Whenever some new technology comes around in the music industry—or new genre, new style driven by the times—whatever was before seems to fall into the shadows. As the new stuff plays out, according to Warren Haynes (The Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule), if it’s worthy, what was will rise again.
“That’s how music has proven to be,” he muses. “You know, there was a time period, in the ‘80s, when The Allman Brothers Band felt like they weren’t solid in the current music place.” Yet The Allman Brothers had a tour resurgence in 1989 after their “Dreams” box set release, at which time Haynes was invited to play lead guitar and vocals.
By ‘94 Haynes, along with drummer Matt Abts and Allen Woody (bass), came together for a little side rock project called Gov’t Mule. After bouncing back and forth between The Allman Brothers Band for a few years, Haynes and company decided to give Gov’t Mule full-time attention. This summer marks their 25th anniversary. Next year will mark 25 years of their self-titled debut album.
“It’s a crazy, exciting time, you know, especially for a band like us that started as a side project,” he says. “We never expected to make a second record or do a second tour, we were just doing something for fun.”
Gov’t Mule will return to ILM’s Greenfield Lake Amphitheater on Monday, April 29. The show is sold-out—and to no surprise. Haynes popularity grows far and wide. Haynes has shared stage time with numerous, talented Gov’t Mule players over three decades.
“We’re very fortunate that A) Gov’t Mule is still around this far down the line; and B) that we get along very well and enjoy being around each other and enjoy playing music together—which is not always the case with bands that last 25 years,” he quips. “We really didn’t imagine that [Gov’t Mule] would catch fire the way it did. We went into it with no expectations. And so the fact that it grew on its own, organically was not a surprise, so to speak, but just something we hadn’t prepared for.”
While Gov’t Mule is thinking about the next project, with a lot of writing underway already, Haynes and company haven’t gone into full pre-production mode yet. They continue to play from 2016’s “Revolution Come…Revolution Go” album—recorded right around the 2016 election.
All of these songs were written before November 2016 but a post-Trump win, Haynes says, seemingly changed the perception of these songs a little bit. While a few tunes offer some sort of political commentary with the backdrop of rock ‘n’ roll and bluesy sounds indicative of Gov’t Mule, they were written through the eyes of an observer looking upon what was already a divided country. “And that wasn’t gonna change regardless of who got elected president,” Haynes tells. “[The songs] still meant the same thing.”
“Stone Cold Rage” might come off as commentary on a beginning Trump era, but it’s a more general angsty rock song about the narrator’s perspective. Other songs like “Pressure Under Fire” are about coming together—much like audiences tend to do around the music itself.
“There’s a like minded audience out there because we’re just doing what it is that we love to do,” Haynes says. “We’re finding year after year that there are more and more people that share our musical philosophy as far as taste goes. I think young people these days don’t care so much about labels and stereotypes. And that’s a very encouraging thing. . . . We’re just lucky that we have an audience that takes this journey with us.”
The past 10 years or so has been a great time for new music and artists on the scene, wherein prolific songwriters like Jason Isbell and solid indie-rock bands continue to emerge. Haynes is most encouraged by the rise of young singers and musicians, both female and male—despite floating theories about true rock ‘n’ roll being dead.
“There was a period of time where I didn’t see a lot of inspired young musicians,” he offers. “And now I’m really starting to see a lot and it’s very encouraging for me because I think music’s always moved in cycles like that. . . . As soon as something new that people enjoy comes along, then all the sudden it’s fresh again. So it’s really up to the young artists, the young bands, to keep blues and jazz and rock ‘n’ roll and all these things alive.”