dream, but it wasn’t. It went down and I’ll never forget that.
Allman Brothers Band with Peter Levin – “Statesboro Blues” – Mountain Jam – 6/8/14
L4LM: That story gives me chills. That is absolutely amazing. What have you been up to most recently in your solo career?
Peter Levin: Most recently, I’ve been finishing recording my own album. I’ve been a sideman for many years, and after Gregg’s passing, I just felt it was time to get my own thing out there. So I went down to Fame in Muscle Shoals. I had worked there a few times already with The Blind Boys, Jason Isbell, and Gregg. That’s where we recorded Southern Blood with Don Was as producer. So I had grown to feel real comfortable down there. With all the history, both mine as well as some of the greatest musicians ever, it just seemed like the right place. So I went down and tracked 17 songs, added to the eight I already had, and now I’m just editing and cleaning up those tracks before I start to mix.
I’ve also been doing some gigs with Devon Allman and the Devon Allman Project. His band sounds great. It’s a real nice mix of some old-school styles and ear-friendly originals. I am also still doing some gigs with the Blind Boys—we head to Europe in April—and getting ready to hit the road with Amanda Shires shortly after that. I just played on her new record, and it sounds amazing. She is a super-talented performer and songwriter. So, lots of good stuff currently and on the horizon.
L4LM: You are spearheading a Weed For Warriors Benefit concert on March 3rd in Denver with your own Peter Levin Band, along with special guests such as Eddie Roberts, Nicholas Gerlach, and more. Tell us about why you are behind this cause.
PL: I am behind this cause because I feel more has to be done to help our veterans. Regardless of how one feels about war, the men and women of our Armed Forces put everything on the line daily to protect our freedom. This benefit is just a small way to give back to our veterans, while at the same time hopefully providing some relief from PTSD or other health issues through CBD treatment instead of using traditional big pharma drugs, which many consider harmful.
L4LM: What is Pure CBD Exchange and your involvement in the company? How did you get started on the project?
PL: I met Dillon Gross back in 2015 in Aspen playing a Gregg Allman gig at Belly Up. The guys in Lettuce had put us in touch, and we started having conversations about what kind of work we could do in the cannabis industry. After a couple years and several opportunities that we considered, we settled on founding Pure CBD Exchange. We’re a CBD company that focuses on low-THC cannabis products with high CBD content. We work within the Colorado Industrial Hemp pilot program to distribute non-psychoactive tinctures, extracts, lotions, and more all over the world. We see ourselves as a wellness company but also a lifestyle brand and technology company. Dillon and his brother Tyler have been putting in some amazing work to set us apart technologically and get us featured by companies like VICE, High Times, Leafly, and more. We expect to launch our progressive web app soon and that will really set us apart in the e-commerce world.
L4LM: Do you believe CBD to be the next step in helping to heal or provide comfort for various ailments, such as PTSD, epilepsy, cancer, and more? It certainly seems to be an “alternative” to hard-pushed opioid pharmaceutical drugs with virtually no side effects.
PL: Well, I must say I’m no doctor. But the anecdotal evidence we have seen is overwhelming. We’ve gotten incredible feedback from people with an extremely wide range of ailments. Great feedback from pet owners as well. We will let people do the research but we’re very confident that this can play a huge role in living a long and healthy life. There’s certainly a lot of convincing evidence out there. When you hear from happy customers on a daily basis, it starts to be apparent that we may be able to help a lot of people and lessen dependence on more powerful drugs.
As noted on Pure CBD Exchange’s website:
We sell hemp-derived CBD medicine to the United States and beyond. Using only the purest fully integrated operation in Colorado, we are able to provide safe, trustworthy medicine of the highest quality for considerably lower prices than the rest of the market. We strive to make CBD available and affordable for consumers to use in their day to day lives. All through our user-friendly mobile and desktop web platforms.
Tickets for the Weed For Warriors Benefit on March 3rd at Pearl’s in Denver are currently on sale and can be purchased here. For event updates and additional information, join the FB Event page. All ticket holders will also receive a special code for a 20% discount off all Pure CBD Exchange products available on their website. For any additional online purchases, use discount code L4LM to receive 10% off all CBD products offered.
– SHOW INFO –
PureCBDExchange.com Presents: A Benefit for Weed for Warriors
Artist/s: Peter Levin Band w/ Eddie Roberts, Nicholas Gerlach, Mark Levy, Cody Dickinson, Paul Frazier, Aaron Maxwell, and Lamar Williams Jr.
Venue: Pearl’s (608 E 13th Ave, Denver, CO)
Date: Saturday, March 3rd
Cost: $20 – purchase tickets here
Time: 8pm Doors / 9pm Show
* All proceeds will be donated to veterans
[cover photo courtesy of Jay Blakesberg Photography]
Artwork by: Jimmy Rector @ Accepted Perspective: Instagram: @jimmyrector // Facebook: Accepted Perspective – Poster Art by Jimmy Rector //Website Link: www.acceptedperspective.com