by Jared Curtis
photo by York Wilson
Once hailed as the “Prince of Americana” by the New York Times, Jackie Greene has had big shoes to fill since he burst on the scene more than a decade ago. Not only have Greene’s solo albums impressed, he has also shared the stage with a variety of acts from Phil Lesh and Bob Weir to Govt. Mule and The Black Crowes. Greene took some time out from his weeklong run of shows at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, Calif., to chat about his new album, his career, and how nice of a guy Warren Haynes (Govt. Mule) really is.
“We played a run of shows here last year and it was great time, so we wanted to make sure and do it again,” Greene said. “When you’re playing multiple nights you can try out different themes — one night we’re doing an acoustic set, another night it’s all Dead tunes. We can stretch our sound and explore each night for a completely different show.”
Exploring each night on stage comes easy when you’ve traded licks with many guitar legends including B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Warren Haynes and Taj Mahal. Greene said he is truly blessed having worked with some of the all-time greats.
“I have to pinch myself sometimes, I’m very lucky for all the people I have played with,” Greene said. “Not only are they great musicians, they are also cool people. Warren Haynes is a monster guitar player and I’ve never heard him say a bad word about anybody, he is an amazingly nice person.”
Although Greene has enjoyed his time as a hired hand on stage, he’s excited to get back to writing and performing his own music, which is how Back to Birth, his most recent album, came to fruition.
“I had started working on this record in 2012 and I had planned on recording it by myself in my home studio, but I got about a month into it and realized I didn’t want to do it that way,” Greene said. “So I scrapped that idea and before I got a chance to start again I got a call to join the Black Crowes and played through 2013 with them.”
In 2014, friend, producer and Los Lobos member, Steve Berlin, contacted Greene about recording and he was on his way to Portland. Greene recorded the album over the span of a week at Supernatural Sound Studios, something Greene couldn’t have done with a new producer.
“This album needed to be made with Steve. I’ve known him for 10 years and we have a great working relationship, we don’t tip toe around stuff and can agree to disagree. He was the best and the only guy who could do it because there was no getting to know you period. We cut three songs in the first day,” Greene laughed. “He got together some local players and I had all the recordings from the past, so we knew what we wanted the songs to sound like.”
Back to Birth has garnered plenty of buzz and praise and although it’s his newest record, Greene said he looked to the past during the writing process.
“A lot of these songs are looking at the notion of a cyclical existence, and the sense that life goes in a circle,” Greene stated in a press release. “I want the songs to come from a place that’s meaningful to me, but I also want to keep them as simple and direct as I can. I look at old blues songs, or Hank Williams songs, and they’re so simple and direct but they convey some pretty deep ideas.”
Although Back to Birth has been out for less than a year, Greene is already looking forward, working on new material.
“I’m always looking towards that next album or project,” he said. “I’ve had a lot extra curricular activities for so long, it’s refreshing to come back to my own thing.”
When Greene stops through Bellingham, he’ll be doing his own thing, performing with the Jackie Green Trio – featuring Greene, Fitz Harris (drums) and Nathan Dale (guitar) – a more intimate sound than his full band would offer.
“It’s a mellower vibe, like ‘MTV Unplugged,’” Greene laughed. “It gives us a chance to play a lot of songs we don’t normally play in a full band setting. We’re looking forward to great show.”
LIVE SHOW: Check out the Jackie Greene Trio at the Wild Buffalo on Saturday, April 9. See his website at www.jackiegreene.com.