Phil Lesh & Friends Go Greene

 
It's been kind of a roller coaster ride with lots of different musicians coming and going... All the musicians in the current lineup have given us a commitment that they will be available to work with us for about the next year or so. It is really a relief to have those commitments and now we can really focus on taking the music to another level.

-Phil Lesh

 

"He's a real find, this guy," gushed Lesh. "Last year I heard a cut from his album American Myth on the radio and I said, 'Whoa, who is that?' So, I went to the radio station website and checked their playlist and saw it was Jackie Greene and I went out and got his record. I absolutely loved it. Everything about it was just so wonderful, the tunes, the singing, the guitar playing, the arrangement and the way the guitars interlocked with one another - all these great little ideas that were bubbling in the background. It was just delightful. I said something about the album in an interview and two months later I got an email from Jackie saying, 'Wow, thanks for the great comments on our album, I'd love to meet you sometime.' I was working on a couple of other projects where I wanted to collaborate with songwriters and we got together and it just clicked and we invited him to join the band. Fortunately, he jumped at the opportunity, which was really gratifying."

Jackie Greene
After speaking with Greene and Lesh, it's clear the two share a mutual admiration for each other and their friendship has really blossomed since that first meeting. "Phil and I have been hanging out a lot," says Greene. "He's a warm, amazing person and I can't really say enough good things about him. He's got a great family. You might think Rock Star Family' but that's not it at all. He's got a regular, really nice family, and that's refreshing. He's one of the finest human beings I know."

The project that began this friendship is a step out of the box for a man who's made his living for more than 40 years performing live. Lesh is in the early stages of developing a television show, and while there is no definite production schedule at this time he is very excited about the project.

"It's about a fictional rock band. We are going to invent the band and their back catalog and history. Then, we are going to catch up with them 10 years into their career," Lesh says. "We are just getting some agreements together to start working on it, so it is all up in the air at this point. But, if it gets going it would be a new way to get the music out there and I would be free to write songs that don't fit with The Grateful Dead. I could write punk songs or anything else I wanted to."

While things are obviously still in the initial stages of development, Lesh and Greene spent some time at The Plant studio in Sausalito, CA earlier this year with Larry Campbell and John Molo recording some songs that may be used in the production.

Phil Lesh by Blakesberg
"It was the first time we had played music together and it was a lot of fun," Greene says. "We did a couple of songs that I had written, some that [Lesh] had written and some were songs that Warren Haynes had written. I ended up singing all of them and it was just a good time. Phil didn't make things feel very high pressure and it was just a great experience."

After the sessions at The Plant, Greene, who grew up in California, spent the summer learning as much of The Dead's material as he could in preparation for the fall tour. "Phil would load me down with a waist high stack of songs from the archives and just say, 'Find ones that you really like.' I was never a Deadhead and I'm kinda turning into one now because I've gotten to discover all this music that I never knew," offers Greene. "I had all the big records growing up and I knew all the songs like 'Casey Jones.' I love those songs but I never got to know the more obscure ones. Now, I am finding that there a lot of songs I didn't know that I like, so it is really fun."

When relating the experience of playing with Lesh to his own career, Greene is very complimentary. "This has been such an inspiration to me as a songwriter because it is really difficult to find songwriters that I really like," he says. "I am in the process of recording my next album and I just wrote a song that is totally Grateful Dead inspired. As we were recording it I realized that it is kinda 'Scarlet Begonias.'" The album, Greene's fifth full-length in his young career, is expected to hit shelves in February of 2008. In addition to his own songs it may feature a few written with his new songwriting partner. "Phil and I have started to write some songs together," Greene revealed. "If we have enough time we might try to break some of those out on the tour this fall."

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