G. Love , 2007

 

Written by: Jason Perlman

 

I was introduced to your music through my brother. I was really listening to Jack Johnson a lot about 5 years ago, and he was like, "If you like Jack, you have to hear G. Love." So when you get compared to someone like that, do you take it in stride or does it get bothersome at times because although there are a few similarities, a very different kind of music is being produced?
Well, it has happened all throughout my career. When we came out in 1994, Beck was out and everyone wanted to compare us to Beck and that was pretty annoying. I totally respect Beck and what he does, but that was annoying. But the Jack thing is a little different because we are good friends and I actually kind of discovered Jack, so there has been a long history of us helping to bring him out. And now after all the huge success he is getting of him putting us on his label, so there is a real family vibe there and a real symbiotic relationship. So I can't get annoyed at that. It's all good and in the family. I think people consider all our music in all the same type of genre. But there are clear influences both ways between us and Jack and Jack and us because we have done so much together at this point. But I think that we are a lot different as far as artists, musicians and songwriters.

 

You mentioned your connection to helping Jack, you are also working closely with Tristan Prettyman and of course, you put out a lot of your own music. For you personally, which is more gratifying, working to help build a career of someone else or putting out your own music and seeing yourself grow as an artist?
Well, there is nothing like finding someone you like and seeing other people react positively as well. During my career, there have been those moments where I came upon someone who I thought was great and was able to convince other people that they were great and the artist proved their greatness to be true and were able to go on and have successful careers. I have helped four people to get record deals. The first was this kid Jasper who was on our first record and our last record. And then this woman named Rosey who was my girlfriend when I first got my record deal. She got a deal on Island/Def Jam.

 

I remember seeing her open for Melissa Etheridge several years back.
Yea, yea. I gave her a guitar and she was my girl when we first started out and believe me, I wrote several songs about her. And she ended up not really doing anything and then Jack was the one that really blew the roof off, and now Tristan is establishing herself right now for what I hope to be a career artist. She is setting the framework right now for making a career out of her songs. It's very exciting and I think a pretty good track record of success. My only regret is that we never, for one reason or another, have never been able to pull together our own record label to put these people out. I do run into people that I think are really good and would like to put them out. I do have a pretty good ear for it and it is rewarding to see someone you think is good and then they blow up.

 

Especially on Lemonade, you have a lot of your friends playing with you. I noticed Ben wrote some of his stuff for Let The Music Play, so how much going into a record do you prepare for guests versus how much just happens?
I definitely had written Rainbow as collaboration with Jack (Johnson). But Hot Cookin' with Donovan (Frankenreiter), I just knew I wanted Donovan to sing on something because I played harp on his last two record, and was like he pretty much owes me. [Laughing] So I called him in on that. But along the way, it was whoever was coming through Philadelphia and we could get on the record we got. So there was that and then guys like Ben Harper, Amos Lee, whose song didn't make the record, and Marc Broussard and some other people just kind of happened. It was like, Ben Harper said he was coming through, so what can we have happen? Some of the stuff was really spur of the moment and other stuff was definitely written together and obviously recorded together.

 

What is great about the collaborations on Lemonade is you are not afraid to take a back seat and let the guest sort of take over, much like Ben and Marc on Let The Music Play. A lot of other artists can't seem to allow the collaboration to be true to the sound. Where does that mellowness and humbleness come from?
I think the record works in that way because there are three tracks that feature the other artist, like Thanks and Praise features Jasper on two versus and me just on one. And Let the Music Play has Ben and Marc and I just have some mini-versus. But I did put all the tracks together and made it all happen. The song Let The Music Play; that is kind of my song. Marc Broussard's verse I wrote and Ben wrote his verse, so to me it is not really an ego thing; I just do whatever the song calls for at the time. But I don't think the record gets away from me because most of the other sit-ins were instrumental, so even if there is someone from Los Lobos or some star playing the guitar, it is still my vocals throughout. So I found when mixing the record it was a nice mix, because it kind of breaks up the record nicely with those sit-ins. I think it was pretty effective actually.

 

I was listening to a bunch of your songs in iTunes all whacked out of order, and it seemed to be you could be hopping from juke joint to juke joint in the 1920s. You have this great way of being sexual and sensual without being crude. What were your influences growing up, because you seem to have a great jazz and blues element?
Well, some of the stuff in my mom's record collection, which was small but very happening, was Dr. John, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Donavan...

 

That is not a bad record collection to grow up with.
Yea, yea. And stuff like Carol King, Willie Nelson and James Taylor. So it was kind of a folk-rock, rock and roll kinda thing. That was the stuff I heard when I first started listening to music, and then a lot of hip hop also when I first started listening to music. But when I started getting better on the guitar, which was like in 10th grade when I was 16, I started pursuing other kinds of music like the blues. I got really heavy into the blues and that is when I first started finding myself. John Hammond was the most important one and then guys like Bob Dylan and John Lee Hooker, Mississippi Fred McDowell and Big Bill Broonzy. With all these guys, it was like every record was a different adventure that you could go on. That is why I found the blues so amazing because everybody was so unique.

And what is unique about your career is you built your career on traveling from town to town and playing show, without relying on a lot of airplay. Very much like the blues guys back '30s and '40s. Are you surprised at where your career has taken the band?
We are surprised every day. [Laughing] Everybody in my band was a street musician for one thing to start off. My goal and my dream were to make a record. Just make one record. So to be able to have that opportunity and to be able to say something and play something was tremendous. I wasn't even thinking about whether people would like it or not. It was just, "Make a record." Obviously we made that and since then, we have made a lot of records. I think that we were always kind of the underdogs, and I worked really, really hard to make my shit happen the whole time we have been doing it. I mean, the whole time we have been doing this we have worked our asses off to make it happen and maintain it. Jim, Jeff and I are together just because of the music. [Laughing] We were not high school buddies and it wasn't cool just to hang out. There were no ulterior motives. We were never really down and out, but we were definitely under the radar screen as far as being part of what most would consider normal society. I mean, we were street musicians, totally broke and in love with the music we played. I mean, what a beautiful time in my life that was and the energy we approached it with then, we still do now. We try to give it everything we have on stage every night and we have been climbing up the mountain the whole time.

 

Have things gotten easier?
We never got a free ride. I am still waiting. [Laughing] I am still waiting to get my free ride. But nowadays things come a little bit easier. More people know us, we get more notoriety and other things fall in your lap like opportunities to write a song for a movie. So those opportunities do come. But at the same time, we have seen so many people blow up and then fall off. Like where are they now? But we have been slow and steady and kept the pace. Here is a story. It's funny, there is this band called Sugar Ray, right? I met Mark McGrath from Sugar Ray like when was a punk rocker and they were on a festival with us in Belgium. And they were awesome. I was like, "Wow, these fucking guys are so awesome." And then six months later or a year later they blew up. But along the way they got really poppy and now they will probably never make a record again.

 

Yea, his is hosting Access Hollywood now.
Yea, right. So throughout the years I have always run into Mark at different times in my career, and Mark is a really huge fan. He always said the same thing, "Dude, what the fuck, you know? How come you are afraid of success? You are afraid of success. You are afraid of blowing up." He is always trying to blow me up. He would want to know why we never made a record that was met with radio success and he wanted to know what my problem was. But this past year I saw him out one night and he was like, "Man, look at you. I know I always give you shit, but you are still out there doing your thing and selling out shows still. I mean if you want to know what underwear Lindsey Lohan's wearing today I am the guy to ask. But I am not even really playing music now." So that was the compliment that we have had staying power while so many other bands get hot and then fall off. It has been both a blessing and a curse that we have not had that mug commercial success. But in the long run, my goal was never to be this overnight success. My goal is to play music for the rest of my life. So the entire band is all on that path.

 

You mentioned your mom's record collection. Was she the one to get you into playing music?
Kind of, yea. My dad loved music, don't get me wrong, but he wasn't a big music listener. As a matter of fact, neither of them were. When I found those records, they were in the basement. They are more like TV people. There wasn't much of music in the house, just the radio in the car. But my mom suggested I take guitar lessons when I was eight and in a really kind of mellow way she really pushed me into it. But along the way they were supportive. I would get in trouble if I didn't practice guitar and later on when I loved to play the guitar, they were very supportive of me. They were supportive of me when I was writing songs in high school and trying to make a demo. They were supportive of me when I was a street musician and they were at all my gigs when we would start playing through Philly. At first I was really embarrassed because I was 19 and shit was just starting to happen and I was in that rebellious teenage mode. I didn't even want people to know I even had parents. [Laughing] Because here I was playing the blues and rapping and it was kind of embarrassing. But I since got over that, but that was what it was like when I was first coming out. I didn't want people to know I had parents and shit.