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Warren Haynes Talks New Gov't Mule Doc, Writing With Gregg Allman & Growing Young

Gov't Mule

Photo: Geoff Tischman

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Warren Haynes Talks New Gov't Mule Doc, Writing With Gregg Allman & Growing Young

Haynes opens up about Danny Clinch's new live-concert documentary 'Bring On The Music,' what he learned from writing songs with Gregg Allman and music's power to heal and rejuvenate artists and fans alike

GRAMMYs/Jul 23, 2019 - 03:20 am

Want to know what music can do to help us through life's challenges and the loss of loved ones? Just ask Warren Haynes, GRAMMY winner, guitar legend, prophetic songwriter, longtime Allman Brothers Band member and founder of Gov't Mule:

"You realize that sometimes music is not just a way of getting through the hardships, it goes beyond that. It turns the hardships into something beautiful and something positive."

Haynes speaks these transcendent words in the opening minutes of GRAMMY nominee Danny Clinch's imaginative new rock concert documentary Bring On The Music, which celebrates 25 years of Gov't Mule by capturing two nights of the band performing at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, N.Y. In the film, Clinch boldly blends an omniscient nine-camera live-show capture with backstage interviews, stripped-down warm-up performances and man-on-the-street Mule-head testimonials, providing an enthralling look at life in the service of music from every angle, all with a visual verisimilitude that is quintessential Clinch.

The electricity and wonder Bring On The Music captures and creates is especially striking when you consider that, in the beginning, Gov't Mule almost never kicked their way out of the stall.

"For a band that didn't know we would do a second year or a second album, the fact that we've done 10 studio records and gone past the 20-year mark as a band is pretty mind-blowing for us," Hayes admits in the film.

But for all the history a quarter century contains, Bring On The Music exists in the now, shining a light on Gov't Mule's inexorable connection with their fans via soulful, psychedelic, mesmerizing live music. Haynes spoke with the Recording Academy recently about what the milestone means to him, working with Clinch, looking back at losing Gov't Mule's original bassist Allen Woody, what he learned from the late Gregg Allman and why these days he feels like a much younger man.

Congratulations on 25 years of Gov't Mule and on the new project. Were there any surprises for you on working on this live album and film considering it's a different creative process from what the band has explored before?

One of the great things about working with Danny Clinch was that we've known each other for so long, and I completely trust and respect what he does. And it allowed me to just concentrate on the performance part of it and just try to make it where it was just another night, or two nights, even though it wasn't just another two nights. The more we could relax and approach it that way, the better the results were going to be. So I put a lot of trust in Danny's hands, and for good reason.

Why do you think he's become the go-to music photographer and filmmaker?

Well, it's several things. I mean, you look at his work, and it speaks for itself. He's got a beautiful eye and a wonderful imagination and a wonderful concept of depth and contrast. But as a person, he's just so unassuming and someone that you want to be around. Danny and I would be friends if we didn't work together, and he has that kind of endearing quality that you feel from the very beginning... He loves music and art and photography for all the same reasons that I do, but it goes well beyond that, to being a sweet person, a cool person, and I think everyone you talk to would have a similar description.

There's a beautiful moment in the film where you're playing the intro to "Bring On The Music" backstage and then it opens up into the full-band performance. How did that cinematic idea come together and why did you choose that particular song as the title track of the film?

Well, that song, lyrically, deals with loss and the passing of time, and also with the relationship between the band and our audience. And that seemed to sum up a lot of what was in the front of our minds when we were embarking on our 25th anniversary. And it was Danny's idea to film that acoustic intro in the stairwell backstage, and it just seamlessly flows into the recorded version that we did. I think it's an appropriate title for a lot of reasons, because 25 years later, from Gov't Mule's perspective, it's all about the music. That's what's gotten us wherever we are.

We've had an interesting journey, and it's still continuing and still growing. And the audience is still growing, but all of our decisions that we've made throughout our career have just been based on what felt right to us. They've never been based what we thought people wanted from us, or expected from us, or what the marketplace or the industry wanted or expected from us. It was always been just doing what felt good. And 25 years later, we're all extremely grateful that we have an opportunity to do that, to do what we love exactly how we love to do it.

In the film, you talk about this concept of music being able to turn hardships into something beautiful and something positive. Looking back at the past 25 years, is there an era of the band, or an album, where you can recall that being especially true for you personally?

Well, when I look at the songs that I wrote before [2000's Life Before] Insanity, when I look back at that now, it was foreshadowing what we were about to go through unknowingly. And then after losing Woody in 2000, of course, the only way we knew to move forward was to do the deep end sessions with all the different bass players, who are all Allen Woody's favorite bass players and our favorite bass players. So each day, we would walk into the studio, and his rig would be set up where he used to stand. And a different legendary bass player, sometimes two different legendary bass players, would come in and plug into his rig and record with us. And that was a healing path. That was a very cathartic way of dealing with such a massive loss for us, and it was the only way I think we could have dealt with it.

So those times were extremely bittersweet. On one hand, we're playing music and recording, and in some cases, riding with Woody's heroes. But on the other hand, the reason they're there is because he's gone... Speaking for myself, and I think [Gov't Mule drummer] Matt [Abts] as well, in the beginning, we didn't even think it was a possibility to keep going. But once we did decide to keep going, that seemed to be the best path forward. And we got a lot of encouragement from our friends, many of which who had lost band members.

And so, here it is all these years later. The last two or three years have been filled with a lot of loss. In the Allman Brothers, we lost Butch [Trucks] and Gregg back-to-back. And so, it affects the way you live, it affects the way you think, it affects the way you write, it affects the way you play and sing. But there's a celebratory [nature] to it, which is we're all still here and lucky to do what it is that we love to do.

"Music becomes more and more important as time goes on. And I really believe that, that as important as music has always been in my life, it's even more important now." –Warren Haynes

Wow, that's a powerful notion. If I could ask you a follow up about Gregg: What did you learn from him as a songwriter, and then what do you personally remember most about Gregg Allman?

Well, Gregg and I met in 1980, or '81, and went around the world together several times, played so much music together. We wrote a lot of songs together, and of course, I was a really big fan before we ever met. I learned more from Gregg Allman before I ever met him than I did all the years that I knew him, just because of how much I loved and studied his music.

When we started writing songs together, some of things that made an impression on me beyond what I had learned from a distance were the way he tended to not rush things. I'm one of these people that when I'm writing, I'm caught up in the moment and I want to stay in the moment until it wears itself out. Gregg was always like, we would work for a little while, and he'd say, "Let's step away and take a break, and we'll come back in a little while and look at it from a different perspective." He was a never in a hurry to rush the creative process, and he was really good at simplifying.

He told me a long, long time ago that when you were writing a lyric, one of the most important things was how it's sung. And so, if you had a great line, but it didn't roll off the tongue so well, it was more important to find a different way of saying that, that did sing well.

And he was really good at doing that. He had told me at one time that sometimes when he got stumped, he would imagine Ray Charles, like, "How would Ray Charles sing that line?" And so, I found myself imagining the same thing about him, especially now that he's gone. Like, "How would Gregg sing this line, and how would he change it if it needed to be changed?"

But we wrote a lot together, especially the last 10 years or so that he was around. I think one of the things that might surprise people… A lot of people probably assume that I was writing the music and he was writing the lyrics, and in some cases, it was the exact opposite. There were times when he came up with music and I wound up writing the lyric, or maybe it was a combination, but it meant more that way. And we trusted each other in a way, that if he felt like something was complete, then I would bow to that, and vice versa. And also, if he felt like it was unfinished, then I would bow to that, and vice versa.

Also in the film you say once you sign on for music, you sign on for life, and you're a student for life. But I think a lot of musicians get this sense that there are these masters out there, and you're certainly one of them. So I'm curious, because you do have a fervor for learning, what are you excited about now and working on and exploring in terms of musical ideas or techniques?

Well, I'm right now, thinking a lot about what the next Gov't Mule record is going to sound like, what it's going to entail from a songwriting perspective. The first record on the other side of our 25th anniversary, I know in some ways we're going to revisit the beginning and comfortably explore some of our earliest roots and concepts, but I'm sure we're also going to go into some places we've never gone before. I've been writing some instrumental music for the first time in quite a while, and some of the stuff seems to be influenced differently than maybe instrumentals that I've written in the past. As far as playing, I'm just trying to always look at things with a little bit different perspective.

We're performing all the time, so it's a gradual process and a perpetual process, of trying to decide the parts of your playing that you want to concentrate less on and open yourself up to other ideas and other approaches. It's hard to put into words what I mean by that. But I'm thinking right now that there are some new doors opening for me that I'm going to travel through that in some ways just are based on the way you think about playing and the way you listen to music as an entity and the way you look at music as an entity.

You had said before about being a student, and there are all these wonderful guitar players that I learned from, and even the ones that I put into the absolute top of the heap, I think everyone walks off stage from time thinking, "I was terrible tonight." And that's just part of it. That's part of what being a student is. I can't imagine anyone that's achieved greatness who always thinks of themselves as being great and having no need or desire to get better.

Yeah, that's one thing I love most about the guitar: there's always something new for you to turn the page to and discover.

Yeah, and no matter who you listen to, even if it's someone who's just starting on the instrument, or someone who's been playing 50-plus years, someone in a completely different genre, you hear something that they do that you would never have thought of yourself. And that's inspiring.

Every time I hear someone else play, I get some sort of idea that triggers something in my own head, because that's one of the unique things about music is it comes from inside a person's brain and spirit and soul. And each person is different, so they have something different to offer that the rest of us would never think of.

That's a great point. Just one more question for you, Warren. There's a great quote in the movie where you say, "I feel like a much younger man." Why do you feel like a younger man now, 25 years into your time with this band?

Well, it's all flown by. It doesn't feel like 25 years since we started Gov't Mule. It doesn't feel like 30 years since I joined the Allman Brothers. I get reminded sometimes that I'm 59 years old, but I don't think of myself that way. I don't know if there's an age that I think of myself as, but it wouldn't be 59.

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

Rotimi

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Rotimi On Performing At ESSENCE Fest, Growing Up African-American & More

The Nigerian-American singer and actor sat down with the Recording Academy to talk about what inspired his latest album, 'Walk With Me'

GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2019 - 10:04 pm

In 2015, Rotimi stepped into the New Orleans Superdome for the first time to experience the magic of ESSENCE Fest. Four years later, in 2019, the "Love Riddim" singer returned to the celebration as a performer, something he said was spoken into existence.

"Last year me and my manager had a conversation and I said, 'Listen, I'm going to be on the [ESSENCE] mainstage this year. 365 days later, we did it," Rotimi told the Recording Academy at the 25th annual ESSENCE Fest.

Rotimi, also an actor on Starz' "Power," has evolved since his last album, 2017's Jeep Music, Vol.1. The singer said he really hit home with its follow-up, the recently released Walk With Me, a project he worked hard for, putting in hours in the studio after filming on set.

"Walk With Me is the first time I actually felt like I was giving myself as an artist, and personally I feel like with everything else I have going on I wanted to show people that this is really what I do," he said. "I wanted people to understand who Rotimi is, who Rotimi was before, who I want to be and just understand my growth and the journey and my passion for what I do."

Part of why the album felt like such a representation of him is because it embodies beats of his African roots, something he said was very present growing up Nigerian-American. 

"I grew up with a lot of Fela Kuti and I grew up with Bob Marley," he said of his musical roots. "But I also grew up with Carl Thomas and Genuine and Usher, so there was a genuine mixture of who I am and what I've grown up to listen to. The actual Walk With Me project was a mixture of influences of Akon and Craig David."

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam

Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it

GRAMMYs/Feb 13, 2019 - 04:05 am

Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.

McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award

The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.

"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."

With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.

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Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show

Glenn Danzig

Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

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Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show

Dark punk legends to play first show with Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only since last year's Riot Fest reunion

GRAMMYs/Aug 22, 2017 - 05:28 am

There's big news today for punk-rock fans aware that the Misfits made much more than just T-shirts.

The massively influential punk band announced a special show touted as the "only 2017 performance in this world… or any world" and billed as "The Original Misfits" in Los Angeles at the Forum on Dec. 30.

This will be the first Misfits show featuring original singer Glenn Danzig and original bassist Jerry Only with long-time guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein since the band reunited for a pair of Riot Fest appearances in Chicago and Denver in 2016. Last year's Riot Fest gigs, which featured drummer Dave Lombardo, marked the first time in 33 years the original Misfits members played together.

"OK Los Angeles, you've waited almost 35 years for this, here's your chance to see the "Original Misfits" in this Exclusive L.A. only performance." said Glenn Danzig. "No Tour, No BS, just one night of dark metal-punk hardcore brutality that will go down in the history books. See you there."

Tickets for this "one night only" show go on sale Friday, August 25.

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

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Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards

Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category

GRAMMYs/Nov 20, 2019 - 06:28 pm

The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.

Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville                                                                        

 
This star-studded compilation album from 11-time GRAMMY nominee J. Cole and his Dreamville Records imprint features appearances from some of the leading and fastest-rising artists in hip-hop today, including label artists EARTHGANG, J.I.D, and Ari Lennox, plus rappers T.I, DaBaby, and Young Nudy, among many others. Recorded in Atlanta across a 10-day recording session, Revenge of the Dreamers III is an ambitious project that saw more than 300 artists and producers contribute to the album, resulting in 142 recorded tracks. Of those recordings, 18 songs made the final album, which ultimately featured contributions from 34 artists and 27 producers.

Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.

Championships – Meek Mill

In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

i am > i was – 21 Savage

Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.

IGOR – Tyler, The Creator

The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.

The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae

Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.