Tuesday, September 19, 2023
Gov’t Mule to Play Rush South Fest This October: Here’s What Lead Singer Warren Haynes Had to Say
Written by Blake Blackmon
Images via Gov't Mule
Rush South Fest is quickly approaching and is set to combine world renowned musical artists along with local talent. Included in that line-up is Grammy-nominated band Gov’t Mule composed of Warren Haynes, guitar, vocals, Matt Abts, drums, Danny Louis, keyboards, guitar, and backing vocals, and Kevin Scott, bass. Together they combine the best and most enduring qualities from rock, soul, jazz and blues to create a timeless sound that could have easily come out in the 1970s.
Warren Haynes. Source.
The band recently put out two albums that were recorded simultaneously, though they coudln’t be more different. Heavy Load Blues and Peace...Like a River showcase their diversity and wide breadth of influences.
I sat down with guitar legend, vocalist, songwriter and producer Warren Haynes to discuss these influences along with Peace..Like a River which is the focus of their upcoming tour which includes Rush South Fest.
Q: Hi Warren! So excited to be talking to you and that you’re bringing your music to Columbus. Have you been to Columbus before?
A: Yes, but it's been a while.
Q: Well, congratulations on your new album, or I guess I should say, two new albums. We'll just dive right in. I know a lot of authors don't read other works, while they're in the process of writing. So, I was curious how your relationship to music that you listen to changes, if at all, when you're in the process of writing and recording.
A: I probably don't listen to music in general as much. When I'm in writing mode or in recording mode I tend to get tunnel vision and mostly focus on what it is that I'm working on. I’m not a super stickler about it, it just happens to work out that way.
Q: I know you have such a wide array of influences, which shows up in your music, especially in the diversity of the two new records.
A: Yeah. All my life, I've been attracted to so many different types of music starting at a really young age. I had two older brothers that not only had really great taste in music, but were avid vinyl collectors as well. So I grew up in a household with tons of music to listen to, and tons of different types of music to listen to. And that's been a big influence on me my entire life.
Q: And I know you've mentioned both albums were recorded simultaneously. Was it difficult to switch gears from one to the other?
A: Well, it seemed like it might be more difficult than it turned out to be and it was a little daunting on paper. But once we got a handle on it, it turned out to be really smooth and easy. We set up in two different rooms that were connected to each other. And we set up in the small room for the blues record, and in the big room for Peace … Like a River with two completely different sets of equipment.
We would come in around noon every day and work on Peace … Like a River songs and then somewhere around 9pm We would take a little break, and then maybe grab a bite to eat and go next door to the little blues room and play blues the rest of the night. Which turned out to be a great way to shut our brains off and not think about all the complex arrangements that we'd been working on all day long and just play blues like we were in some small club somewhere. If it had been two equally challenging records, it would have been a little more difficul. But playing the blues is better late at night, and it's better if you're not thinking so it turned out great.
Govt Mule. Source.
Q: So I have to ask about the … in the Peace…Like a River title.
A: I guess it’s to make everyone pause between the word peace and the phrase like a river.
There's some irony in the title, too, because so many of the song lyrics contain the word peace, or contain the word river. That was the impetus behind coming up with that title. I wanted to come up with a title that had both of those words in it, just based on the fact that they appeared so many times throughout the song lyrics.
And there's a weird story that one day I was talking to the studio manager about Paul Simon, and he said, “What's your favorite Paul Simon song?” And I said, “I don't know, maybe ‘Sound of Silence’?” Just because that's the first one I ever heard. He said, “well, mine is ‘Peace, Like a River.’” So I went back and rediscovered that song.
It also turns out that there was a novel, which stems from an old Hymn. So I researched the whole “peace like a river thing” and what it meant to different authors. I thought, “Well, I think it kind of sums up what I'm trying to say with the song. So it's okay to borrow that title.”
Q: And I feel like that fits so well with something you've said beforet, that your music tends to have one foot in the past and one in the future. What is your outlook on that balance of honoring previous music, but also making it your own?
A: For a band like us, that's one of the most important things is striking that balance, and keeping alive the spirit of the music that moved us to become musicians, and that continues to inspire us. I think we can never turn our backs on our influences, but at the same time, we have to always be open to any modern influence that might be timeless enough to make its way into our brain space. That can include modern music, along with a lot of old music that goes back decade after decade after decade, you know? It's always been important to include more influences with each album. We want each record to be different than the one before.
Q: And is part of that found in your recording process, I know the album was recorded using tape and not worrying about over-editing. And I've seen you say that's how some of your favorite style of records were recorded. Is that more natural to you?
A: Yeah, I think it's really our preference to continue the philosophy of the way great records have been made since before we were born. What I mean by that is that a lot of the records we grew up loving were not overthought, or over-edited. Maybe there were flaws, mistakes and shortcomings that a lot of modern artists and producers would want to correct, but I think in a lot of cases, that's the wrong approach.
Music is meant to be emotional and to inspire emotion. And perfection is not really the answer. You know, I think when artists get too bogged down with fixing everything that they feel is a mistake, it takes a lot of the life out of the music.
Q: Right, and you have some amazing artists featured on this album. And I know you grew up listening to some of them. What's it like to listen to these artists and respect their music and then get to play with them? Does it feel like a full circle moment in a way?
A: Absolutely. It's something that I don't take for granted. I've been very fortunate to have worked or played in some capacity with so many people that I grew up listening to, and a lot of my heroes. And that's one of the things that's been afforded me in my career that I treasure the most. I've learned so much from all those experiences. Me being a part of The Allman Brothers for 25 years opened the door for that opportunity to happen so many times that I look back at all these experiences and think wow, what an amazing opportunity to have.
Q: It seems like your music could function as a bridge between the two. Referring to one foot in the past and one foot in the future.
A: It's amazing how many young people these days are just starting to discover a lot of the music that that we're talking about. We were seeing 14-year-old kids that are becoming Gov’t Mule fans that are just discovering our music as well as discovering the Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones. Maybe they knew they existed, but up until a certain age, they had no reason to discover it. And once they do, it has the same impact on them that it had on us because that is amazing music that I was fortunate enough to grow up listening to.
Q: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I'm so excited for you guys to come to Columbus. On the River playing Peace…Like a River. It just makes sense.
A: Yep. And it's been too long. You know, growing up in a small southern town myself, Asheville, North Carolina, I love to see so many small southern towns that are flourishing right now. And growing into a new version of themselves, it's great to see. ◾️
Want tickets to Rush South Fest on October 14-15? Click here!
Don't miss the 2023 ICF Freestyle World Championships happening in Columbus October 9-14.
Come out and support these Olympic level athletes battling it out on the Chattahoochee River to be the best in the world! Free to watch, tickets for Rush South Fest are required.
*Posted in partnership with The Columbusite.