Warren Haynes: This Mule Is a Real Workhorse
Gov't Mule: Matt Abts, Danny Louis, Warren Haynes, and Jorgen Carlsson
Anna Webber for Blue Note Records
In another era, James Brown was the Hardest Working Man in Show Business. Today, that title crown might just fall upon the hirsute head of Warren Haynes, simply based on the sheer amount of musical projects currently on his plate.
The 53-year-old is a singer/guitarist with the Allman Brothers Band, Gov't Mule, and his own Warren Haynes Band. He also performs solo, makes frequent guest appearances onstage and in-studio with an address book full of musical friends, and organizes a charity Christmas ball each year. And he just recently headlined a tour called The Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration.
But for now all his energies are focused on Gov't Mule, the band he co-founded in 1994 and with which has put out nine studio albums, a bevy of EPs and live releases, and played hundreds of shows.
Their new release is the two CD Shout! (Blue Note), an innovative effort which features the same 11 tracks on each disc -- the first one done wholly by the Mule, and the second with guest vocalists like Elvis Costello, Dr. John, Dave Matthews, and Jim James.
The material embraces a wide range of music genres and lyrical topics, none more politically potent than record-opener "World Boss." It paints a not-so-pretty picture of geopolitics in the near future over a driving guitar solo and shouted warnings that "World Boss is Coming!"
"At that point in time I wrote the song, a lot of the political unrest that was going on in America and the greater world was just about to bubble," Haynes offers. "The lyrics were vague at the time. Little did I know they would become more [prescient] as things continued to boil over."
Speaking just after the government shutdown ended, Haynes adds that he's "glad it's behind us...but I'm not sure it's completely behind us."
"Our country and our world are in a state of motion in a way right now that I'm not sure any of us know where it's going," he adds.
Sometimes, Haynes may not even know where he's going, given all his projects. Though it turns out that, even when he's home, there's no standing still.
"My hobby right now is just chasing my two-year-old son around!" he laughs. "He gets all my spare time and he comes on the road with me when he can. But when I'm off, it's all family."
Family for Haynes also includes wife Stefani Scarmado, also her husband's manager, Founder and President of Evil Teen Records and Hard Head Productions and Management. She's also well-known as a DJ on Sirius/XM Radio's "Jam On" channel.
So we have to ask -- does any pillow talk in the Haynes Household include lines like "Hey, honey, can you spin a few more tracks from the new record?"
Interview continues on the next page.
"Ha! No. That's not a conversation we have!" he laughs "And they play a lot of Mule anyway. But I'm lucky that that world exists, and she's so knowledgeable about the [jam band] scene. She whips off facts off the top of her head that most people have to go online to research."
Still, his workload reaches comical proportions sometimes, as at the recent Interlocken Festival in Virginia, which featured shows by Gov't Mule and the Warren Haynes Band on the same day. And that's not all.
"There was also a full Allman Brothers Band show the day before and the day after," Haynes chuckles. "And then the last thing I did was a short acoustic set as well! But I did sleep good that night."
And while Haynes expects that the Allman Machine will gear up again "around March" of next year, his sole musical focus is on the Mule's new record and tour, which will also bring them back and forth to Europe a few times.
He says that the band taking a full year off - something they haven't done in 19 years - ultimately helped them both musically and personally.
Also on hiatus from the Allmans is Haynes' fellow guitarist Derek Trucks. Though he seems to haves similarly kept himself occupied in recent years with the Tedeschi Trucks Band, the Derek Trucks Band, Soul Stew Revival, Eric Clapton's backing band, and guest shots.
When Rocks Off interviewed Susan Tedeschi last year about this very topic -- if her husband and Haynes were in some sort of competition -- this was her response:
"No, trust me he doesn't want to be!" Tedeschi said. "He told me, "That's it, I'm just doing our band and the Allman Brothers!" I mean, not many people quit Clapton! I was like "Honey, can I have the gig?"
Apprised of this, Haynes laughs again, before professing admiration for the younger slinger.
"I think one of the things that he and I have in common -- one of the many things -- is that we live the inspiration that comes from doing something different all the time," Haynes says.
"If a lot of musicians have a complaint, it would be that they don't get to express themselves enough through different ways," he adds. "And he and I don't have that problem!"
Gov't Mule plays 8 p.m. Saturday at Bayou Music Center. Vintage Trouble opens.
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