An extended interview with G. Love of G. Love & Special Sauce

Garrett Dutton III (better known as G. Love of Philadelphia-based blues-hip-hop group G. Love & Special Sauce) likes to schedule his interviews early — as in 8:15 a.m. It’s not a very rock star hour to be up and around, unless, of course, the rock star in question simply hasn’t gone to sleep from the previous night. For Love (who answers to his stage name and, indeed, answers his phone with “This is G”) nothing could be farther from reality.

He’s just dropped his 6-year-old off at school. “This is a good time because I’m in the car and I can’t do anything else for a few minutes,” he explains.

The singer/songwriter stays busy. He started his music career before finishing high school. His fortuitous 1993 meeting with drummer Jeffrey “The Houseman” Clemens led to the formation of G. Love & Special Sauce, and the following year the group released their self-titled debut album. To date, the band has completed nine CDs, including a live disc, and Love released two recordings as a solo artist. He’s busy working on a new record, slated for the spring of 2008 — but this early-bird artist is taking time out to play the Warren Haynes Christmas Jam. Here’s what he has to say about that event:

Mountain Xpress: Why are you playing the Warren Haynes Christmas Jam?
G. Love: Can I tell you the story of the first time I met Warren Haynes? It was at an outdoor music center in Philly. In high school, we used to go party there. There was a fence, and then a lawn behind the fence, and that’s where we’d go. We’d get drunk and jump the fence to get into the concert. It was the Allman Brothers and Blues Traveler. I jumped the fence and got up to the third row for Blues Traveler, and then I went back to [the gate] to tell my friends I made it to the third row. But since I didn’t have a ticket stub, I ended up getting kicked out. So, I jumped the fence again and made it the second row for the Allman Brothers. Someone left, so I got their ticket stub, and then I was in. I was 16 and I was such a big fan. I didn’t really know who Warren was, but I was a huge fan of the Allman Brothers. At the end of the show they were shaking hands with people in the audience. I got to shake hands with Gregg [Allman] and Warren. I always tell Warren that story.

Warren reached out and invited us [to the Christmas Jam] this year. I’ve been a fan of the Allman Brothers and Warren Haynes since I was a kid. We were with [them] on the Widespread Panic tour in ‘98. I’ve gotten the chance to jam with Warren over the years.

MX: Are there other charities with which you’re involved?
GL: I really do enjoy playing benefits, so I was happy to get invited to play for a good cause.

MX: You featured Jack Johnson on Philadelphonic (1999) before he was known, and he later signed you to his Brushfire label. Is such cooperation rare in the music business?
GL: I think I’ve always been able to recognize talent pretty well. I helped Jack Johnson, Tristan Prettyman and a guy called Jasper all get record deals. My mission — I felt like I was a regular kid who loved music enough to overcompensate for any inability I had, and I worked really hard.

Jack, at first glance, was just a college kid, or recent college graduate, who wrote good tunes. Then, I thought, those are really good tunes, so I cut that song [“Rodeo Clowns”]. He’s been really good on the turnaround. He just gets bigger and bigger. Our relationship continues to be a strong musical friendship that now has helped me.

MX: You recently told The Cornell Daily Sun that you’ve found your niche, musically. Do you ever think your niche is too narrow; that you should increase your musical scope to appeal to a larger fan base?
GL: Even though we have our niche as a live hip-hop blues band, we’ve run the gamut recording-wise. We did a country record Has Gone Country (1998). It’s the fault of my rhythm section. Jeff is like, “Let’s do a reggae beat.”

For better or worse, I’m a musical sponge. If I listen to a lot of Bob Marley. I’m in a reggae groove. If I listen to Hank Williams, country comes out. If you’re jamming that in the studio and the band locks into a groove … if it’s dope enough, I’ll write a song.

MX: You were recently in the film Rigged. Will you be doing more acting?
GL: That was an independent movie, a fun little thing to get involved with to be creative. Music is my passion [but] I just like to be creative.

The music game I’m in, sometimes you’re in an off cycle where you’re not in the studio and you can’t tour much so there’s a few month to kill. I keep asking my manager to get me auditions for movies. He’s like, “Why don’t you take acting classes?” I can’t take f***ing acting classes!

MX: What are you working on right now?
GL: I’m flying to Philly today to do overdubs on the new album. We’re on a nice little swing right now, momentum-wise. This has been our best recording session vibe-wise and being positively creative. We’ve got great songs and great performances of them.

—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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