Photos Courtesy of the Artist and Artist Instagram
For over twenty years, Garrett Dutton, aka “G. Love,” has been ripping it up across the country, and worldwide, with his unique hip-hop blues sound. His band, G. Love & Special Sauce, is made up of Jim “Jimi Jazz” Prescott, and Jeff “Houseman” Clemens, the same original trio that started it all back in the early nineties. Though he’s lived in Boston for the last ten years, Philadelphia is still his home and, as he says in this interview, the fans here are still the fans who get him the most. Every Philadelphonic show with G. Love is a can’t miss, and this Saturday’s show at the new Fillmore won’t be any different. G. Love was nice enough to chat with us ahead of his homecoming show!
Rock On Philly: Thanks for taking the time, G. First, I know it’s been out a while, but congratulations nonetheless on the latest record. I was listening to the song “Muse” with Citizen Cope, and it got me thinking: you guys have been around for over twenty years now, I’m sure you’re all in different places than you were personally and professionally when you first started out.
So how has your inspiration as a songwriter changed and developed? What would you say your muse was then when you were first starting out, and what would be your muse now?
G. Love: Well I think it’s kind of always been the same. It’s just life. With my writing, I tend to run the whole gamut… from very personal parts of my life and relationships, to stuff I make up in my head… just pure fictional stories to stuff that’s inspired by books, or movies, or television shows, or newspaper articles. I think that the thing I do as a writer is I always keep my ears and eyes open. The greatest muse is life itself and everything you’re able to absorb in your day to day. That could be something you hear a drunk person mumble when they’re walking down the street, to something you hear president Obama say on the news, and everything in between. Certainly, music, itself, leads to the creation of new music. So, whenever I listen to something old or new that catches me and takes me to that place, a lot of times – and I think all musicians are like this – you take what you get out of the records you love and it goes inside of you and manifests itself in different ways, stylistically. And it could be years later. You could hear a song today, and three years later it could kinda come out of you. So, yeah, I don’t think that’s really changed. I’ve been writing songs since I was about 15 and I’m 43 now. So, that’s almost 30 years of being a songwriter, and I don’t think that approach has really changed. You have to keep yourself open and constantly be jotting down and recording ideas. And a lot of times it’ll happen when you’re going to sleep or waking up, in those kind of lucid states. Ideas just come out of nowhere and you gotta always be ready to catch up.
ROP: The G. Love & Special Sauce lineup has changed a couple times through the years, but now you’re back to the original trio.
When you started out, did you expect to be playing music and making records and touring with this same group? What’s it mean to you to have that familiarity with you at all times, whether on stage or off? What’s it mean to have those guys still with you to this day?
GL: Yeah it’s definitely a family. It’s really become a family, and that’s inclusive of our road crew, as well. We all live together for so much time out of the year, and we’ve done that for so long. It’s definitely a certain kind of family that we have. So that can mean some tough love sometimes. But they’re deep friendships.
And on the musical side, it’s really a blessing. There are certain chemistries that people have and certain musical friendships in bands make all the difference. Whether you’re in a band or just hiring guys, you can certainly make great records just hiring the best players in town to come be on your record. But there’s something very special about playing the songs live every night with the original people who came up with the parts and recorded them. And, there’s something very special about the chemistry, about writing and recording together.
It’s a power. And it’s hard to put a value on it. But, it works. I think a lot of people in the business tend to devalue it. But I place a very high value on the thing that Jim and Jeff and I have. The sounds and the chemistry we have on stage, you can’t really replicate it. And I know it’s true now, because we’re twenty-plus years deep in the thing and we’re not the best, we’re not the worst, we’re not the biggest, and we’re not the smallest, but there’s no one that’s ever really done what we’ve done before, and no one is really gonna ever be able to do what we do, after. So, like I said, we’re not necessarily packing stadiums right now, but maybe we will someday. But, that’s the sound, man. That’s the sound. A lot of people have been influenced by it. Ask anybody. Jack White, Kid Rock, The Roots, to Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews… a lot of people, and certainly a lot of younger musicians like John Butler. A lot of people have taken elements of what we’ve kind of pioneered and put it into their music. Of course, we’ve done that as well with people who’ve inspired us. But, in a lot of ways, I don’t think we’ve gotten a lot of credit. But I feel like it’ll come. A lot of people were influenced by our sounds. There’s no denying it.
ROP: You’re definitely right. You touched on your uniqueness of your sound. Does that come with its own pressure? When you go into the studio to make a new record, is there a pressure to maintain a certain sound and to continue to be unique?
GL: I think the pressure we have is pressure that we’ve really put on ourselves: to be great and to be innovative. When you stumble across something like we did early on and achieved an original thing – and the most important thing you can do as a musician is find something original – you can keep rehashing that year after year and try different things, but I think we have tried a number of different things over the years. They’ve all kind of worked to some extent. Some haven’t been as commercially successful as others. But I don’t think we hold ourselves too much in a box. I think we follow the songs that we’re writing and the styles that we’re into. And I think that the new record, Love Saves the Day is a great example of that. I think it’s really pushing our sound. You know, you’re not gonna know who you’re gonna be tomorrow, or the next day. But you know who you are today, so that’s what you’re gonna be, and you gotta go with it. You can’t try to keep being the old you. You can always have elements of the old you and the new you, but you gotta keep growing. So, I think we are pretty good at letting that happen naturally and going with the flow of the music.
ROP: Switching topics a bit, you seemed to adopt social media really early compared to similar artists. From the beginning, posting short, behind-the-scenes and acoustic clips on Facebook and now Instagram, artistic set-lists, and all that… is that something you saw from the beginning as being important?
GL: Yeah, I have a good team of people so we’ve always tried to embrace emerging trends. Like in the nineties we had a pretty good street networking team that really helped us grow through our touring and record releases. And now that it’s all social media. People now expect, and fans now expect to have access. I personally have always enjoyed engaging with my fans and stuff, so social media is the perfect place to be able to do that on a daily basis. And sometimes you hear things that you don’t wanna hear. You can read a million good reviews but then you get that one bad review and you can never get it out of your head, ya know? But yeah, it’s definitely important. Especially if you’re an up-and-coming artist, and your social media gig is locked tight, then you’re really doing yourself a disservice because that’s how people learn about you. You gotta put yourself out there. And it’s a great thing as an artist. It’s actually hard to over saturate yourself now because there’s so much noise out there. You gotta keep putting out content and getting yourself out there anyway you can.
ROP: You’re show coming up on Saturday is at the new Fillmore here in Philly. Have you been to the new venue yet?
GL: No, I haven’t been there yet! I’m excited, though! I’ve heard such great things about the new room. I’m really excited to be playing there. It’s gonna be a great show and we’re really looking forward to it. I mean, Philly shows are always really important to me. A lot of my music is about Philadelphia and inspired by going up there. I feel like everybody there can understand what I’m saying better than anyone else in the rest of the world.
ROP: I think you’re probably right.
When you come back to Philly for a show, are there any traditions that you have now, any spots you have to hit up?
GL: You know what’s funny? Now that I’m not living in Philly (I’m living in Boston because that’s where my son is these days), but it’s funny because now when I come home, I actually do go get a cheesesteak! Of course, when you live there it’s not a big deal ’cause you’re eating cheesesteaks all the time. So, when I come back I’m like, “gotta get a cheesesteak!” But yeah, other than that, I always visit with my Great Aunt, who’s kind of elderly. She’s up there in Bala Cynwyd. I’ll catch up with all my high school homies. Should be really good.
ROP: You mentioned your son, and I’ve heard he’s occasionally joined you on the drums. Any plans for that to be a regular thing in the future?
GL: Yeah actually he’s really becoming a great drummer. We jam a lot at home. In the summer time I’ll do like an acoustic tour and play a lot of beach towns up and down the East Coast and he usually comes with me on a week or two of that and jams out. I told him this last year, “Hey man, you’re not ten years old anymore, you’re not just cute, you gotta actually play well.” [laughs]
ROP: Ha, can’t rest on his good looks anymore, right? He’s gotta be good?
ROP: So, wrapping up, you’re doing things a little differently on this tour, right? You’re playing two sets with the first as playing the new album straight through, and the rest doing an all-request set from social media. What brought that about?
GL: Well, for the twenty-three years we’ve been on the road we rarely stick to set lists. And, a couple years back we did a 20th anniversary of our debut record and we played the whole record start to finish. We really enjoyed the discipline of playing a whole record, which, we hadn’t done. For us, as musicians, it was extremely successful. We’re always trying to mix up what we’re doing year after year. So, for this tour, we were all feeling really strongly about the music on this record and where it’s taking us musically and we want to keep pushing forward. So we just wanted to play it. And, as a trade off to our fans, because we’re not idiots, we know people wanna hear the hits. The first list is the new record, the second set is all request driven from social media. And the people who communicate on the socials on the daily basis are your biggest die-hard fan. It’s cool because some of them request some really obscure stuff, and some of them request the hits. But it’s been fun to play all the requests. It’s a really great show and a great experience.
GL: Is anybody still keeping up with the Sixers? [laughs] I’m keeping up with the Eagles now. It’s funny, over the years I’ve become such a hardcore Eagles fan. I bleed green just like everybody else. But it’s funny, I’ve lived in Boston now for ten years and, honestly, I have good relationships with The Patriots and The Celtics and The Red Sox. When I want to go to any games it’s nice because I really get taken care of. But I can’t really get behind any teams in my soul who aren’t from Philly. So, I remain a die-hard Sixers and Eagles fan. It’s harder now, though. The last time I was really, really engaged with the Sixers was the Iverson days. Then, I kinda left for Boston around the same time he left and it just got harder to watch all the games up here. But yeah, I’m still with the Sixers. We’re waiting! Our time will come again!
ROP: So, are you on board with the rebuilding plan?
GL: You know it’s tough because I grew up watching games with like Dr. J and Charles Barkley. It was such an epic game to watch as a kid growing up. But it’s a different thing now.
ROP: Well, thanks a lot once again, we’ll let you get back to the road. We look forward to having you here on Saturday!
GL: Appreciate it!
Check out G. Love & Special Sauce and their special two-set show this coming Saturday at the Fillmore here in Philly! Limited tickets available here.
Will you be there? Tell us in the comments below!