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Adding up the raw data - solo performances, participation in multiple bands, invitations to sit in with friends' bands, and studio sessions - it's fair to conclude that Warren Haynes is among the hardest working performers in music today.
But for the 23rd greatest guitarist of all time (as determined by Rolling Stone), music doesn't feel like hard work. Haynes is just doing what he loves, being what he is. He's a man who loves music. Everything about it, really: creating it, playing it, singing it, experiencing it, appreciating it, sharing it.
"Musicians are the biggest fans," he says. "That's why they become musicians in the first place."
This love of music has led Haynes to some extraordinary collaborations that have defied the laws of genre labeling and propelled his reputation far beyond the notorious boundaries of jam band scene quarantine. For example, he co-wrote a No. 1 single, Garth Brooks' "Two of a Kind, Working on a Full House," which remained on the charts for twenty weeks. He was the only guest musician at Dave Matthews Band's high-profile Central Park Concert, September 24, 2003. He appeared on fellow singer/songwriter Everlast's second post-House of Pain solo album, EAT AT WHITEY'S. And he compelled metal icon Jason Newsted and hip-hop country boy Kid Rock to join him on stage, at the same time.
For audiences, to see and hear Warren Haynes perform in any capacity is to witness his love firsthand. To catch him alone on stage, with only his voice and acoustic guitar, drives the point deeper still. The unadulterated emotion he pours into and gleans from music - any music, his own or another's - takes on the prominence of a lead instrument, sharing in the delivery rather than just inspiring it.
"Please forgive me for putting you in my song. But the spirit she moves me. In fact, she pushes me along," he eloquently writes and passionately sings in an ode to Jerry Garcia, "Patchwork Quilt."
He originally recorded the song with Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh's group Phil Lesh & Friends, one of four bands - rounded out by Gov't Mule, Allman Brothers Band, and The Dead - that currently claim him as a member.
Like the lyric says, ABB was "at Jones Beach when we got the word" that Jerry had died. And it was there that Haynes wrote "Patchwork Quilt," a song he never envisioned recording or performing until he worked with Lesh.
"When he called me, he asked, 'Do you have any songs to play with the band?' and I told him, 'Yeah, I've got a song, but it's sensitive,'" Haynes remembers, "Phil said he'd love to hear it, and that was the first time I played it for someone else. It was one of those songs you write for yourself. But Phil loved it, so we included it on the album."
So when he performed it live for upwards of 80,000 fans on June 15, 2003...Well, it was truly something to behold.
LIVE AT http://www.bonnaroo.com/ (ATO Records) documents the entire 16-song set Haynes performed at the 2003 http://www.bonnaroo.com/ music festival, which boasted an eclectic line-up including the Allman Brothers Band, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, the Flaming Lips, Liz Phair, Sonic Youth, The Roots, Big Jack Johnson and, Soul Brother Number One, James Brown.
Haynes performed the set Sunday afternoon on the festival's main stage, where he had closed the night before playing with the Allmans. And of course throughout the three-day event he bounced from stage to stage, joining the funky Meters, Widespread Panic, and moe.. But this solo performance showed no sign of his hectic lifestyle. He took his time as he strummed and sang an odd assortment of tunes.
"It was a 90-minute set in the middle of the day when I could play whatever occurred to me," he recalls, emphasizing the many covers he chose. "The set list was just meant to be a live performance, not a record," Haynes says. "If I'd known it was going to be a record, I probably would have second-guessed and played it safe. But looking back, and listening to it now, I really like it."
Some songs, like "Beautifully Broken" and "Fallen Down," were familiar to Gov't Mule followers. One in particular, "Forever More," had never been performed publicly or recorded. And some were exciting covers, like the glorious version of Radiohead's "Lucky," a redefining interpretation of U2's "One," and an introduction to old hometown influence and friend Ray Sisk's "Glory Road." Finally he invited the phenomenal South African vocalist, Vusi Mahlasela, to join him in telling tens of thousands of listeners to let their "Soulshine."
Though the two artists had heard one another, and even share a record label, http://www.bonnaroo.com/ marked their first opportunity to meet. When Haynes invited him to sit in on his set, it was "Soulshine" Vusi chose. "We rehearsed for 5 minutes on the bus and it just fell into place," Haynes says.
It was yet another highlight of an already extraordinary experience. After all, performing for such a large crowd as a solo artist was something Haynes hadn't done before. "Like all kids starting out I had grandiose hopes and dreams," he says. "But playing to a crowd that big with an acoustic guitar was not anything I'd ever thought of."
Growing up in Asheville, North Carolina, Haynes remembers getting his first taste of musical nourishment at the tender age of six when he heard black gospel on the radio. He was raised by a father who loved Merle Haggard and Bill Monroe, but he was coached by two older brothers partial to Miles and Coltrane, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, Dylan and Van Morrison. At first he was most interested in vocalists like Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett, zeroing in on even B.B. King's voice, not just his licks.
At 12, however, he informed his dad he wanted to play guitar. He had found rock. And suddenly, the guitar gained some ground as he elevated Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix to 'personal hero' status. Spurred further by his brothers, Haynes traced his heroes' collaborations and influences, embarking on an ongoing journey of musical discovery, touring blues and rock greats, expanding his own sound as he learned.
By the time he was 20, Haynes had a solid performance background and his guitar playing was starting to turn heads. He had gained the attention of country singer/songwriter David Allan Coe, who brought Haynes into his fold. In all, Haynes appeared on nine of Coe's albums and he toured with Coe throughout America and Europe for four years. When Coe's band opened for The Allman Brothers Band at Atlanta's Fox Theater in 1981, Dickey Betts joined them for a few songs. It was a chance meeting that ultimately changed Haynes life.
A few years later in 1986, Betts and Haynes met again in Nashville. Betts was looking for backing vocalists for an ultimately unreleased album. In 1987, Betts called on Haynes to form a band. When Betts began work on PATTERN DISRUPTIVE in 1988, Haynes co-wrote the songs.
Haynes became a full-fledged Brother in 1989 when ABB embarked on the Reunion Tour. He has since been key in the production of four studio albums, three live albums and two DVDs -- co-writing all of the original songs for HITTIN' THE NOTE. With producer Michael Barbiero, he produced and mixed HITTIN' THE NOTE, the ONE WAY OUT double live CD and the LIVE AT THE BEACON THEATRE DVD. And, as a member of the Allmans, he has, to date, earned five Grammy nominations with a Best Rock Instrumental win for "Jessica" in 1995 off 2ND SET.
But Haynes' solo personality was never lost in the Allman mix. He recorded the solo album TALES OF ORDINARY MADNESS in 1993, and even then attracted some heavy-weights like keyboardists Chuck Leavell (Rolling Stones) and Bernie Worrell (P-Funk) to record with him.
It was 1994 when then Allmans bassist Allen Woody and Haynes hatched a plan to bring the power trio structure back to rock. They teamed up with Betts' Drummer Matt Abts, and Gov't Mule was born. In 1997, Haynes and Woody left the Allmans to dedicate themselves to Mule full-time. The thunderous threesome had released four studio and numerous live CDs by 2000, when tragedy struck. Woody passed away on August 26. The future of the band was uncertain.
Haynes and Abts quickly regrouped to honor their fallen friend's memory with a tribute concert at New York's Roseland Ballroom. Several tours, albums, a documentary film, and a live DVD, followed as part of "The Deep End" series, which included just about every noteworthy bassist on the planet today. A tune from the CD THE DEEP END VOL. 1, "Sco-Mule," was nominated for a Grammy in February 2003. THE DEEPEST END, a bundled DVD and two CD package that includes 32 songs from the May 3, 2003 Saenger Theater concert has since been certified Gold.
Having selected former Black Crowes bassist Andy Hess to accompany them in the next chapter of Gov't Mule, Haynes, Abts, Hess and longtime Mule keyboardist Danny Louis are completing the band's first studio album since the addition of Louis and Hess as permanent band members. The new recording is scheduled for an autumn release on ATO Records.
Haynes recently completed the Allman Brothers' annual nine-night run at New York's Beacon Theatre. Warren will tour as a member of The Dead this summer, and will open approximately half of the shows with a solo acoustic set, requiring some careful scheduling with an Allman tour also in the picture.
"Singing and songwriting and guitar playing are all equal in my mind," he says. "Basically I'm thankful that I have all three in my life.