Garrett Dutton, a.k.a. G. Love, has been delivering his brand of laid-back, blues-infused jams for a decade. Bursting onto the scene in 1994, he became an instant favorite with college crowds hungry for his unique blend of hip-hop and white-boy blues. G. Love and his band Special Sauce still have the power to charm -- their sold-out shows apparently thrill new generations of kids looking for a good time. Seven Days chatted with Dutton about life, love and Vermont in advance of the trio's performance this week in Burlington.
SEVEN DAYS: You're a veteran of the touring lifestyle. How do you stay sane on the road?
G. LOVE: Man, touring for me is, like, the zone, you know? I love touring 'cuz when I'm out on the road, I don't have to worry about anything except playing music. On a typical day I'll wake up, make a smoothie -- the whole freezer is stocked with frozen berries and shit -- hit the gym, maybe go in the pool. We'll walk around town looking for good restaurants... We're like the fine dining crew! Eating healthy is important on the road, for the amount of partying I do. Then we soundcheck, do the show, and after that it's shenanigans 'til 4 o'clock in the morning!
SD: Does it ever get tough to maintain "normal" human relationships when you travel around so much?
GL: Oh yeah, definitely. I was in a six-year relationship with the mother of my child, and we had a terrible breakup last year. That's the hardest thing about being a traveling musician. It's hard on them being at home with you not there, it's hard on you, 'cuz there's a lot of temptation on the road, and there's a lot of lonely times when you're away from your wife or your girlfriend. It's as old as apple pie with musicians, man. (Sings) "Who's makin' love to your old lady when you're out on the road?"
I've always been a child of the blues, and now I can really relate to all that shit I've been singing about, 'cuz I went through it. It was a pretty hurtful breakup, and I'm happy to be moving on from it. I'm single, I'm on the road -- I just want to have fun being a musician, and maybe even a rock star.
SD: Many of the fans with you at the beginning are probably settling down into 9-to-5s and children. Do they still come out when you play, or is it a whole new batch of college-age kids at the shows?
GL: It's funny, 'cuz the fan base has grown exponentially since we started. It's a lot wider, and the age range has gotten broader. We've always been lucky to catch the college kids every year, but I think it goes in cycles. Some people are long-time fans of bands, and some people go through phases with music and just like a band for a couple of years and then move on to new stuff. But we're packin' 'em in, and our fans have always been super-supportive. There's still the jerks that just want to hear the hit, but as long as they're at the show, it's enough for me.
SD: You've been making music with the same guys for a long time. How do you keep the sauce fresh?
GL: We do so much of our music off-the-cuff that every show kind of takes its own path. We've been at this for a while, and everyone's happy to be making music and making money! We're better friends now than we were in the first half of our careers -- things have settled and everyone's in their groove. We all love each other, and it's straight family, man.
SD: You're from Philly -- what were you listening to growing up in the city?
GL: I definitely listened to a bunch of crappy '80s music when I was a kid, but when I was 13 or 14 I started getting into some pretty hip shit. Reggae, like Yellowman, then a lot of early hip-hop. A lot of the blues. That started when I was around 17. I was heavy into Bob Dylan, and I had a harmonica, but I knew someone must be takin' it further than Neil Young and Dylan. Then I heard this blues guy John Hammond and his style of playing was what I emulated all through high school. I was trying to develop an identity... maybe it was an identity crisis.
SD: You've described the music you make as "The hip-hop blues." What does the term mean for you?
GL: That's just somethin' I made up... I'm not trying to brag, but, you know, no one else really does it. I kinda cornered the market on it. I'm never gonna be Muddy Waters or KRS-One, but I'm no longer trying to emulate my influences. It's me. I just talk about shit I know. I don't know anything about gang-banging (chuckles.) I do know a bit about picking up hos, but I don't quite put it like that.
SD: You met Jack Johnson while surfing in Malibu. How long have you been riding the waves?
GL: I've been surfing since I was 8 -- the same year I started playing guitar. I hit the Jersey shore, East Coast. I definitely can hang, you know? I mean, I don't get towed into, like, 30-foot pipelines or anything. When I'm on vacation, I always go looking for "exotic surf."
SD: As a "city boy," how do you feel about Vermont?
GL: I love Vermont. My manager graduated from UVM, and my high-school sweetheart went there. I have a lot of ties to Vermont, and I spent a lot of time up there. Burlington's a bit of a bubble. You know, a certain kind of people live there... (laughs) people that love nature and, like, jam-bands and shit like that!
SD: Would you ever consider moving here?
GL: I don't know if I'd wanna live there. I enjoy a big city like Philadelphia. I like to see a really wide variety of people every day -- from the richest people to the poorest people, blackest people to the whitest people, straightest people to the gayest people. Just all, blam! -- right up in your fucking face.