G. Love was born Garrett Dutton in Philadelphia. As he grew up, his musical skills and creative mind developed impressively, and eventually he found himself busking on the streets of his hometown. It was there, armed with a guitar and harmonica, that he took his blues background into the realm of hip-hop. After moving to Boston, he formed the band G. Love and Special Sauce, a group with his signature style that you'd hear regularly on MTV in the 1990s with songs like "Cold Beverage" and "Baby's Got Sauce."
The band continues to tour regularly and released a 2015 album, Love Saves the Day, that features impressive collaborators like Lucinda Williams and Citizen Cope. We spoke to the rapping bluesman about the heat in the recording studio that kindled while making the album and about his own line of hot sauces.
New Times: You have some impressive guests on Love Saves the Day. How did you go about deciding who to work with?
G. Love: We had a good and very broad wish list of musicians we were looking to approach. Most of the insanely talented guests on the record we have toured, recorded, or written with in the past. Lucinda Williams was the exception. We cold-called her, and she was open for a collaboration on the Leadbelly song "New York City." All of the guests brought their own unique approach to music and recording to the studio. From the meticulous production of Citizen Cope, the bar-setting performances of David Hidalgo, to the musical throwdown of Ozomatli, the whole session was just outstanding.
Any stories from the making of this album that you can share?
I think a notable aspect of this session was that all of the material was generally new and we were working through the last tweaks of arrangement and even writing while we were in the studio... There were some times when this was getting a bit frustrating for our producer, Robert Carranza, and label rep, but I think we all realized the value. There was a lot of spontaneity and energy flying around... Sometimes you gotta fight to get your point across, and that goes for everybody. It's not bad when people disagree or you push each other to find a different way of doing something. Blood, sweat, and tears, baby!
What do you see as the future of the blues? What about the future of musicians who play instruments in the age of electronic music?
The blues will always be live because it's the root of all the music that our culture listens to. I think it's an exciting time for blues and roots music. There's a whole slew of blues musicians, and I'm one of them. So in 40 years, you'll see me and Gary Clark Jr., John Mayer, and Jack White all limping up onstage and throwing it down.
You actually have three special hot sauces. Is that Caribbean Lolo story true? Did you really just meet a couple from the Virgin Islands and just show up months later with a guitar and surfboard?
All the stories are true. Stay spicy!
You were a busker, and busking is becoming something of a celebrated activity with festivals dedicated to the act. Do you have a fun story from those days? Are you glad buskers are getting their moment in the spotlight?
Yeah, I played on the streets in Philly and Boston, and that's really where I honed my craft and got my thing together. I had my second and most important musical epiphany on the street. It was summer of 1992 on the corner of Second and Lombard in Philadelphia. I was playing a vamp of my streetside blues tune called "Days Like This." I was feeling so good and just vibing. I started rapping the lyrics for Eric B and Rakim's classic "Paid in Full" over my change. I thought, Goddamn, this is hot! I don't know why I did it; it was just
That week, I wrote my first rap called "Rhyme for the Summertime," which Is on my Oh Yeah! record. Coincidentally, that was a good night for me, my best as a street performer. I made 60 bucks, one beer, two cigarettes, and a joint.
You've been at this a while. Do you have an idea in your head of when you think you'd want to stop making albums and touring? Or will you do this till you die?
I will do this until I die, even if I make a million dollars, which seems unlikely, as no one buys records. I love playing music. I love playing music for people. It's what I do. It's my life work. I get tired, but after a while, you get used to moving and it's hard to keep still. I love the stage, and I love to perform.
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You spend a lot of time touring in Florida. Do you have any particular hot spots you frequent down here in the Sunshine State?
We've had so many great times and shows in the Sunshine State. Love playing Jannus Live; love the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale. I play my acoustic hits during Art Basel in Miami every year, which are epic. My parents live in Sanibel. Since I'm from the East Coast, I'd say there's a good chance I will retire there when I'm older. Oh yeah, I forgot, I'm never gonna retire!
G. Love and Special Sauce
With the Bones of Jr. Jones. 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 6, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $24.99 plus fees via ticketmaster.com.