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Rock and Blues With Gov’t Mule: HPR Speaks With Warren Hayes

Music | June 20th, 2023

By Sabrina Hornung 

sabrina@hpr1.com

Photo by Shervin Lainez

Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule spoke to HPR about his new albums, collaborations, inspirations and how he found his love of rock and roll.

High Plains Reader: I always think that it's interesting to ask artists about how they spent their 2020 lock downs, Gov’t Mule came out with two albums! You guys were pretty busy!

Warren Haynes: Yeah, well, you know. It was a forced opportunity to write a bunch of music. You know, since I couldn't go anywhere. I wound up writing more music than I've written in a long, long time. And once we were able to be around each other, we thought the best remedy was to spend a lot of time in the studio. So we wound up making those two records at the same time, which was not something I would normally recommend, but under the circumstances was the perfect solution.

HPR: I read that you had two different approaches toward recording each album. One more conventional studio space with all the bells and whistles, and the other was recorded in a more intimate setting. Can you tell us about that?

WH: Well, we were looking for a facility that could accommodate both setups in the Power Station, New England. They had this big room with high ceilings, which was their main studio that adjoins a smaller studio with lower ceilings, that we thought would be perfect for the blues album. So we set up into two different rooms with completely different equipment.

In the blues room, we set up a bunch of small vintage amplifiers, and a small vintage drum kit, a separate organ and piano. In the big room, we brought in all of our normal Gov’t Mule toys and there was hardly any – if any – overlap between the two setups.

We would go into the big room around noon every day and work until about 9pm, recording songs for “Peace… Like a River.” Then we would take a short break, have a bite to eat and then go next door to the little blues room and play blues for the rest of the night.

That was our schedule for several weeks and it turned out to be a really wonderful solution to our problem. I think the blues is meant to be recorded at night anyway. We would display blues in the evening. Trying to keep as many first takes as possible and it was like being in a small club somewhere in the middle of the night.

HPR: How did you find your love of rock and roll?

WH: I had two older brothers that not only had really great taste in music, but also had really extensive record collections and they had hundreds and eventually 1000s of albums. One of my brothers went on to open his own record store and that's still what he does to this day.

When I was growing up, there were all these records that I was exposed to, it was kind of like growing up in a music library. And they force fed me a lot of great music and then I was also able to discover so many different genres of music just by looking through what they had.

I first started playing guitar when I was 12 years old, my first three guitar heroes were Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Winter. Then I became, obviously, a huge Jeff Beck fan as well, and I was a huge fan of the Allman Brothers. So eventually joining the Allman Brothers was like something that I could never even imagine.

[In Fact Warren Hayes played with the Allman Brothers for 25 years and eventually went on to play with The Dead, which according to him was “the post-Jerry Garcia version of the band in 2003 and in 2009.” He’s also worked extensively with Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead through the years and continues to do so.]

HPR: You collaborated with Billy Gibbons of ZZ Topp and Billy Bob Thornton on “Peace… Like a River”. What was that like?

WH: The collaboration with Billy Bob Thornton came about because it was the first time I had written a song where I felt like the verses should be spoken instead of sung. Once we started rehearsing it, we recorded a version of me doing it that way, but I, in my heart, I kind of felt like it should be somebody else's voice. Billy Bob Thornton and I have been friends for quite a few years and he has one of those voices that kind of draws the listener in from a narrator perspective, and it's kind of an eerie, spooky sort of voice that makes you pay attention to what he's saying. So he was the perfect choice for it.

Billy Gibbons and I have worked together quite a bit through the years. We've been friends since the mid 90s. ZZ Top and Gov’t Mule have actually toured together and he actually appeared on one of our other records too.

HPR: Is there anything else that you'd like to add?

WH: The last song on the record is called “Gone too long. “ I felt like it has a lot of Crosby, Stills Nash and Young influence. We kind of took advantage of that in the studio and did a lot of three part harmony. We have never done much of that in the past.

The way the song was performed and captured, kind of taps into that vibe a little bit– then David Crosby passed away in the midst of all of this, so we decided to dedicate that song to him. He and I only performed together once but it was a very memorable experience for me. And all those guys were big influences. David Crosby was a brilliant artist and, you know, he and I had talked about doing something together that we never were able to do but I really cherished the one time that we performed together.

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IF YOU GO

GOV’T MULE 

Saturday, June 24 Outdoors at Fargo Brewing Company

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