This summer brought the release of Superhero Brother, the band’s 10th album in 15 years. Shannon Kelley spoke with Garret Dutton (aka G) prior to the album’s release earlier this summer. G was on a train, en route from New York to Boston, about to take off for Europe with longtime pal Jack Johnson. They talked peace, weed, and sneaking into the mother of all parties. What follows are excerpts from that conversation. G. Love was slated to open the Black Crowes show at the Santa Barbara Bowl this Friday, but that show was canceled on September 16, due to the illness of an unnamed Crowes band member.
You’re an old pro by now, but with a new album about to drop, do you still get nervous? Making a record, I put everything into it, my passion and love and skill and everybody in the band puts all that in there, and it’s like a self-portrait, a snapshot of where you’re at, something timely and timeless that people want to listen to. That’s what it comes down to, whether people want to listen to it.
Can you tell me about the inspiration for the song “Peace Love & Happiness?” I toured Brazil this past year with a lot of the Brushfire artists-Matt Costa, Donavon Frankenreitier, ALO. Don and I went to this favela, this huge ghetto : We played for these children; they are filled with so much hope and light and love, I just wanted to write. So like an hour before the show I wrote it and played it that night. I wanted something they could sing along with, and I felt like “Peace, Love, Happiness” was a chant these kids could sing along to. So I wrote it for them and played it the whole tour and got back home and said, “Man, I want to cut this track.”
And then you shot the video, hanging out of a helicopter over L.A : It was freezing, going 90 miles an hour, 3,000 feet above L.A., hanging all the way outside of this helicopter with this seatbelt on. I was like, “Keep filmin’, let’s do this shit!”
What about “Who’s Got the Weed?” Is there a story there? I grew some herb back in the day. It was before 9/11, when you could still fly with weed in your pocket. I was flying once, I had this big bag of herb down my leg and it was homegrown-I grew it-it was so nice, I had to spray cologne all over my body before I got on. Then on the plane it was just wafting all throughout the cabin like a skunk. :
You do lots of self-promotion type stuff-your blog, YouTube videos. These days that’s almost part of the job-it’s not enough to record music and tour anymore. Do you enjoy that, or is it frustrating to have to do all that extra work? I just had this conversation with Jack White. He feels like it was: you deliver the record, the label puts it out, you go tour. But nowadays you gotta do video, blog. : And he’s like, “I don’t do that shit.” He thinks it’s not fair to fans-it takes away from the artist’s mystique. I can see where he’s coming from and agree to some extent. But I like it. I really enjoy writing my blog. : and YouTub-ing. : Both those things I’ll do as long as I’m feeling it.
With all the changes in the industry, do you think it would be easier or harder to start out now? I think about that, like what if I came out in the ‘60s, would I have gotten a record deal? I don’t think so. Would I get a deal now? I don’t think so. I think when we came along was the perfect time. The door was open for us, now we’re in the party. And I’m not gonna leave, ‘cause I’m having a good time at this party. I’m getting close to being in the upper VIP room. : The music business is like a party. First you gotta find out where [it] is. There’s this slammin’ party, it’s at such-and-such a place. Then there’s a velvet rope outside and they’re only gonna let the best people in. You gotta give the door guy your demo and see if he’ll let you in. Then you get in; that’s like you got a record deal, but they can kick you out at any second. And I’ve gotten kicked out of the party twice! Then, somehow I kept sneaking in the back door. : I’ve been sneaking in the back door of the party for so long they think I’m supposed to be there.
Your influences are really varied, really interesting. If I were to swipe your iPod and look at your most played tracks, what would I find? My iPod’s right here. Check it!
Alright. : Most played, here we go. “Who’s Got the Weed” remix, “Superhero Brother” remix, “Long Way Down” remix, “Long Way Down,” “Soft and Sweet” [Laughing.] Umm : All my songs. No! I just finished picking all my mixes, so I’ve had to listen to my record like a million times, so that’s kinda lame.
You kind of gave Jack Johnson his big break, and since then he’s had this wild success. Were you ever jealous? Yeah, I definitely was. I was super happy when Jack started picking up steam, but at the same time my career was kinda going to shit, so it was a little hard to watch. But Jack had my back; he always helped me out. When Sony Records dropped us, Jack and his partner decided they wanted to start their label and it ended up being perfect. Brushfire’s been the perfect home for me-a great creative atmosphere. Jack always shares a spotlight; I’m going on tour with him Tuesday. I can never say anything but good things about Jack.
Then the show you’re doing here is with the Black Crowes. [That’s been canceled now.] How did that come about? They were doing this tour and gave us a holler; we’ve known these guys for years. We did the H.O.R.D.E tour with them. They were like our big brothers. They took us under their wing and were super cool and now we’re doing it again. I’m pretty excited. And their new record’s really great.
NOTE: The show at the Bowl has been canceled. Check our site for rescheduling details.
And you’re working on a musician’s guide called 101 Ways Not to Fuck Up Your Chances of Becoming a Rock Star. Sneak preview? I need to read it, so I’m not gonna have my ear to the phone:
“Chapter 17. ‘I love your shit. I love your shit.’ Say it again, ‘I love your shit.’ Keep saying this to everybody you listen to, work with, open up for, definitely say it to the opening act. I know you’re an egotistical, self-centered musician asshole, but try to remember to be nice. Better than nice. Be supportive. My producer taught me to say ‘I love your shit’ to every band I came across. It works, too. ‘I love your shit’ is the perfect thing to say, and by saying it you’ll make some egotistical, self-centered musician asshole feel great about what they’re doing. Remember you might be opening for them sometime soon and they might not give a shit about your music, but they will remember that you were the person that loved their shit.”
Hello. Did you get that?
I did. And I love your shit.