Garrett Dutton, alias G. Love, ist gemeinsam mit seiner Band Special Sauce seit mittlerweile knapp 15 Jahren im Musikgeschäft unterwegs. Sieben Studioalben und unzählige Tourneen haben die nunmehr vier Musiker aus Philadelphia auf ihrem Konto. Seit 2004 sind sie bei Brushfire Records, dem Label von Dutton’s Freund Jack Johnson, untergebracht und veröffentlichten hierzulande im Frühling ihr neues Album „Lemonade“. Mitte Mai machten die Amerikaner zum ersten Mal seit zwei Jahren Station in Deutschland. Vor dem ersten Europakonzert der kleinen Tournee, in Frankfurt, hatte ich die Möglichkeit zu einem Interview mit G. Love.
S-R: Let’s start with a question you have probably heard a hundred times. How did you come up with the name “G. Love” and what is behind that alias?
G. Love: I wanted to have a MC-name, a stage-name. That was it. My real name is Garrett Dutton. My influences were people like John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Big Bill Broonzy and then people like Q-Tip and KRS-One. I wanted the name of the band to be somewhere between Hip-Hop and Blues. So G. Love, that’s my MC-name and G. Love and Special Sauce sounded like a old-time, new-time band-name. From the very beginning the people either hated the name or they liked it. I remember sending our demo-tape to a record company and they were like: “You know, we really like the demo, but you gotta chance your name.” (laughs) It always drew a strong reaction, one way or another. It’s important to have a name that’s something different.
S-R: Do you consider yourself as a solo-artist or as a member of a band?
G. Love: A band. Well, both. I consider G. Love and Special Sauce to be a band. But I also like to perform solo-stuff as well. I do a lot of different musical projects. But we’re definitely a band.
S-R: For someone who has never heard of G. Love and Special Sauce, how would you characterize your music?
G. Love: I call it Hip-Hip-Blues. But it’s also kind of like a musical soup. We have a lot of different influences that come into playing the music. Hip-Hop, Blues, Rock & Roll, kinda old-school Funk, even Reggae, just everything, Jazz. Every kind of music comes into play. Because the rhythm section is very versatile as far as what they can play and what they’re influenced by. Jeff (Anm. d. Red.: Houseman, der Drummer), Jim (Anm. d. Red.: Jimi Jazz, der Bassist) and Mark (Anm. d. Red.: Mark Boyce, der Keyboarder) are all kind of Jazz-musicians. Jeff also played in a lot of blues-bands. Mark was in this Hip-Hop band called “The Goats”. Everyone of those players studied all kinds of different music.
S-R: Back in the day when your self-titled debut-record came out in 1994, was it hard to get a record deal?
G. Love: Actually it was kind of really easy. I mean it was a lot of hard work, but the timing was perfect for us. From the conception of the band, the first rehearsal, it took us only nine month to get a record-deal. Everything worked as quickly as it could. We definitely put a lot of energy and hustle to get ourselves into the right place at the right time. Things happened pretty quick. At that time we had a very unique and new sound and not too many people were doing what we were doing at the time. Every gig led to another opportunity. Whether another gig or someone telling us to send our demo somewhere. Or a manager was seeing us, or a record-label seeing us. Every gig was leading to something else, on the industry side and on a regular people side it was just hitting (G. snaps his fingers). People were seeing the band and getting into it. On local levels we were getting a good fan-base. We were in Boston at that time, sending out demos and people were responding to them favourably. So we got on a couple of big music-conferences things, which were kind of industry showcases. Like the “New Music Seminar” in New York and the “Philadelphia Music Conference” in Philadelphia. And out of those two conferences we pretty much got our record-deal. So it worked out.
S-R: On your new album „Lemonade“ you worked with quite some guests (Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Tristan Prettyman…). Is there a collaboration that stood out for you?
G. Love: The one that I really dig is “Let The Music Play” with Ben Harper and Marc Broussard. I’m sure you guys are familiar with Ben Harper, he’s pretty big over here. Marc Broussard is a newer artist, a great singer from way down in Louisiana. He is really good. But there are other good ones. Like the one with Blackalicious called “Banger”. That was a real collaboration between the artists and the producers as well. We cut what we were doing and send them all the tracks and then DJ Chief Xcel from Blackalicious produced their stuff and we produced our stuff, that was like a real full collaboration. And I think that track “Banger” really symbolizes Hip-Hop-Blues. I’m playing the harp on it, it’s got like a blues-chorus and it’s got some of the best MC’s in the game right now. So that’s pretty cool.
S-R: Anyone in particular you would like to work with in the future that you haven’t worked with until now?
G. Love: (Thinks for a moment) I definitely had the chance to work with a lot of people on this latest record. I imagine the next record to be more of a band record. I’m not trying to just do collaboration records. I just did that record. My next record will probably bring it all back home. But yeah, there are so many bands I would like to collaborate with. Actually I’m gonna do a collaboration next week with the Fun Lovin’ Criminals. We’re going to do something next week when we play in London. And in the summer we’re going to do a big US-tour with Ozomatli and Slightly Stoopid. So, I’m sure there will be a lot of collaborations this summer.
S-R: I think your new album has more Hip-Hop moments and sounds than your previous records. What is that all about and is contemporary Hip-Hop a big influence for you?
G. Love: I definitely think that contemporary Hip-Hop is a music that is very progressive. I think the producers are very progressive, even if they take it from Hip-Hop to Pop. Like someone like Timbaland. He definitely does the biggest pop-records these days. The biggest records are all made by Hip-Hop producers. I think production-wise Hip-Hop is really progressive. And I also think Hip-Hop is definitely a kind of music that is always saying something. MC’s are always talking about stuff that’s happening right here and now. There’s definitely a lot of room for social and political discussion, as well as straight MC’ing and talking about hanging out and spending money and stuff like that. I do find that there’s a lot of social content in Hip-Hop. So yeah, I think I definitely try to stay in tune with contemporary Hip-Hop.
S-R: “Lemonade” just got released over here recently. In the US it’s out since last August. Have you written any new material since then and do you have any plans for a “Lemonade” follow-up in the near future?
G. Love: Yeah, yeah, definitely. We plan on going to the studio in July and start working on a new record. You know, we’re on a nice roll right now and I feel like I got some great new tunes, I’ve been writing a lot actually. So we’re gonna go in and bang out a new record. I think it can be called “Down and Dirty with G. Love and Special Sauce”. Like I said earlier, kind of consolidate just being the band. I wanna make the next record very raw with a live feel. But I think I’ll try to make the songs as big as possible in that construction. Over here we’re pretty small these days, but in the US we’ve gotten a lot bigger. So, this summer we’re going on a bigger tour and even when I’m writing and stuff, whether that’s a good or a bad thing, I’m thinking about where we’re going to play our music. What size of rooms and what it’s going to take to get the feeling across in those kinds of rooms. I kind of make my music as big as possible right now.
S-R: You belong to a certain circle of musicians. I’m thinking of Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, Donavon Frankenreiter and a couple of others. How would you describe your relationships and how did you all hook up?
G. Love: Well Ben and I have been peers for a long time. I think we both put out our first records in 1994, I’m pretty sure he came out around the same time. So we were always crossing paths, we definitely had mutual respect for one another. I met Jack when he just finished up college and I thought he was pretty great. We put him out on our “Philadelphonic” record and kind of launched him. And then he ended up making this record with Ben Harpers manager and producer, so Ben played on his first record. We kind of brought him out and then Ben took him on tour and played on his record. He had two established artists give him a shove and then he got bigger than everybody. We’re now on his label and he also signed Donavon to his label. They’re doing pretty good with the Brushfire Records thing and branding the label. That’s the amazing thing about Jack, he’s been able to market his whole lifestyle. In a very sublime way, it’s not like he’s honking the shit. Like people connect with someone like Snoop-Dogg, because they wanna understand what growing up in South-Central L.A. is like and they can listen to his music and say “oh yeah, Crips and Bloods, smoking weed and Gin ‘n Juice”. In the same way they can identify with Jack, “oh, living by the beach, surfing” and that whole kind of kick-back lifestyle which is appealing to a lot of people. They’ve been able to brand that and by association people relate all those bands to each other. It’s been a positive thing for my career and probably for everybody you just mentioned.
S-R: Thanks a lot for doing the interview!