G. LOVE & SPECIAL SAUCE: Ten questions, more or less, with Garrett Dutton

Genre-blending artist to perform two shows in Atlanta

GL 5 21 49 Photo Credit Joe Navas @joeink Copy
Photo credit: Joe Navas @joeink
STILL COOKIN’: G. Love (pictured) and Special Sauce play two shows at City Winery Atlanta Saturday, Feb. 10.
COLD BEVERAGE: G. Love revisits his first album, ‘G. Love and Special Sauce,’ during early and late shows at City Winery. Photo Credit: Joe Navas @joeink

Most know him simply as G. Love, though his parents raised him as Gregory Dutton. No matter what you call him, he answers as the progenitor of the melding of hip-hop and blues into a savory and seductive sauce best exemplified on the debut album G. Love and Special Sauce (1994). That album, recorded with Jeffrey “Houseman” Clemens (drums — note: longtime collaborator Chuck Treece will be sitting in on drums for the current tour) and Jim “Jimi Jazz” Prescott (bass), created a new genre of music that Love is still serving, a “sloppy” as some have called it, blending of hip-hop, the blues, and infectious grooves.

An early proponent of Jack Johnson, Love has worked with a variety of contemporary artists, from Lucinda Williams to Donavan Frankenreiter, The Avett Bothers, and the aforementioned Johnson. In 2020, he released The Juice, a collaboration with Keb’ Mo’, followed by Philadelphia Mississippi (2022). In 2023, a remastered and expanded version of Love’s debut album, G. Love and Special Sauce, was reissued, including a second disc recorded live at New York’s Knitting Factory in 1994.

You’re touring now to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of your debut album. When it was released, did you think you would still be performing thirty years later — or did you have a back-up plan, just in case?

Ha, no back up plan for sure. My initial goal was to follow the footsteps of my major influence, John Hammond (Jr.), who I was able to see performing at smaller clubs as a teen. I had a dream to make one record and play coffee houses. All for the love of music with no financial or business goals. I’d say I’ve done more than I thought I would. I wanted a life dedicated to music and thankfully that’s what I got It’s been a trip. I owe it all to the support of the fans and this crazy world for giving me lots of inspiration to write about.

What prompts you to write a song? You’ve been at it for a while, has the inspiration or process changed for you over the years?

I’m constantly jotting down song ideas. Always just trying to catch little snippets, something sticky. Eventually I will write by myself or collaboratively and mine through these ideas for the nuggets. I try to make sure I’m truly inspired the whole process. I don’t force myself to write anymore. If I’m not feeling it I put it down. Life seems so busy now I don’t have as much time to just sit with a guitar so when I finally do, or hit the studio, the ideas thankfully come flooding out. It’s beautiful.

At it’s simplest, music is entertainment, but it’s more, isn’t it? What is it for you in particular and what do you think it may be for people in general?

At its best and most powerful, music is magic. Music is love. It’s truly a spiritual endeavor and as artists we have this wonderful job to inspire, connect and make people happy or in touch with deeper emotions. And it’s entertaining yes! Every show is an emotional rollercoaster or journey that you are taking yourself, the band and the crowd on. It’s a beautiful opportunity — what can you do with the mic, the songs and a roomful of people every night. Where can we go??

Your influences are cited as being early Delta blues and O.G. hip-hop artists, but who else? Also, the angular guitar sounds in your early work suggests Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band…would that be correct?

My main guitar influence is John Hammond and so many blues players like John Lee Hooker, Freddie King, Lightnin’ Hopkins. I’ve come to rock and roll simply by playing the blues — and not so much influenced by other rock and rollers — which, to me, is the pure road to take to pure, undiluted rock and roll.

Have your influences changed over the years?

Constantly. I’m like a sponge so whatever I listen to, watch, read, eat and love comes through in my music.

When you hear the phrase, “the first time,” what comes to mind?

The first time I met my wife. She was in the parking lot behind the Intersection, a club in Grand Rapids. She was trying to sneak backstage and talking to the drummer of the opening act who I knew was married. Now, three kids later, I truly owe everything, including my beautiful family, to music.

Is there one album of yours that you feel best captures what you’re doing or are you constantly evolving and with each new release you have a different aim or trajectory?

I think the debut album, 1994’s G.Love and Special Sauce truly captured the essence of what I’m all about in every way. Songs about all aspects of life and emotions, raw sparkling sound and truly original. That’s the Hip Hop Blues.

Your wiki page mentions that you were a fundraiser for Peace Action. Are you still involved with the group? If so, what are the most pressing problems the organization is working to solve? If you are no longer involved, why the change of heart?

I used to phone canvas for Peace Action right before the band took off. I’m not currently involved with the group but still follow and am aligned with progressives for world peace and trying to get more money spent on people, education, community, health and less on the defense budget.

Do you consider yourself an artist or musician? What are the differences to you?

I consider myself a kid who plays guitar and writes songs. I also do consider myself an artist, songwriter and painter. I think all musicians are artists. A true artist should always have freedom of expression, however some artists have to compromise at times for different reasons, mostly financial I think. And that’s across the board.

Which do you prefer — escape or reality?

Wow these are interesting questions. I love the reality I’m living right now being a father, a husband, and a provider. I love the expressive outlets which both music and visual art provide for me. I also find freedom/mediation in my other hobbies: surfing and fishing and certainly the journey of parenting. The love I feel for my wife Kelsey and our boys is everything and always paramount. I don’t consider my passions to be escapes as my passions are such an integral part of my life and my productivity. It’s wonderful to get lost and “escape” into the things you love and important to find time to do so. —CL—

$45 - 75.00. Two shows, 6:30 p.m. (doors at 5 p.m.) and 9:15 p.m. (doors at 8:45 p.m.). A special package, the “pre-show pop off” — including an exclusive all request, solo acoustic performance by G. Love, and a one of a kind merch package before the main show, plus a Q&A session, photo with G. Love, VIP laminate, exclusive 30th anniversary poster, and early access to the merch booth — is also available before each show for an additional $100.00. City Winery Atlanta, Ponce City Market, 650 North Ave. NE., Atlanta, 30308. 404-496-3791. citywinery.com/Atlanta

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