Lighting Up Baltimore: G. Love & Special Sauce
Apr 12, 2018 04:00PM
Happy stories don’t usually begin with “It was a dark and stormy night…,” but that’s exactly how the story of Garrett Dutton’s career in music begins. A solo show on a rainy Sunday evening in 1992 is where Dutton, better known as G. Love, met his now drummer Jeff Clemens. The two immediately hit it off and began playing together, eventually adding bassist Jim Prescott to the mix and officially forming G. Love & Special Sauce.
25 years later, the band is still going strong. The group has released over nine studio albums together and have played venues and festivals across the country. Their “sloppy” or “trashcan” blues sound has gained the attention of several well-known musicians, including Jack Johnson who signed the group to his record label, Brushfire Records, in 2006.
In celebration of 25 years together, G. Love & Special Sauce kicked off an anniversary tour earlier this year. The band is headed to Maryland on April 20th and will be performing a free concert at Baltimore’s Light City Festival. For more information about the show and the Light City Festival, visit Lightcity.org.
G. Love & Special Sauce kicked off their 25th anniversary tour earlier this year. Can you tell me a bit about how the band initially came together 25 years ago?
I was living in Boston at the time. I was working at this organization called Peace Action doing fundraising calls. I was that guy calling your house at dinnertime asking for money. Anyway, a buddy of mine had a band and called me one night while I was at work and said the opening band for their show cancelled, and he asked if I could come play. I asked my boss, and she was cool with it, so I went to the show at this Irish pub in Boston called The Tam O’Shanter. It was a rainy Sunday night, and the place was empty. The cocktail waitress’ boyfriend, Jeff Clemens, was sitting at the bar looking through the help wanted ads trying to find a “real job.” He came up to me after the show, said he liked my set, so I thanked him and started to walk away and he goes “I’m a drummer,” and I stopped in my tracks. We talked all night and that’s how it all got started.
We played the first few gigs just the two of us, and then Jeff has the idea to get an upright bass player. Jeff also ran a jazz jam out of The Tam O’Shanter, and Jim Prescott was probably the least proficient jazz bass player at his jazz jam, but he had the most in common with what I do. Long story short, we all met in The Tam O’Shanter. We had our first rehearsal in January of 1993. Ten months later in October 1993 we signed a record deal with Epic Records, and then we hit the road that spring and pretty much haven’t stopped touring since.
What has been the best part of touring and playing music with Special Sauce? Is there a specific show or moment that really stands out to you?
Honestly, there are too many moments to pick from. There have been a lot of great moments and great nights, and that’s why we’re still here 25 years later. The thing that has always stood out is the connection we are able to make with the people who come out to watch us. To us, that’s always what it’s been about. Playing in front of people is really a euphoric joy. You write a song, you record it as best as you can, and then you want to play it for people. To me, that’s always been the real joy.
Can fans expect new music anytime soon? If so, what are you most looking forward to about writing new music and releasing your next album?
I just put out a really cool Christmas album record this past December called Coming Home for Christmas, which is not only a great Christmas record but just a really great record in general. That’s out now and will be re-released on vinyl for the holidays this coming fall. In the meantime, I’m working on a new G. Love record and we’re getting ready to start in on the trenches of that. I’m going to Nashville next week to do some writing sessions with [four-time Grammy award winning blues artist] Keb’ Mo.’ After that, I’m going out to L.A. to write with my friends Cisco Adler and Sam Hollander. And then, of course, I write a lot of stuff on my own. Right now, we’re in the song-compiling phase and we’re going to record in September. It’s a really important record for us, and we’re hoping to have it out in January. It’s my intention to get a contemporary blues Grammy. That’s kind of my material goal on this record.
Songwriting is just such an important thing for any musician. Ultimately, it’s really the most important part of a musician’s craft in a lot of ways. You need to have something to say, and you have to say it in a certain way to connect with your audience. I first started writing songs when I was 15, and it was sort of just a reaction to life as a young person. I don’t know why I wrote my first song. I mean, I know what the emotions behind it were, but I don’t know why I thought, “Oh, I’m going to write a song.” There wasn’t any reason to write it other than the joy of playing music and expressing myself, and I really try to keep that same energy and mission behind me to this day. Much of the music out there is written by a committee or written for the wrong reasons, so I really try to keep mine pure.
You’re performing at Light City Baltimore on April 20th. What are you most looking for to about visiting Maryland? What can people expect at one of your shows?
Baltimore has always been like a second home for us. I’m from Philadelphia, the band is from Boston, and we recorded most of our first few records in Philadelphia. When we first started out before we really hit the road, we’d make some regional stops along the East Coast, and of course Baltimore was a stop on that initial circuit we made. I remember playing at the 8x10 back in ’93 and ’94, and then later playing at Rams Head and Pier Six Pavilion. Our music is an American thing, but it’s also more specifically an East Coast thing. Baltimore has always been great for us.
We’re going to play our current set, which is a greatest hits and deep cuts set to celebrate our 25th anniversary. We are just going to try and keep it loose and funky, heavy and light, fun, and everything else. It’s a great set, and it’s a great time to see the band. We’ve really been focused on bringing back some of the tunes that have slipped through the cracks over the years, and of course, playing the hits. It’s a really fun show. We love playing outdoor festivals, and this is going to be a great festival. We’re going to have a lot of fun.