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With the path the music industry has taken over the last 20 years, it’s hard to think of a musician who hasn’t fine-tuned their sound to go along with the times, but for Garrett Dutton it’s always been about the blues.
The singer and guitar player, otherwise known as G. Love, has become a staple for his funky hip-hop and blues combination for just a little over two decades but what many don’t know is that it didn’t always start out that way.
A little over twelve years ago, Dutton was working alongside Peace Action essentially playing for anyone who would listen. It wasn’t until he met his fellow G. Love and Special Sauce band mates Jeffery Clemens and Jim Prescott in 1992 when his music career began to really take off.
Since then, Dutton has recorded 15 albums in total (11 under G. Love and Special Sauce, 4 as a solo artist) and shared the studio with the Avett Brothers, Slightly Stoopid, and Donovan Frankenreiter. Not only that but G. Love and Special Sauce has shared the stage with the likes of Dave Matthews, Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, and more.
As a fan of G. Love and Special Sauce since the early 00’s, it was an honor to sit down and talk to Dutton about the last twenty years as a musician and what the future is looking like for the singer.
Pop-Break: You have been playing music for about 20 years now and in that time; you have done so many great things both as a solo artist and as the front man for G. Love and Special Sauce. Is there anything you’d like to experiment with music-wise moving forward and if so, what are some of the ideas you have in mind?
G. Love: Well I think right now, our last record Fixin’ to Die was kind of going back to the cat I was first. Really into folk music, really into Delta blues. Everything I was making before I was messing with hip hop and blues. That was real cool to go back there. It gave me a lot of confidence being a blues, that’s what I am, a blues player. To go back and make a record that was in that style and not really having anything at all to do with new music; it’s kinda old-timey music. My point is, if I was 16 when I made this record it would have sounded like a 16-year-old kid playing beat old time music. I was really happy with the way Fixin’ to Die came out, it sounded authentic, like something I would have in my record collection. To me that’s part of the goal when you’re recording — to make something that sounds real.
Anyway, I think on this next record, which I’m writing right now and gathering songs for and we’re playing live and tweaking. I think the next record with The Special Sauce is a back-to-the-basics what we do best record. I think we’re going to record it raw and live and it’s going to be a lot funkier than Fixin’ to Die.
Pop-Break: Do you have a release date for the record?
G. Love: No, but I think we’re going to record it in April. It should come out, if everything goes smoothly, by the end of summer.
PB: Over the last 20 years, you’ve toured a ton so I was wondering what is your all time favorite place to play and which places in particular have inspired your music?
G. Love: It’s hard to say ‘What’s your favorite show in 20 years?’ We’ve played so many amazing shows…so many euphoric nights, hundreds of them over the years. It doesn’t matter where I play, the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of was Woodstock ’99 and there was like 150,000 people there — it was the main stage where we played. The smallest place I’ve played? Probably an empty bar. (laughs). Honestly we’ve every type of venue from sheds and outdoor venues to clubs of all size all across the country. We’ve played most of the venues in most of the cities and towns — to me it doesn’t matter where we play or who’s there. All that matters is the combination of the band playing great, I’m playing great, the audience reacting great and the lights look cool then you can start everything off in this euphoria. And that’s what you strive for as a musician — that euphoria. To me that can happen anywhere.
PB: I saw you perform with Special Sauce a three years ago at The PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, New Jersey when you toured with Jason Mraz. For me it was kinda weird, it’s an arena, an ampitheater and it felt kinda weird. If I saw you guys in a different setting I’d see a different experience because the crowd is different, the energy is different. How do you feel playing those big venues — did it overwhelm you at first and you just overcame it or do you have a preference?
G. Love: You have a good point. Tonight we’re playing at Irving Plaza, a great venue. We’re planning on doing a 1,000-1500 people. It’s intimate but big enough for a big crowd. It has a real vibe to it. If you’re playing a place like the PNC Arts Center, that’s a bigger crowd. You saw us on supporting Jason Mraz. You’re playing for people who are there to see Jason and who might not know you and they’re just trickling in while you’re playing. On a night like that it’s hard to achieve a dope, intimate vibe and really get that room going. If people were there to see me, it’d be different. There you’re trying to reach people who might not know you…it’s almost like you’re auditioning for people who’ve never seen you and you’ve never seen. The night you want me to see is a night [when I’m headlining] because you’ll get the vibe.
G. Love: There was a cool night in Pittsburgh…it was the H.O.R.D.E. Tour in ’94 or ’95 when we first started out. We were playing one of the side stages and it was powered by a generator. It was a huge show and we had a big old crowd. We started playing our first single “Blues Song” which is kinda mellow but it has a dope groove to it. We start playing it and the crowd was getting in it and then all of a sudden the power went off because the generator stopped working. So the PA went and the crowd goes “AWWWWWWWW!!!” Then we realized we didn’t miss a note because we were playing acoustic. So it went from “AWWWWWWWW” to “AWWWWW…AHHHHH YEAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!” We didn’t miss a beat but I’ll never forget that moment. It just showed the power of playing. We were very proud of our music, which started out acoustically. We were all pretty proud about that moment.
PB: Over the last 20 years, you’ve shared the stage with a lot of great acts. Was there any particular artist where sharing the stage was an “unbelievable moment” for you?
G. Love: John Hammond who is a blues legend, who I am very heavily influenced by, and who is my idol growing up as a musician, I got to tour with him. That was pretty amazing for me being able to hang out with him everyday. I’ve toured with everybody from Run DMC to Dave Matthews and everybody in between and everybody is just so cool. I found everyone is and I find a way to be supportive of people playing music. Everyday life of playing, you become great friends with these bands. Some of them have become like family. That’s something I’ve kept as the best part of my life — to be friends with and interact with these great music.
PB: The Avett Brothers produced your last album. With the experience you’ve had working with all these great musicians — what was the reason for you to pick them to make your record?
G. Love: We met a bunch of times a year leading up to that recording. We had hit it off musically and just as friends. When I thought ‘I’ll make a record of all this blues music’ like I mentioned earlier, a kind of an old school, the roots of rock music, the folk and Delta blues. Those guys do folk and rock ‘n’ roll, not quite Delta blues, but they’re definitely influenced by the blues. They had this great year at the time and we wanted to work together, so I thought they’d be perfect to make the record. The style of the recording they were doing turned me on…it was kind of a good thing for everybody. It worked out well.
PB: I always find it fascinating how albums are made right now because of how the music industry is going. There’s still some consistency but there’s so many changes with the Internet age. What’s your take on how the music industry is right now and how releasing an album is right now? Have you experienced any difficulties with the Internet age?
G. Love: Everything is a lot harder right now. You don’t sell as many records, so you can’t spend as much money to make a record. That’s a real legitimate thing — no one’s buying the records. No one sells the kind of records they did 10 years ago. To be on the top of the charts you’d have to sell 250,000 records now you can sell 30,000 to 40,000 records and be on top. If you sold 10,000 in your week you might be able to crack the Top 100; now you can probably break the Top 50. That’s really affected everything. If you’re not going to sell records, you’re not making money, you’re not going to spend money make those records. And then there’s the economy, it’s tough because people haven’t had as much loot to spend…it’s been tough times the last eight years. It’s been tough on everybody. It’s challenging…with the Internet people can stay home and be entertained. You really have to give people a reason to come out and see you. Which means you have to be great. Every show has to be great and you gotta just give people that reason. We can only control our music and what we do onstage. Everything’s gotta be great every night, every record.
PB: Our final question and it’s a silly. But you’ve got your own brand of hot sauce out there. What food would you recommend fans slather your sauce on? (If you’re interested in purchasing some of G. Love’s Hot Sauce, click on this link.)
G. Love: You’ve got to put it on soul food — fried chicken! It’s good on everything!