Warren Haynes, frontman of Gov’t Mule, has defied genres over the years. He contributed 25 years of guitar work to Southern rock pioneers The Allman Brothers and is celebrating 23 years with his own project Gov’t Mule, an eclectic blend of soul, rock, blues, jazz and country.
As a result of his wide range of influences, impressive instrumental solos and live improvisation — Gov’t Mule plays a different set list every show — Haynes’ music often gets thrown into the “jam band” category. Being dubbed a jam band doesn’t really bother him, though.
“When we started, myself and Allen Woody were members of The Allman Brothers, the quintessential example of a band influenced by a lot of music,” says Haynes. “They invented Southern rock and created a combination of elements mixed together in a way no one had really heard before. When Woody and I started Gov’t Mule, it was meant to be with a similar mindset but some different influences. Each record is different than the one before, and somewhere along the line, the jam band scene was starting to make ground.”
He also sees the term as something that has inspired him to be a better guitarist. Almost three decades of touring and performing live most days out of the year has also undeniably honed his skills.
“Musicians get better and better as they play more and more and more,” says Haynes. “When I listen back to recordings of me playing 30, 20, 10 years ago, I always feel like I’m playing better now than I did then. I think the times when that’s not the case is when musicians stop playing. I always feel like you're constantly learning. Being a musician is the decision to be a student for life. And sometimes, one of the things you learn is how to say more with fewer notes and not be in such a hurry.”
Haynes was a founding member of Gov’t Mule in 1994. But it all really started with The Allman Brothers. Haynes played in the band from 1989 through 1997 and then from 2000 until 2014, when the group announced its final breakup. Since then, founding members Butch Trucks and Gregg Allman have both passed away, on Jan. 24 and May 27, 2017, respectively.
“It’s been a rough six months,” says Haynes. "Losing Butch and Gregg within a four-month period was hard for all of us and a huge loss to the music community as well. For myself, we were close friends when we were on the road together. We shared life together. (Allen) Woody and Gregg and I shared a tour bus together, and some of my fondest memories with both of those guys was just listening to music and laughing. There was always laughing involved. That’s one of the things that keeps you going on the road.
"We’re starting to see a lot of people from that generation disappearing before our eyes. Younger musicians like myself and obviously even younger and younger musicians are going to have to be responsible for keeping real music alive.”
Haynes isn't ready to stop playing that music anytime soon. Gov’t Mule’s most recent studio album, “Revolution Come ... Revolution Go” was released in June 2017 and returned to the band’s origins.
“We talked a lot prior to going into the studio about what record we wanted to make and the consensus was to go back and visit our earliest roots as well as moving into some new musical direction we had never explored before,” says Haynes. “‘Sarah, Surrender’ and ‘Dreams & Songs’ were both quite different for us and kind of represent influences that have always been there but maybe that we hadn’t explored in the studio before. All of those directions, I believe we’ve explored on stage.”
Gov't Mule will be exploring even more new directions on stage on Friday, Aug. 4 at Volvo Car Stadium. The show is Haynes-guaranteed to be different than any other he's ever played.
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