G Love is a cool guy. He hangs out with cool guys, he plays cool music, he looks cool and he does cool things. Touring with his drummer Jeffery Clemens and his bassist Jim “Jimi Jazz” Prescott since 1993, G Love and Special Sauce (GLaSS) have turned out five albums and one “Best of” to date. I recently got the chance to chat with G just as he was finishing up a West Coast tour with 311. No stranger to high-profile tours and big billings, G has played with artists such as Dave Matthews, Ben Harper, John Popper and Jack Johnson. He plays a funk mix of blues and raps and mixes everything with an urban background in what he calls, “Philadelphonic street-side or hip-hop blues.” The sound is a tight mix brewed in the streets of Philly with a dash of Boston and New Orleans for good measure. Before getting immediately down to business though, I had to clear something up that had been bothering me for some time:
So G I’m sure that you didn’t know, but being that my first name also starts with a G, I actually took the nickname G. Love sometime back in the late ’80s when I was 8 or 9. But then you came along and stole it. So I guess what I’m saying is that the way I see it you owe me a dope nickname.
(Laughing) Yeah all right man, I’ll have to figure that out soon.
I know you’re finishing up a West Coast tour and that you love surfing, have you been able to get any surfing in lately?
Actually no I haven’t. I do love surfing but my back is kinda messed up right now so I haven’t been able to get out there at all.
How has surfing and that lifestyle influenced your life and your music?
Surfing and just spending time on the beach chilling or on the porch during summer, that’s what I love doing: riding my bike, hanging out and just feeling good.
When I first heard of you I was probably 15 or so and working at Starbucks… you were writing songs and playing music. When you were that age where did you realistically see yourself being now?
Hah, you mean when I was 15? Man I was just doing what everybody was doing: screwing around and living with my parents, listening to music and playing guitar.
Rolling Stone gave your first album a four-star review. How much would you say, did that help to kick-start you as a band?
I guess I’d have to say that it was a really big honor. I was actually embarrassed because it was something I never expected. I mean, I would walk into a Tower Records store and my face is right there and I was like “Whoa, this is weird.” I would say it helped to continue the ball of energy rolling. It perpetuated our career.
G Love and Special Sauce were the first white artists to be released on the newly-reactivated OKeh Records Label, what kind of meaning did that hold for you?
That was also a big honor, that had lots of history.
You relocated to New Orleans after releasing your first album in Boston. How did that geographical change affect your second album?
Actually, only our drummer [Jeffery Clemens] moved down there, but we did record the album in New Orleans. It was cool. The whole New Orleans culture seeped in; that album [Coast to Coast Motel] was real bluesy. Particularly the song “Chains.” That song came from a chant in one of the parades down there.
In 1995 you did your first really big tour (the H.O.R.D.E tour). I had read that you said you enjoyed musical festivals, is that still true?
Oh sure we do a lot of music festivals. We have the Austin City Limits Festival coming up next I think. Yeah, I like festivals because it brings the vibe together. It elevates the performances because you’re playing with your peers.
I know that Blues Traveler was also on that tour and John Popper is one mean harp (harmonica) player, did you get the chance to jam with him ever?
Yeah actually I just sat in with John the other night in Texas. I’ve gotten pretty friendly with those guys. I’ve probably sat in with John around six times, but I’ll get really nervous ’cause, I mean, John’s a real virtuoso. I can blow my own on a harp but I mean he’s got his own style. He’s like, “no one can fuck with me.”
A lot of people compare you to Elvis not only because you look something like him, but also because you’ve taken several large steps into what many would consider a largely African-American style of music. That must be f**kin cool to be compared to Elvis.
I guess I do get compared to him. When I was younger I used to rock suits on stage more of the time, so back then I got compared to him more often. Now days I’m much more laid back in what I wear. But yeah, that’s awesome to be associated with him. If I’m mentioned with the king then that must make me a prince, right? (laughing)
I read in an old MTV News interview that you were hoping Philadelphonic would be the little nudge that would put you where you wanted to be. What kind of nudge did the record give you?
Philadelphonic was a good record. It got us a lot of new fans and it kept everything going. It was kinda tough because it didn’t turn out to be as large as we had expected. That was the CD with Jack Johnson (Jack Johnson wrote and sang on the song Rodeo Clowns on that album) and after that he kinda blew up and we didn’t. I mean we were on the right track; we picked a great song and our label just kinda slept on us. I’m really happy for Jack and everything but I thought we were going to get more attention. It’s okay though because we’ve got it coming soon.
For our next CD, Electric Mile, we just decided to do some surreal music stuff. Something that was not commercial at all, but actually artistically good.
In the music industry though it is so commercially driven now that you have to make an album that’s going to get heard though.
Along those same lines, are you at all bitter about never having much attention from MTV?
At this point I’m just happy doing what I do. I’m just trying to make great music. Before, when I was young, I wasn’t wise to the game and I was openly dissing radio & MTV. “F**k all that s**t,” I would say. I don’t know if they ever heard any of that stuff but I just wasn’t good at the game. Now I’m a little older and a little more mature and when business needs to get done, I get it done.
You write a phenomenal amount of material. How much time would you say you spend writing songs?
Well, it comes in spurts. I might not write for a couple weeks or even months. That s**t needs to come out on its own. You know what I’m saying? Forced music is . . . well, forced. I mean a song just starts in your head when you’re walking or when you wake up or when you’re just in the mood.
How would you classify your style of writing?
I would say I’m just a songwriter. Street-side or hip-hop blues is what I call it. I incorporate a lot of things into this urban style, but it’s not ghetto because I’m not ghetto. I’m a city kid you know? That’s where I grew up, in the city.
I know that you’ve had many writing influences such as Bob Marley and Bob Dylan. Is there any song that you listen to or read and say to yourself, “Man, I woulda really liked to write that song?”
Yeah, (laughing) I would love to have written Dylan’s “Girl From The North Country”. I mean, that’s a really powerful love song and it hits me so deep. Actually, just the other night I was with my girl, you know, and Dave Matthews’ song “Crash (Into Me)”came on and it was just so perfect right then. I was just like “Damn I wish I wrote this song.”
Speaking of Dave, you’ve worked with some of my favorite artists such as Ben Harper, Dave Matthews and Sublime and we mentioned Jack Johnson. That must be really incredible getting to work with such a wide variety of talent. I can’t imagine a much chiller group of people to work with. Who are some of your favorite artists to collaborate with?
Well, I mean all of those guys are pretty much my boys and who I hang with, you know? It’s a pretty cool community for sure.
Is there anybody you still would particularly like to work with?
I’d like to do something with Fiona Apple and I might be doing something with Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas soon.
You have helped a lot of different artists start their own careers, like Johnson. Do you see yourself as somewhat of a businessman as well as artist?
I see myself as a musician knowledgeable about my business.
Lastly G, I read an interesting quote recently that was attributed to you and I wanted to see if it was something you really said. (G starts laughing) I read somewhere that you are anti-CDs because if they start skipping while you’re making love you have to get up and change the CD, while if you were listening to vinyl you’d just have a little tsssh tsssh tsssh in the background. Is this true?
(Still laughing) That is a true statement. I didn’t have a CD player back when I said that, I didn’t even have the money for a CD player. Besides, there’s just something about vinyl.
I recommend you get one of those new anti-skip CD players. You know, the ones you can practically throw against the wall and they still work? At least that’s what I always use in bed.
Oh we’ve got a funny guy here, is that it? Let’s not get carried away now G.