Get Behind The Mule | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Get Behind The Mule

Gov’t Mule, featuring (left to right) multi-instrumentalist Danny Louis, guitarist and vocalist Warren Haynes, bassist Jorgen Carlsson and drummer Matt Abts, performs Tuesday, April 14, at Thalia Mara Hall. Photo courtesy Gov’t Mule

Gov’t Mule, featuring (left to right) multi-instrumentalist Danny Louis, guitarist and vocalist Warren Haynes, bassist Jorgen Carlsson and drummer Matt Abts, performs Tuesday, April 14, at Thalia Mara Hall. Photo courtesy Gov’t Mule

Southern-rock jam band Gov't Mule has been a staple of the American live-music scene since forming in the early '90s, playing more than 100 shows a year. The band will perform Tuesday, April 14, at Thalia Mara Hall in Jackson. Here's what guitarist and vocalist Warren Haynes had to say about the past and present of Gov't Mule.

When you formed Gov't Mule, did you have any idea the band would still be around two decades later?

When we first formed Gov't Mule in 1994, (bassist) Allen Woody and myself were full time members of The Allman Brothers, but we had a fair amount of free time based around The Allman Brothers' schedule. We just decided to do something for the fun of it. We had no aspirations of it going for even five years, much less 10 or 20. We were just looking to do a project and didn't put any pressure on it whatsoever. It would have surprised any of us if you had told us that we'd still be doing it.

After Allen died, you brought in different bassists to pay tribute to him on "The Deep End, Vol. 1" and "The Deep End, Vol. 2." How did that come about?

When Allen first passed, our initial thought was that Gov't Mule was finished. It took me a long time to wrap my head around continuing without him. He was such a big part of the sound of the band and also the spirit. The trio, which is what we were in that time period, is the most sensitive of all rock 'n' roll formats. All three members have to be hitting on all cylinders at all times. You don't even have time to catch your breath when you're on stage as a trio, especially when you're basing your music on improvisation. ... The chemistry is very important, and the chemistry the three of us had was uncanny, not only as a band but as friends. To continue that seemed futile, but we got a lot of encouragement, not only from friends, but from people who lost key band members and continued.

Once we decided to give it shot, the question was put to us by management and the record company: "If you were to do a record, who would you want to play bass?" I would always, as some sort of smart-ass remark, say, "Well, for this song, I would want Jack Bruce (of Cream), and for that song, I want Bootsy Collins (of Parliament-Funkadelic), and for this song I would John Entwistle (of The Who)," and so on. So, after that banter occurred a few times, we decided, "Why not?" Why don't we invite some of Woody's favorite bass players to come and make a record with us? It'll be a healing process and also buy us some time so we wouldn't have to decide on a permanent replacement.

People in Jackson would be interested to know you played with Mississippi blues artist Little Milton. Why do you think Gov't Mule thrives on collaborations?

I think partially because we started out as a trio, it was always a welcoming experience when one of our friends and cohorts came on stage to play with us. It was like adding to what we had. Part of our philosophy is that every concert experience should be different from the last. One of the ways that we go about that is by inviting people on stage or into the studio to see what happens. I was honored to call Little Milton a friend. I miss him a lot. We shared a lot of great memories together. Being in Jackson will conjure up some good memories of him.

You're primarily known as a live band. How does that translate in the recording studio?

We love making studio records, but it's a whole different mindset. We're much more comfortable on stage making music in front of audiences. You can't get that in the studio. We're always trying to conjure in the studio the energy we are capable of making on stage. That may be backward. The concert stage is our laboratory.

Do you find your skills as a vocalist and guitarist complement each other?

I started singing first. I was 7 or 8. All my heroes were soul singers. It would be several years before I heard bands like Cream, (The) Jimi Hendrix Experience and Johnny Winter. It was that music that made me want to play guitar. In my mind, they were always equally important: Singing, guitar playing and songwriting were three things I had in my life that were very positive. ... If I was ever down on my guitar playing, I could feel good about my singing. It was always one of those things to keep me feeling good about what was going on. I think we're all our own worse critics. It's probably a good thing because it drives you to want to do better.

Gov't Mule performs 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, at Thalia Mara Hall (255 E. Pascagoula St., 601-960-1537). Tickets are $25.50 to $45.50 at For more information, visit

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