Peace, Love and Special Sauce
Formed in Boston, band mixes acoustic blues, hip-hop and soul into a breezy, infectious blend
About 20 years ago, an enthusiastic white kid from the Philadelphia suburbs happened on a winning musical combination of several African-American art forms — hip-hop, acoustic blues and soul, among others. Garrett Dutton, better known as G. Love, moved to Boston to ply his incongruous trade, and that’s where, in the winter of 1992-1993, he met Jeffrey “Houseman” Clemens and Jim “Jimi Jazz” Prescott, who formed his backing band, Special Sauce (Prescott left in 2009 and was replaced by Tim Shanko and Mark Boyce). Two decades on, the 40-year-old G. Love still has a smile on his face, a raw, streetwise approach on stage and a head full of nostalgic, infectious tunes that are breezy, celebratory and indebted to the past.
Folio Weekly: On your winter tour, you have only two different two-night stands: one in Fort Lauderdale and one in Jacksonville Beach. Do you love us that much?
G. Love: Yeah, those are always a lot of fun. Plus, a two-night stand at a certain club really allows us to mix the set up a lot, which is a good challenge.
F.W.: It’s been two years since your last album. Perhaps you’ll be mixing in some new material?
G.L.: Definitely. We’re hard at work on a bunch of new tunes and really honing in on the ones that are going to be on the record. So yes, you can expect to hear a lot of new material on this tour. It’s really helpful to road-test new jams to see what connects and what’s hot live. It’s like pre-production before the studio.
F.W.: In early January, you wrote a lengthy blog post celebrating 20 years since meeting your backing band and launching your career. Are those days still fresh in your mind?
G.L.: I look back on those years in Boston in the early ’90s as some of the best, most magical times of my life. It was exciting to look back on those fond memories and just let ’em pour out.
F.W.: Your unique blend of blues and hip-hop certainly inspired a lot of artists, but very few have tried to duplicate what you do. Why do you think that is?
G.L.: Well, I met Kid Rock and Jack White at the same show in Detroit back in ’94 when we came through Michigan for the first time. Jack Johnson was heavily influenced by me, The Avett Brothers said they listened to my third record on their entire first tour and Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys said in Rolling Stone that his jam in high school was “Sugar Mama,” the first track from our second record. When we first dropped, music was wide open, and since our sound was based on going back to traditional blues, it really impacted a lot of other musicians who went on to do great things. But that’s just the way music is — no one makes it up. Even Robert Johnson and Jimi Hendrix learned it from someone else.
F.W.: In addition to your musical career, you’ve got a fairly successful hot sauce company on the side. Do gigs like that provide a way to blow off steam?
G.L.: There are only so many hours in the day when you can be productive and really creative. So when I’m not playing my guitar, I channel that energy in different ways. When I first started, it was all about flyering, writing graffiti and making business calls. Then, I wanted to write a book about the music industry called “101 Ways to Not Fuck Up Your Chances of Becoming a Rock Star.” And then we got the hot sauce going, which I now put the most love and energy into. There’s always room for unique things like that, so long as they go with the music. The music has flavor, the hot sauce certainly has flavor [Laughs.], so it all goes hand-in-hand.
F.W.: Going forward, are there any goals you haven’t reached you still plan to conquer?
G.L.: Oh yeah, man — so many things. I just turned 40, but it’s funny, I feel like a kid who’s just starting out. That’s my mindset. There’s always the next life experience you want to write about, the next record you want to make, the constant pursuit of perfection. … Music is such an ethereal thing, but you have to keep striving to attain that magic. So my goal moving into 20-lucky-13 is to make a really great hit record. One that people want to hear again and again. That connects with people. That people are stoked to listen to and hear me play live. It’s all about making that connection.