By: Gabriela Kerson
Philadelphia-based G. Love & Special Sauce was formed in Boston in 1993. On August 1st, 2006, they dropped their seventh album, Lemonade, on Brushfire Records. JamBase caught up with G. to talk about creative struggles, success, and working with friends.
JamBase: How's it going?
G. Love: Good, our new record came out three weeks ago. It's our biggest record sales ever; we were thirty-nine on Billboard in our first week. We broke the Top 40!
JamBase: Didn't you do that back in the day?
G. Love: Nah, we were never on the charts too much.
JamBase: What made you want to go to Boston to get your band started?
G. Love: You could play out on the street there legally with a permit. In Philly, you could get arrested. Also, I wanted to be somewhere where I didn't really know anybody, so I could focus on music with no distractions.
So you were what, nineteen or twenty?
Yeah, I was 19.
Damn, that's pretty ballsy.
It was cool. I said to myself, "I'm not up here to have fun, I'm here to pursue my dreams." Playing music was fun, but I had a lot of hard times, a lot of lonely times. It built a lot of character.
G. Love by Tim Bramlette
Kras [Eric Krasno] and those guys [Lettuce, Soulive] were around Boston at that time. Did you meet them then?
I met Neal [Evans, Soulive organist] - that's a funny story. There's this concert promoter from Burlington, Vermont. We played a show, opening for Moon Boot Lover. I was just a kid. We did a good show, it was a cool show, different. We came off the stage and the promoter was like, "It's hard to open up for Moon Boot Lover. Don't feel bad," implying that we sucked. I was like, "Fuck Moon Boot Lover." Then I bombed the whole backstage with graffiti. I just tore it up, to where the poor woman who was running the club was in tears, begging me to stop. I was like, "Fuck you! Fuck you!" I just saw her this year actually. It was cool, we laughed about the whole thing. We did open up for Neal who was in Moon Boot, so that was cool. Neal is one of the funkiest organ players I've ever seen.
You went from opening up for Moon Boot Lover to the H.O.R.D.E. tour and opening for DMB. Were they pretty big when that happened?
I didn't know too much about the bands that were making the scene big. I was in my own little bubble. In '95, I was at catering during the H.O.R.D.E. tour, and this guy comes up and goes, "Are you G. Love?" I said, "Yeah," and he said, "I really love your music, I really love your records," and I said, "Oh what's your name?" He said, "I'm Dave Mathews," and I said, "Cool, what's your band?"
How do you feel about that, doing stuff like "Rodeo Clowns" with Jack Johnson and then just having him blow up?
When I first met Jack, he was just a kid and I did his song. The actual recording of "Rodeo Clowns" was tough for me. I really loved the song when we first cut it with just his vocals. I called him and said, "Look man, I don't even think I really want to continue recording this song 'cause it sounds so great with just you singing on it. I think it's a great opportunity for you to take this track and go get yourself a record deal, 'cause I know you can." He said, "No man, do it. You can do it."
Jack started blowing up. At first I was kind of amazed, and it was a little frustrating for me. I'd been hammering it for years, and he blew up so quickly. The hit was like a runaway train. Now he's one of the biggest rock stars there is.
I gotta take it for what it is. He would have blown up whether he met me or not. I'm a huge fan of his, and he's a huge fan of mine. We continue to collaborate since that first day. Anything I ever did to help him, he's repaid me a thousand fold.
What was it like working with Marc Broussard?
Marc was great. Our managers are friends, and they put Marc in touch with me. He's got this real thick Louisiana accent, and he calls himself "Bayou Bruce." "Hi, this is Bayou Bruce calling for G. Love. Yeah, I'm in town. Last night we played a show which you did not do me the honor to attend? I did you the honor of attending your show when you played in my town, but you have never come to see me play. But I hear we might do something in the studio."
Kid's like 23.
I called him back. I was like, "Dude, my bad. We're working on this record, come on in." "Oh, I don't know if I can do it today." I called him the next day. "Oh, I don't know if I can do it today." "Mark, we gotta do this track or we're not gonna do it. Come on through the studio. Where you at?"
He's at Dave and Buster's getting shit-faced drunk in the afternoon, playing video games in the shittiest tourist trap in Philadelphia. I was like, "Get down here." So he comes. He's stinking like he fell into a puddle of Jack Daniels. It's like four in the afternoon, and this guy's toasted. I say, "Marc, you gonna be able to do this?" He goes, "You think I came here to suck?"
With that he went into the vocal booth and literally destroyed the track. He was really inspired. Having him and Ben Harper in the studio were two of the highlights of the recording process for sure.
You're a huge John Hammond fan?
Yeah, I just had the pleasure to produce John's new record. It's called Push Comes to Shove. It's coming out in January on Blue Note. John was talking with his label; they were trying to hook him up with some producer and he wasn't into the guy. He and his wife Marla were kind of upset. Marla says, "Well, why don't you call Garrett? You know he loves your music, and he knows what he's doing. You'll have fun, and it'll be something special."
They called me up and I immediately said, "Yes." I put everything on hold and said, "Let's make this happen." It was so good for me on so many levels. To see my idol perform in the studio, watch someone else's recording process and help them with it. In a lot of ways he's like my second father, a musical father figure for me.
After 13 years, have there been points when you've just wanted to quit?
There are times when you're frustrated and down-hearted. You get snubbed by the industry, your record doesn't do good, your tour's not doing good. You're thinking, "God, why am I doing this?" Then you'll go out and have one of those euphoric nights on stage. I never have been like, "I'm quitting," but there've been times when I've been low, and honestly those times the fans got me through it. I would never quit. I'm lucky to be able to do what I love. It's amazing, it keeps getting bigger and bigger, slowly.
I saw you in '99, and you came off as sort of cocky, almost above the audience. In the last year, whenever I've seen you, there's been a deeper connection with the crowd. What do you think changed?
I don't think I was cocky on stage. I've always been kind of nervous, trying to focus on the music and not get too caught up in the crowd. I was intimidated and scared on stage. Now I enjoy it more. There are still terrifying moments where things aren't going right. I'm a lot more relaxed as a person now. I'm a little older, and I'm a father. Being a father made me feel like whether I'm really cool or really dorky or whatever, it's ok to just be me. It's ok to be out on stage, playing my music, being myself. I don't feel like I ever disrespected the audience; I might have just been afraid of the audience, insecure.
If this album could take you anywhere, where would it be?
All my career, I've pushed really hard. I wanted to kick back a little bit on this record, keep it mellow and relaxed. I feel like I achieved what I set out to do. After getting this record out of my system, I feel this incredible creative spark. I'm ready to start recording something new. I want this record to get out there to as many people as possible, so I can get ready to make my new record.
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