Running with the Wu-Tang Clan and fighting stage fright while rockin’ in his chair…this is Garrett Dutton, the man behind-inside-and all over G. Love & Special Sauce.

One week before his concert at Vinyl Music Hall, Dutton discussed life in the world of G. Love for my column in the January 27th edition of the Pensacola News Journal.

Here is the link to G.Love & Special Sauce “Music Matters” column.

The full interview follows below.

***Garrett Dutton Interview***

MS: You have a lot of exciting events going on right now, I’m familiar with your charity work, your new album “Fixin’ to Die” , the tour and you’re engaged. Congratulations.

GD: Thanks, man!

MS: How do you juggle everything and not get overwhelmed?

GD: I feel that whatever you do in life, you can only do one thing at a time. Just try to everyday, balance out your day, but just tackle one thing at a time. And most importantly for me to do every day is to do what I love, which is to play music and stay up on my skills as a player and a performer and also to continue writing. So right now, I’m focused a lot about writing songs for my new record and honing in on song that I have. The music lifestyle is a challenging lifestyle. It’s a lot of fun, it’s a lot of hard work and a lot of travel. Relationships are always a challenge, then traveling puts a lot of strain on my relationships with my family. That’s something you’re always to struggle. All in all, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m really blessed to live the lifestyle that I’m living and happy to be a musician and bring a lot of happiness to people every night.

MS: I saw your last tour and speaking of songwriting, I have to ask you…the lyric “Don’t mind dying, but I hate to leave my children crying” at the end of “Fixin’ to Die”…It’s such a powerful lyric to end such a powerful song, You gave me that feeling of being in church during a funeral. With so many amazing things going on in your life, how do you tap into that ability to express such dark sadness with such beauty on this album?

GD: This record was real personal. That song “Fixin’ to Die” that’s an old Delta blues song by an artist named Booker White and that was kind of a unique song. On this record there’s a lot of emotion, because a lot of songs are really personal. There’s a song about my grandmom when she died and a song actually about my dog when she died. And there are songs that I have written at a young age when I was in high school, when I was thinking about getting away, getting away from everything, my family, my friends, getting out of the world, getting away from your hometown kind of thing. There’s like a lot of just emotions that filled me for a long time that were real easy to connect with and write when you’re playing, obviously you want to connect with what you’re singing about. And this group of songs was real easy to do that.

MS: What gets you off the most about performing?

GD: It’s something weird. I get really nervous before every show. It drives people around me crazy, I get into this thing where I’m unrelaxed and just nervous energy. There’s a lot of focus, but it’s not a comfortable feeling. And it’s something that I have every day especially the closer that show time gets. It’s because I care so much about getting up there. And I think it was James Brown that said he always got stage fright. I think it’s a good thing because when you go onstage, you have this edge and music is all about tension and release and I feel very tense when I get ready to go out on stage and of course some nights you feel a little bit more laid back, you know…

MS: But it’s always there.

GD: You’re in Pensacola, right?

MS: Yes.

GD: Well, I have a feeling when I’m in Pensacola, I’m going to feel a little bit more laid back than I would if I was playing in New York or Hollywood where there’s record company people coming out, industry people coming out and everyone’s like touching you. I like playing down in the South a lot because I feel people are there to just have a good time and jam out to the music. That makes my job easier. I get nervous and then you get on stage, you break through it. That’s the process of getting over stage fright. Honestly there’s some night where unfortunately, I never am able to kind of get that tension…some nights, I’ll feel like I can’t get in the zone and it’s still going to be a great show, but the nights that are really great and the nights where I can really loosen up and get in the interaction with the crowd and just feel at home and it’s the process of breaking out of that tension and having that release on stage that makes for a magical show.

MS: What has been your most memorable show of all time?

GD: Shoot. I really…I couldn’t say. There’s been so many amazing nights. I don’t have a favorite show…I think maybe early on I can remember this great show that we did at this festival called Roskilde Festival in Denmark. I just remember playing this show and we went on after that band Morphine who were like friends of ours from Boston and we wanted to have a great show because they were like our older peers, so we looked up to them. They had helped us out and we also wanted to go out there and kick their asses. We went out and we did this great show and that was the first time were we finished the show and it was like a real show and everyone in the audience’s hands went up in the air. It wasn’t like we were asking people to put their hands up. It was a reaction that was emotional. Everybody was like “Oh my God.” I’ll never forget that was one of the first moments that we really crushed it for a big crowd in a foreign country on just a real big gig. We went from being a bar band to all of a sudden being a buzz band and playing all of these big festivals and everybody had all these expectations and there is a lot of tremendous amount of pressure. You all of a sudden go from being a local band to being an international recording artist. People are either going to love you or your going to be like, “what’s so great about these guys?” So you got to go out and prove it every night. That’s what we’ve been doing for the last 20 years.

MS: I asked the same question to Chris Thomas King a few days ago and I want to ask you, “You’ve embraced the blues, folk, hip-hop like so many people try, but can’t do, what is the next evolution of music for you?”

GD: Where I’m at, coming out of the “Fixin’ to Die” project and also I’ve been doing a lot more solo acoustic shows around the world these past two years. It’s really helped me to reconnect with the Delta blues side of what I do, so I imagine that my next record is going to have a lot of that, of the Delta Blues; a lot more slide guitar work. Continuing to keep it rootsy and I know I want to record it in a very raw fashion. I also want to incorporate a little bit more of that urban flavor into the blues. Right now I’m writing in that vein, waiting for my record label to agree with me that I’ve got a great bunch of songs.

MS: I have to ask you this…The chair, is there a story behind your chair because when I see you play it’s like I’m afraid that something is going to happen because you get into it; you’re rocking back and forth.

GD: (Laughs) The people that I’ve always been intrigued by have always performed sitting down, like John Hammonds, he’s a blues guy and he is my number one influence and he always performs on a bar stool and he stomps his foot. I like to get off and dance when the spirit moves me and rock the crowd and really get out there or go into the crowd and really have that interaction. Musically, I really connect the best when I ‘m able to sit down in my chair and stomp my foot because when my foot gets going that’s when I really get into my deepest groove. I used to play all sitting down the whole show, and it would be rare that I ever stood up. I actually keep my eyes closed for the whole show. I looked up and my eyes would be closed. Then you get out there and perform for many years, you get more comfortable. So now, I get up. But there’s always a number of tunes that I do sit down in the chair and certainly for the solo acoustic stuff. But yeah, that chair man…all of America…when I start chair dancin’, chair dancing, watch out!

MS: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

GD: (pause, chuckles) I guess my Dad, he would always say “Be purposeful.” Over the years, I’ve taken that and put into my own dialect and I say “Stay on the hustle.” My dad was always saying, “You’ve got to be purposeful. You have to do things with a purpose and everything you do should be continuously, you don’t want to waste time. Whatever you’re doing, you should do with a purpose. All parts of life. At work, at home. Your relationships, your socializing. For me…I think it’s more the hustle. No one is going to give you something in this world. You really have to go out and make something happen for yourself every day. And the people that work hardest are the people that succeed. There is no question in my mind about that. If you put in a lot of hard work and especially living in America, there are society’s that you can live in, in different countries where you can work hard and not get ahead just because there are no opportunities and certainly there are places like that in our country where people are just stuck in a bad situation, but I think the people, if you’re able to have a good work ethic and something that you can find to be original and focus on and whatever kind of work that would follow there is always some kind of original approach to getting something done, that’s how you can succeed. You know what I mean?

MS: Yes. Thank you. A lot of people need to hear that. That side of the coin.

GD: And on other piece of advice I got was from John Hammonds when I ran into him on the train platform in Japan. He was getting off the train and we were getting on and he goes, “Don’t miss that train.” (in pure G. Love style. We both break out laughing) he started it and I break out laughing) Which is one of the simple ways to say “Stay on the hustle, man!”

MS: Thank you. Last two questions. It’s a crazy one. It’s a personality question. Crunchy or creamy peanut butter?

GD: Well, I’m going to have to say creamy.

MS: We have a feature where every artist that is featured, they give us there top 5 albums of all time. Would you want to do that now or…

GD: Yeah! I’ll do it right now. How many?

MS: Your top 5 albums of all-time.

GD: Dr. John and the Right Place, The Free Wheelin’ Bob Dylan, John Hammond Country Blues, …let’s see. I’m going to put Enter the Wu Tang Clan…and which I kind of didn’t get into the Wu Tang til’ later, but man, the last three years, I run a lot and I listen to that record everyday. Everyday, I listen to that record. I know all of it. Is that four…

MS: One more left.

GD: I’m going to say since I’ve been in a real big Rolling Stones kick this month, I’m going to say, Hot Rocks.

MS: Yes, Dr. John your number one?

GD: Yeah! That record really had a lot of influence on me, in a lot of different ways. That’s one of my favorite. I’ll go with that for my list.

MS: Thank you for taking your time Mr. Dutton and when you come to Pensacola, Florida, it’s going to be Sunday night, I’m looking forward to you rockin’ out again.

GD: Alright, cool. But you better not call me Mr. Dutton if your…

MS: (I burst out laughing) I will G. Love. Anything you want to add?

GD: We just released our own hot sauce, and you can order that on, getting that hot sauce out there. And one other thing I have coming out this year too will be…two things… one is, I have a sunglasses line coming out and that’s with Kaenon and I also have a signature series guitar coming out which will be coming out with Eastwood guitars. Those will be coming out in the spring time. Both the glasses and the guitar.

MS: I play guitar too. What are you playing now?

GD: Right now, I’m playing…my main acoustic is my Gibson J-45 and my main electric is my “Crucianelli” which is an old 60’s guitar, an Italian guitar, which is what my signature will be based loosely on and then I also play with a lot of Gretsh electric guitars, the Gretsh black penguin and Gretsh invert tree” and a Gretsh Black Falcon.

MS: So how soon will your line be out by Eastwood?

GD: The Eastwood guitars will be out, I think this spring. We just got the prototypes two days ago, so I will be testing them out on this tour here and once we need to make a couple of adjustments to them and we will get them ready for release. It’s pretty exciting.

– Michael L. Smith

Photos and article from the 2011 G. Love & Special Sauce // Andrew Greene concert at Vinyl Music Hall.

Link to an additional photo gallery of the 2012 concert by PNJ photographer Kira Lynn Ramos