G Love on friendship, collaboration and working the streets

Garrett Dutton, better known as G Love was doing something pretty special when I met him just now at Bluesfest. He was jamming with Jack Johnson. So of course the first question I asked G Love was whether this meant Jack would join him on stage.

The answer, was yes. Just a couple of hours later I witnessed the collaboration at the end of a joyous G Love and Special Sauce set, as the rain set in.

“I met him years ago in 1998 and then we recorded one of his songs he had on a demo, Rodeo Clowns and after that he caught steam and became huge,” Garrett said.  “So we’ve been on his label now since 2002 – we kind of helped him get a start. But I haven’t seen him for three or four years.”

“He’s just cruising around,” Garrett told me, when I questioned whether Jack had appeared on the bill since I last checked. “We were trying to get a surf and I didn’t know whether he wanted to play tonight – so I was like – you know, do you want to do something?”

Garrett tells me the first time they met, they just surfed and played music all day. “That’s pretty much just what we do,” he said.

I asked Garrett whether he thinks G Love and Special Sauce have also “made it” like their friend Jack Johnson.

“Yeah,” he laughed, “But we’ve never had a huge, like overnight success as far as commercial success goes. But we do well and we tour around the world. And we are back here too.”

“Yeah, things are good.”

“It’s my life,” he said. “I was a street musician first and music has always been my dream. In Philadelphia in high school, out of high school. In ’91 / ’92 I moved to Boston and was a street musician there for a year. Met my band and nine months after our first rehearsal had a record deal with Epic Records.”

It’s a neat potted history of how G Love came about, and he goes on. “After we got the band together, everything just clicked. Our first record ended up hitting pretty hard and has given us legs for 23 years now.”

It’s obvious Garrett has many friends here. He talks about Xavier Rudd and Kristy Lee and the Hussy Hicks, and of course Jack Johnson. He says the relationships between artists who return to Bluesfest is pretty special.

“Especially in the 90s, Bluesfest was going off for a long time, right. We played in the 90s and there weren’t really festivals in the USA in the 90s. Europe, Australia, Japan had them. Some of the early Blues Festivals were great because we got to hook up with some great musicians.”

“That’s the thing with these festivals – you get to see your friends from all around the world who do the same thing you’re doing. We don’t always get to see eachother a lot.”

When I’d walked into the artists’ area to interview Garrett I’d bumped into the Hussy Hicks and Kristy Lee who asked me to pass a message on. It’s not really appropriate for print but did hint at the friendship they shared.

“We met on this music cruise with Slightly Stoopid and Michael Franti. That was like a really cool cruise and Kristy was on that first one that we did,” he told me. “And actually, the Hussy Hicks were with her. I was walking up and they were playing a little stage on the cruise ship and I walked by and just stopped in my tracks – it was just one note – when the three of them are harmonising – it’s just unbelievable.”

“And I was spellbound and then we’ve been best friends ever since. We’ve toured a lot together and written a bunch of songs together. I actually recorded one of her songs for my new record called One Night Romance – we’re going to play that one tomorrow,” he said.

Garrett’s animated when we speak about his time as a street performer and he reminds me that that’s where John Butler and Xavier Rudd found their feet as entertainers. And we talk about the Bluesfest Buskers’ program too.

“I think it really says a lot about a musician when they start as a street musician – you learn a certain type of performing,” Garrett said. “You’re practicing – but even if no-one is watching you, you’re in a performance thing and you hone your craft that way.”

“There was this press thing I did a couple of years ago – they filmed me playing live in the subways of New York. We were down there for an hour playing at all these different spots and no-one gave me any money. It was brutal. People don’t make a lot of money on the streets,” he said.

_ _ _ _

G Love  and Special Sauce
Friday 3 April | Jambalaya | 5.30 – 6.30pm

Kristy Lee
Saturday 4 April | Delta | 1.30 – 2.30pm








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