Singer and guitarist Warren Haynes assures us that no matter how many times you might have seen his jam band, Gov't Mule, every show is completely different. "Each night, we put together our set list by consulting our history. We see what we played last time we came to town, and then play a show that is completely different."
At this point in his long career, Haynes estimates that his four-piece has more than a thousand songs in its repertoire. On any given tour, Gov't Mule will easily play more than a hundred of them. Asked just how the hell his brain has room for all of that music, Haynes laughs. "We don't think when performing in terms of perfection. We think of enjoying the moment. We have kind fans who know arrangements might change on a nightly basis."
There was a time, 22 years ago in fact, when Gov't Mule didn't have such a vast catalog. The group's newest release, The Tel-Star Sessions, is a document from that past. It's the band's first demo when the lineup consisted of Haynes, Allen Woody, and Matt Abts in June 1994. The album was recorded at Tel-Star Studios in Bradenton, Florida. It was a locale Haynes and Woody knew well from their day job playing with Southern-rock royalty the Allman Brothers, who rehearsed there quite a bit. "We only knew a handful of songs," Haynes remembers. "We did four covers and some originals. I don't know if we even considered ourselves a real band yet. We were just some experimental Allman Brothers side project."
Until recently, Haynes hadn't heard those recordings since the day they were made. "Three years ago, we started listening to our archives to release some things for our 20th anniversary. It was eye-opening to listen to them. We paid for the recordings and produced them ourselves back then. We thought it would be our first album. When that didn't happen, I never listened to them again. I was knocked out by how fresh the music sounded. I didn't want to tamper with them except for a new mix and master."
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Among the tracks is a cover of ZZ Top's "Just Got Paid," for which Gov't Mule released an animated video. "It's ironic because we're currently on tour with ZZ Top. I don't know if Billy [Gibbons, ZZ Top's singer] has seen it. Knowing him, I imagine he'd like it a whole lot."
It's not just in with the old, though, for Gov't Mule. The band plans to head to the studio in November to record a new album. But don't expect those new songs to make the cut at the concerts just yet. "We'll sometimes play them at sound check, but we don't play them at a show. The way things are, it ends up on the internet and then there's no reason for people to get the album."