AU ABROAD

the AU interview: G Love of G Love and Special Sauce (Philadephia) talks Bluesfest and playing on a mother f**king boat!

Reigning in from Philadelphia, G Love and Special Sauce are bringing their unique sound to Bluesfest in 2015. Larry Heath spoke to vocalist G Love from G Love and Special Sauce about their latest gigs, the first time he met Ben Harper, the potential of their upcoming record and the Jam Cruise, which will see the band perform on a mother f**king boat!

I'm doing good man, I'm home in Boston. I've been performing all Summer. I got home last week and I'm enjoying the down time. I went surfing today and making some new songs. Just livin' off the road a little bit. Feeling good!

The Summer Sessions series you were doing with Slightly Stoopid and Stephen Marley, how were those dates?

Those we’re great. We've been kicking it with Slightly Stoopid since 98... something like that! They came down to record Everything You Need which was a big record for them. We’re all friends and my producer produced a lot of their record, and that's when I guested on the "Mellow Mood". They were just starting out then, and over the years we've taken them on tour... then they took off and now over this Summer we were supporting them! So we're old friends and we do a lot of collaborations on and off the stage. So it was a good family vibe.

It was the first time I'd toured with Stephen. We'd toured with Ziggy Marley back in the day though. We really connected with Stephen's drummer, who has played on a lot of the Marley kids records over the years. There were some incredible musicians on the tour, really inspirational.

Fantastic. Well, I’m glad it all went very well and that you're enjoying some time off. Looking at your tour schedule and in the next few months it’s just a splattering of shows here and there. Notably you’re back to Japan in a couple of months as well.

Yeah in October we go to Japan and we go to Cuba for the first time. I have a couple of gigs in November, like Rotterdam. They’re really not much and it’s good because January 3rd we’ll kick it off and we'll tour the US through February and March and then we come to Australia and then maybe we'll record a new record!

Fantastic. I’m looking at the line-up and I can also see a Jam Cruise you’re doing in January, have you ever done anything like that before?

Yeah, I’ve done a bunch, the Dave Matthews Band Cruise, one with Michael Franti and Slightly Stoopid. Cruises are great, they're obviously like festivals on the water; it’s a really wonderful experience for the fans and the musicians. You’re all living on the boat so you get to meet and really connect with the hardcore fans who are spending a good amount of money to come for four days to hang out with you. It's a nice experience getting to know the people who support your music. And on the musician’s side, it’s really amazing because you get to spend four days on a boat with other artists and really get to connect with them and do a lot of collaborations... It’s the same as if you were at a festival.

For instance, this one woman from Mobile, Alabama, Kristy Lee, she's a Southern soul singer, and I was going up to get ready to my show and stumbled by her. I heard her play one note and I immediately asked her to come on the road with me. She toured with me quite a bit and then I actually recorded one of her tunes on my new record called "One Night Romance".

I’ve always imagined that it’s that sort of experience. In Australia we don’t really have those sorts of events, so whenever we hear about the Dave Matthews Cruise, the Weezer Cruise or indeed the Jam Cruise, we look at it and go, ‘man, that would be a fun couple of days.'

It’s so fun and when you come back you’ve basically got to go to rehab.

What else are you going to do but drink and play music?

Exactly, man. And because I like rap or play harmonica and guitar, I end up playing with a lot of people. So on that last cruise I did, us and Michael Franti were some of the headliners. And then Kristy Lee... and an amazing fiddle player... And we all got to play together. Though I think Michael Franti beat me in terms of collaborations - every time I'd turn my head he'd be on stage again with a new musician! Playing the bongos, singing... whatever he could get his hands on! You've got to love his energy. It's what it's all about. And especially when you spend so much time on the road where you don't have those opportunities, you've got to embrace it when you got it!

We’re looking forward to getting you back for Bluesfest where I’m sure you’ll have plenty of experiences like that as well. Has it really been since 2009 that you were last here?

Yeah, I guess so. Man, it feels like longer. 2009? Now I don't feel as bad! Bluesfest has always been one of my favourite fests, I think I've been playing it since the 90s.
It’s a really wonderful thing going over to Australia and travelling around the world to festival. Fuji Rock in Tokyo, Glastonbury in the UK, Europe and all the great festivals they have there. Bluesfest has always been right up there at the top. I’ll never forget the first time we came into Byron Bay and just fell in love with the place. I've gone back on vacation a couple of times to Byron, because I love it so much there. It’ll be special to be back, I’m really looking forward to it.

Don't Jack Johnson and Ben Harper have a house that musicians stay at in Byron Bay all the time?

Well I know Jack has a big property in Lennox Head, I never have been, so maybe they’ll let me come now that I’m a little more mature. *laughs* I’m not sure if Ben Harper has a place there, but I’ll stay with either one of them.

I’m sure one of them will be playing the festival, they usually do (indeed at the time of publishing this interview Ben Harper has been confirmed!). You’ll have to put in a request for a couch or something.

Well I’m going to have a guest room, I’m not sleeping on the couch. *laughs* You know the first time I met Ben Harper was in a parking lot of the hotel in Byron Bay when we both played Bluesfest. Probably about 1998. I'll never forget it. You know we both started up in like 93, 94, and then we were both well aware of each other but we'd never met. But there we met and we've been friends ever since, doing collaborations and stuff like that.

You mentioned that you’re already looking ahead to the next record. How will the experiences with Sugar influence what happens from here on out, will you continue with the original line-up?

Yeah, I think so. You never can tell. But the vibe is great with the band. Jim (Prescott, bass) came back and we really missed him a lot over the years and you don’t really realise it... it's hard to put the value on the chemistry that some people have with each other.

Jim, Jeff and I, we couldn't be more different I don't think, but something about the three of us making music and the way that we all connect and speak musically to each other, is a pretty magical thing. Jim is a huge part of that. Jeff, the drummer, is kind of the nuts and bolts and he kind of looks at music differently than Jim and I do. He’s very soulful, but he’s not the most emotional person on or off the stage.

Jeff is very expressive and his playing has a lot of soul and depth to it, but Jim and I are always chasing this kind of euphoria and magical universal inspiration, and Jeff’s like ‘alright come on, let’s play the fucking song’. We all write well together, but Jim and I share the emotional sensitivity. Jeff’s the nuts and bolts of the band, Jim is the soulful root of the band, and I’m like the energetic show-off.

Well that’s how we like it. We can’t wait to see you back down here in Australia next year. Until then, thank you very much and enjoy your cruise in January.

Thanks so much, we’re looking forward to seeing you!

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G Love and Special Sauce appears at Byron Bay's Bluesfest from April 2nd - April 6th. Visit www.bluesfest.com.au for more information.