Concert Preview: Warren Haynes, Gov’t Mule Spending An August Saturday With Old Friends At Westville Music Bowl
NEW HAVEN — Grammy winner Warren Haynes seldom says no when it comes to participating in creatively stimulating and interesting collaborations — even when he and his band Gov’t Mule are on a lengthy tour.
For example, on the afternoon The Newtown Bee caught up with Haynes, he was on a break from said tour. But instead of relaxing and just chilling out, he was packing his guitars and heading to Port Chester, N.Y., to sit in with friend and collaborator Ann Wilson at the Capital Theater.
Even when he’s doing almost nightly shows with his band, which is about half-way through their current tour, Haynes has managed to lace together a string of shows that provides ample opportunities to sit in with other stellar talents.
Depending on the night, or the show, Gov’t Mule has either opened for, or welcomed opening acts like his pal Grace Potter, Willie and Lukas Nelson, Turnpike Troubadours, Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs, ZZ Top, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Old Crow Medicine Show, fellow Allman Brothers member Oteil Burbridge, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and Pressing Strings.
Haynes also stepped away from his band to support Grateful Dead co-founder Phil Lesh at his recent Bridgeport tour stop, which also featured John Scofield, Amy Helm, John Medeski, and John Molo — representing the first time this all-star lineup gathered to be part of a Phil & Friends concert.
Haynes, who remains a go-to for countless other artists seeking a ready, willing, and able musical director, guitarist, or vocalist along with maintaining a robust touring schedule with Gov’t Mule, is bringing along the latter three for an extended concert event at New Haven’s Westville Music Bowl.
Gov’t Mule will hit the Westville Bowl stage on Saturday, August 13 — with Oteil & Friends, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and Pressing Strings opening the show, with doors opening at 3 pm for the 4 pm start.
Gov’t Mule — Haynes, Matt Abts on drums; Danny Louis on keyboards, guitar, and backing vocals; and Jorgen Carlsson on bass — is touring in support of their critically acclaimed blues album, Heavy Load Blues. The band’s first-ever blues album, the late 2021 release debuted at #1 on the Billboard Blues Albums chart and has amassed millions of total global streams.
Heavy Load Blues, produced by Haynes alongside engineer and co-producer John Paterno (Elvis Costello, Michael Landau, Bonnie Raitt, Robbie Williams, Los Lobos), encompasses an even mix of Haynes’s originals, including the title track, and revered covers, including their rendition of the Tom Waits classic “Make It Rain,” a groovy arrangement of the Junior Wells standard “Snatch It Back and Hold It,” and more originally made famous by the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, Ann Peebles, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and The Animals.
The deluxe edition features eight additional studio and live tracks, including the Haynes original “Hiding Place” and covers originally by Savoy Brown, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters and Otis Rush.
Though technically considered a studio album, Heavy Load Blues was recorded live in the studio at The Power Station New England on analog tape, utilizing vintage guitars, amps and other equipment to capture an authentic sound. And to celebrate the tour launch, the band released a standalone remix of “Black Horizon,” a featured original track on Heavy Load Blues, courtesy of Haynes’ nephew Austn Space.
This is where our exclusive conversation with Haynes began:
The Newtown Bee: Tell me about “Black Horizon” and the approach your nephew Austn Space took to developing this new remix.
Warren Haynes: He did a fabulous job. He’s a very talented artist and producer and we’d been talking about doing something together for awhile. I also worked on a remake of [John Lennon’s] “Imagine” that he just produced, which was fantastic. But with his take on “Black Horizon,” he took a stripped down acoustic version and added beats and loops and sonic landscape to it that took the song to a very different place, and I’m really happy with what he did.
The Bee: In that situation, how did the choice of that song rise to the occasion?
Haynes: We sent him some options — maybe even the entire album — and asked him what he wanted to do, and he just gravitated toward that song. I think he’s going to do another one from the new album as well.
What’s interesting to me was, he chose a song that had no drums, and was an acoustic take on the part of the band. I remember going into the studio with that one hoping it remains acoustic because I had written it on acoustic guitar and thought it would really work out best that way. And it did.
Sometimes these things change in the studio, and it certainly could have turned into a full-on electric tune. But it did not. But his take on it was somewhere in between and it came out differently than I ever could have envisioned it.
The Bee: So your upcoming New Haven show is featuring three different openers. Did you make the call on having your buddy Oteil, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and Pressing Strings all on the bill?
Haynes: We’re always looking to do something exciting and different, so if you look at all our dates we’re also appearing with Willie Nelson, Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs, ZZ Top, Trombone Shorty, Old Crow Medicine Show, and it’s just fun to mix it up and do as many things as possible.
The Bee: I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one band on a single tour with such a wide variety of other acts night to night, or at least not many.
Haynes: You know John, we have so many fans who travel to multiple shows that it’s nice for them to see a bunch of different things as well. And it allows a bunch of different sit-in opportunities where they can join us on stage, or some of our guys can join them ... you never know.
The Bee: Is that the plan for New Haven?
Haynes: These sit-ins kind of happen organically, but in the case of Oteil we played together so many times, and when we do festivals or shows with multiple bands, they become like family reunions, and it always turns into, ‘Hey, you want to come up and play a song.’ You never know when that’s going to happen, or with whom, so it really is kind of an organic thing. And when we’re making up setlists, we’re always thinking what songs would be fun to invite other players to sit in with us on any given night.
The Bee: You are one of a select few musicians who seems to be on everybody’s list as the go-to when all kinds of exciting ensembles are being put together. Obviously, your talents are a huge part of that, but does it also have to do with you just saying yes every chance you get?
Haynes: I love experiencing different musical projects with different great musicians and artists, and it’s hard to say no if it’s enticing. So I feel like it’s a constant learning experience — not in a remedial sort of way, but in an enlightening sort of way. Every time you experience a musical situation with other musicians or even the same musicians who are really talented, you walk away with something you didn’t bring to the table. It’s just part of the fun. One of the perks that comes with this lifestyle is being able to experience that. I cherish those moments and I think it keeps me fresh, and it allows me to express myself in different ways than I would with my own projects.
The Bee: I heard that sometimes on a Gov’t Mule tour, when you have a night off, you might just fly halfway across the country to sit in with somebody, or do a benefit or some type of showcase.
Haynes: I’ve been known to. A lot of very memorable experiences for me have happened that way. It’s just part of the excitement.
For example, tonight, I’m going to sit in with Ann Wilson at the Capital in Port Chester, New York. She invited me down, and Gov’t Mule recorded two songs with her that I co-wrote with her on her new record. It’s turned into a whole new relationship.
The Bee: Speaking of exciting shows, I caught you with Phil Lesh, Amy, and the three Johns down in Bridgeport a couple of weeks ago, and that was magical.
Haynes: That band had never performed before that night, and had very limited rehearsal, but the caliber of the musicianship is so high, and there’s such good chemistry that we’re lucky to have. And that’s not always there. Sometimes you can put a bunch of great musicians on stage, and there may not be any chemistry. So, like with that show, you cherish those moments and those relationships, and to play with all those guys and Amy was just a wonderful opportunity. I loved it.
Bring your friends and save a few bucks with an available “All-In for $100” promotion while tickets last.
Check out the "Black Horizon" Gov't Mule remix by Austn Space:
Govt Mule performs Marshall Tucker's "Can't You See" at the Westville Music Bowl in New Haven on April 30, 2021.