Gov't Mule: "It Took Off, Became a Real Band, and Here We Are 20 Years Later"
Photo by Anna Webber
In 1994, singer and guitarist Warren Haynes never imagined Gov't Mule would still exist in the year 2014.
"In the beginning, it was just a side project, because Allen Woody and myself were full-time members of the Allman Brothers Band," Haynes says.
"We had no ambitions or aspirations. It was to do something for musical satisfaction with no pressure. It took off on its own, became a real band, and here we are 20 years later."
Haynes' life inside and outside of Gov't Mule has seen plenty of twists and turns.
As a youngster in Asheville, North Carolina, he emulated his older brothers' love for soul music by singing James Brown and Otis Redding tunes with them. At 11, he fell for rock 'n' roll and began fooling around with his eldest sibling's guitar. When his parents saw that Warren was playing the guitar more than his brother, they bought him one of his own as a birthday gift.
It wasn't long before he was making a career doing session work, which led to a permanent spot with legendary Southern rock outfit the Allman Brothers Band, which then led to Gov't Mule -- and the rest is history.
Last year, Haynes and his jam band released their first double album, Shout. One disc is original compositions, performed and written by Gov't Mule, while the second disc features the same songs performed by guest artists including Elvis Costello, Dr. John, and Dave Matthews.
"It seemed like a waste to have them sing a small part in a song," Haynes explains. "So why not have them do alternate versions and sing the entire song? Once we stepped on that idea, we figured we'd do that with every song."
The superstar guest formula is one that Gov't Mule experimented with earlier in the century. When founding bassist Allen Woody passed away in 2000, they recruited a roster of rock 'n' roll legends -- from Les Claypool and Flea to Cream's Jack Bruce and the Who's John Entwistle -- to help remember their fallen bandmate.
Fortunately, the most recent round of collaborations for Shout were birthed out of celebration rather than tragedy. "When I sing the songs live now," Haynes says, "they're influenced by the guest's versions, because I find myself listening to their versions more than my own."
To further commemorate Gov't Mule's 20 years, the band will release a series of live albums before eventually reconvening in the studio for a new record. And in the interim, Haynes is planning a solo effort, which will be "singer/songwriter-influenced."
Of course, following this Gov't Mule tour, there will also be a historic farewell. At the end of October, after 45 years, the Allman Brothers Band will be calling it quits with a run of shows at New York's Beacon Theatre.
"This version of the Allman Brothers Band has been together for 14 years, which is the longest any version has been together. We have great chemistry together, and we love to play music together. We very much respect the legacy, so it's going to be an emotional time."
So then why end it?
"The band always talked about not going forever and ever and turning into a 'nostalgia act.' Those are not my words; those are the words of the original members, who felt like the Allman Brothers Band is a band that is very unique, based on improvisation and breaking new ground. Thankfully, it's never gone in that direction, but we can all see where that would happen."
Crossfade's Top Blogs
Gov't Mule. Friday, October 10. Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach. The show starts at 8:30 p.m., and tickets cost $36.50 to $47.50 plus fees via livenation.com. All ages. Call 305-673-7300, or visit fillmoremb.com.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Miami, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.