Interview | Joe Russo Mounts Up | Part One

Written By: Chad Berndtson

No sooner did Joe Russo open up calendar space with the announcement of a near-Furthur-less 2014 than he began to confirm all kinds of other gigs, from sit-ins (The Black Crowes) and thrilling one-offs (a pairing with Soulive’s Eric Krasno and Neal Evans, a return of The Complete Last Waltz, the second-ever Joe Russo’s Almost Dead Show) to full-blown tours (Cass McCombs) and the promise of much else to come (Phil & Friends, Shpongle). This is not a guy who takes much time off. Or one who waits for gigs to happen.

[Photo By: Adam McCullough]

JamBase connected with Russo this month for several expansive discussions over a three-day period. It’s been five years since he and brother-in-arms Marco Benevento more or less hung up the Duo and headed to other pursuits – Joe to a period of antsy transition, until getting a life-changing phone call from Bob Weir’s camp in 2009.

In Part 1 of our wide-ranging interview, Russo takes us through his time just before and then his years with Furthur, as well as a brief look ahead to some other things he has percolating now and why “taking time off” isn’t ever really an option.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2, where we’ll deep dive into the future of the Duo and other things on Russo’s mind including the return of Joe Russo's Almost Dead.

JAMBASE: So Joe, no sooner did we hear about the Furthur hiatus than your dance card is once again filled. You’re touring with Cass McCombs, doing dates with Shpongle, doing various configurations and one-offs, sitting in with the Black Crowes, playing with The Complete Last Waltz. How are you prioritizing your commitments?,

JOE RUSSO: I am finding myself with a bunch of time now. This is the first time I’ve found myself with this much time off in years. I have a studio I’ve built and it’s been great to just come in to work at 8 or 9 a.m., and clock in, and write some music.

Previously Furthur was my first commitment over the last few years, so I would fill in the blanks on other stuff based on what info I’d receive from those guys. So this is going to be exciting and new. I’m kind of going back to the old days of slapping together a bunch of stuff, and I kind of just look at my calendar and talk to my wife and try to make sense of all the things that are on the table.

JAMBASE: Time management has to be a tricky thing in the Russo house.

JR: I’ve never been good at that, and I’m guilty of overcommitting my time. The calendar may say you can do it all, but you can’t. Sometimes I’d be traveling and be exhausted, or on the calendar I’d see time off from Furthur so it’s like, yeah, of course I’ll go to Europe with Shpongle, not realizing the hit your body takes with all that travel, and then going back to the mindbending Furthur thing.

But it’s fun. I’m definitely starting to be more aware of how the little squares on my calendar work. I’m always looking at big picture but I’m also just excited to be having the opportunity to play so many different songs with so many people I love and respect.

JAMBASE: How much planning will you do be doing versus just leaving time open for one-off gigs?

JR: It’ll be an interesting mix. I look forward to doing more stuff in the moment. The way that Marco and I started back in the day was completely improvised and “let’s go for it.” Now that I’ll be around a bit more, I’m looking forward to throwing guys together and making that kind of music again.

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