In advance of his Sunday, Oct. 7, show at The Grey Eagle, Americana singer-songwriter Jackie Greene talked to Xpress about playing with his heroes, working on his next album, and trying to dodge the video camera. Showtime is 8 p.m., Ruston Kelly opens. Tickets are $15. http://www.thegreyeagle.com.
Mountain Xpress: You performed in Weir Robinson Greene (WRG with Bob Weir and Chris Robinson) earlier this year. It’s an interesting lineup because you each represent a different generation of a related genre of music. Do you feel like you’re part of a musical tradition, or perhaps carrying on a tradition?
Jackie Greene: I definitely think that I’m part of a long Americana tradition. It’s the kind of music I like to listen to and play. The Grateful Dead and the Black Crowes both belong to that tradition — American rock and roll at it’s finest.
MX: Have you learned anything in particular from Chris Robinson and Bob Weir?
JG: I consider myself a student, so I’m always learning from people I play with. Bob is a super-unique guitar player. He always comes up with interesting patterns to play. Chris is a legendary singer. Beyond their obvious talents, they both love music and have turned me on to various bands and artists that I didn’t know before.
MX: Seems like The Grateful Dead is an important influence for you, but you were only 14 when Jerry Garcia passed away. Did you ever get to see him perform live?
JG: Never did, no. I didn’t really know that much Grateful Dead music until I started playing with Phil and Friends in 2006.
MX: Speaking of legends, you got to perform with Levon Helm at a number of his Midnight Rambles. Since Helm passed away this year, can you share a memory from one of those sessions?
JG: Levon is one of my heroes. Always has been. There’s no one like him. I had the good fortune of playing many rambles and touring with Levon and company. I remember my first Ramble: Understandably, I was very nervous but Levon made me feel right at home. He was all warmth and hospitality. He offered me a Coke in a glass bottle (the ones made with real sugar). The entire staff is warm and inviting — it’s like an oasis, that place.
MX: You have a new album in the works. Can you tell us a little bit about it — any themes or sounds you’re working with? Any departures from Till The Light Comes?
JG: It’s hard to say at this point, but the songs seem to be more or less a return to the folky/bluesy sounds of my first few records. I won’t have much time to work on it until December.
MX: You just released the video for “Silver Lining” (which will be on your new album). It’s a really heart-on-sleeve sort of song, and it seems like it taps some sense of longing or perhaps disappointment. “One Bad Love” has a similar vibe. Are these songs autobiographical or metaphorical?
JG: Well, a little of each I suppose. “Silver Lining” is more or less about a longing for some sort of success. At the end, the singer realizes that his silver lining lives inside of him. “One Bad Love” is about addiction.
MX: You seem to stick to straightforward performance videos — no high concepts or crazy sets! What are your thoughts on the relationship of songs and visuals?
JG: Well, we don’t really have much in the way of music videos. Never really gone down that path too far. It’s something I’d like to try someday, though. The two that you mentioned we’re just done at my house with a handheld camera. We couldn’t really get too crazy with that. I like the visual aspect of music, I just don’t like looking at myself on film. I’m always trying to get out of the shot.
MX: You’ve played Asheville a number of times — any special Asheville memories? Any any surprises for your Grey Eagle show on Oct. 7?
JG: Asheville is a special place, for sure. I remember my first Xmas jam — what an amazing event: Really cool people and a great vibe. I’m looking forward to breakfast at The Early Girl.