March 31, 2017 - "Till The Light Comes" - Live At Sweetwater Music Hall Jackie Greene continued his residency at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, California Friday night. The penultimate performance of the six-show run once again featured one of Greene’s studio albums played in full, with Friday’s concert kicking off with the 2010 record Till The Light Comes.
Mar 31, 2017 - "Giving Up The Ghost" - Live at Sweetwater Music Hall Last night Jackie Greene resumed his six-night residency at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, California. The sold-out fourth show of the run once again featured the complete performance of one of Greene’s studio albums, with Thursday’s audience treated to the 2008 LP Giving Up The Ghost.
March 25 - "Sweet Somewhere Bound" - Live from Sweetwater Music Hall On Saturday Jackie Greene continued a six-show residency at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, California. As reported, Friday’s first show of the Jackie Greene Band’s Spring Tour featured a complete performance of the singer-songwriter’s 2002 album Gone Wanderin’ as well as several special covers regularly played back when the record was initially released. Jackie and his band stuck to a similar script for Saturday’s show which included a complete performance of 2004’s Sweet Somewhere Bound and more songs the multi-instrumentalist liked to play in that time period.
March 26 - "American Myth" Live At Sweetwater Music Hall Marking the halfway point in his six-night residency at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, California, on Sunday singer-songwriter Jackie Greene and his band offered a complete performance of the 2006 album American Myth. The concert followed complete renditions of Greene’s 2002 album Gone Wanderin’on Friday night and 2004’s Sweet Somewhere Boundon Saturday.
San Francisco, CA: Jackie Greene and Joe Poletto, Founder of Blue Rose Music, today announced a unique business partnership agreement. Blue Rose Music is an artist collective that brings a technology start-up structure to the music business, with comprehensive, value based business development and guidance for the artist. This unique venture will apply sophisticated brand development and marketing strategies to increase Greene’s successful touring business while providing creative support with a forward leaning approach to recording and publishing.
Jackie Greene’s rock and roll résumé is no short list. He was a temporary guitarist of the Black Crowes, a later addition to Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh projects, and fronted Tigger Hippy with Joan Osborne. Greene and his crew played a set of songs sampling from his latest record to covers dear to him at the Hi-Fi this past Thursday. PATTERN chatted with Greene about his ventures growing up in the blues to performing with some of the biggest rock legends before he went on stage.
Aubrey Smith: You decided that you wanted to be a musician in your early teenage years. What made you stand apart from the hundreds of thousands of other young hopefuls that you can attribute your success to?
Jackie Greene: That is a good question. I don’t know that I can answer that honestly or objectively because it’s me. I would like to think that people might have seen some sort of authenticity that maybe others were lacking in their acts, at least in Sacramento where I started playing. In my mind I kind of attribute it to a lot of hard work and playing all the time. There’s a saying that you shouldn’t oversaturate your market. I think that might be true in some cases. But in my case, I ended up playing every night of the week when I was 21. I actually met Joe (our crew member) at the Torch Club, which is this tiny place like the one we are playing tonight. I played acoustic everything Tuesday and Thursday nights 4 to 7 during happy hour. I might have made 40 bucks or something like that. Then I would go to another club called the Blue Lamp, which used to be a strip club, and would play with a band there. So I would be playing three or four nights a week, five or six hours a night. You know what I mean? At some point it caught on. I distinctly remember the first time we had a line around the block of the club. It was so exciting. So the idea that there are the music business know-it-alls with these attitudes and opinions saying you shouldn’t over-saturate your market may be true in some cases. But if you’re just starting out, I would say oversaturate your market, especially if it’s a small market. There’s no shame for learning your craft and working on your act. So that whole ten thousand hours thing is very real for this job.
AS: Compare your current influences with those you had when you were a teenager?
JG: Well some of them are very much the same. I think a lot of us are influenced by things at a time in our life when we’re very vulnerable or very receptive to it. I’m definitely more of a Dead Head now, love the Grateful Dead. Growing up, I wasn’t really hip to the Grateful Dead. I was more into Bob Dylan and Tom Waits. When I got into high school, I was into old blues, folk, and rock and roll music. And a lot of the Grateful Dead music is rooted in that place. So it makes a lot of sense; I just didn’t put those pieces together until I met Phil Lesh and started playing with Phil and Bob (Weir) and I knew the songs in a different form somehow. I get it. I can see the origin of this music.
AS: It was a smooth transition.
JG: It was a very smooth transition. So my sense of performance and how the music can be done has opened up in the recent years. I’ve kept a lot of those original influences with me. I think there are two kinds of people: there’s people who like music and people who say they like music. And if you really like music, then you’re not bound to some sort of a genre. You just like good music. If you like George Jones, you can also like Snoop Dogg, you know? You don’t have to just like country music. So that’s the way I view music. You either like music or you think you like music.
AS: In 2011, you said you may never release another record, but here we are today five years later.
JG: I said that?!
JG: Oh wow I don’t remember saying that.
AS: So what changed?
JG: I feel like a politician now. Hah. Well quite frankly it was time to make another record. I think no matter what I say in regards to making records, I’ll probably always make another record. I might not always put it out. That’s another discussion. I think at the time when I said that I might have felt upset or overwhelmed for some reason. It was just time to do it. You just have a bunch of songs brewing and you have to get them out. At the end of the day, it’s how I make a living. No matter where I’ve lived in the past decade, I always end up at the studio. I always tell myself it’s too much work. It’s a money pit. Because it really is. I live in Brooklyn now, and inevitably I hate a studio.
AS: Can you share one of your most notable memories you’ve had with Lesh?
JG: Some of the fondest memories are actually the little things. We just did a pair of gigs in Coney Island. It was very different; we had a horn section for Phil and Friends. Looking over and seeing this “Phil smile” that kind of creeps up on his face when he likes something. I look over at him, and he’s having a good time. He’s a 75-year-old man, and that dude is still up here rocking. I have great respect for that. I can tell that he’s jazzed about something. On a personal level, he’s such a beautiful guy. Such a generous guy. I remember when the iPhone first came out. He was like, “Jackie have you heard of this new thing called the iPhone?” I was like, “No what is it?” He said, “Let me get you one.” So he got me an iPhone. Hah. Such a generous human being. Bob is the same way. Their personalities are quite different but their spirits are the same.
AS: Did you find the Dead Heads or your unfamiliarity with the Grateful Dead’s music intimidating or did it push you even harder to excel as their newest addition?
JG: Well at first it was incredibly intimidating because when I went into it, I was 26-years-old. I had heard all these stories like “don’t read the message boards. It will tear you apart.” These people can be horrible to you, and I was terrified about it. People would tell me not to set my drink down so I wouldn’t get dosed! It doesn’t happen, but people will say that it will. It was so scary. I distinctly remember one the first gigs we had was at the Berkeley Greek Theater, and I was freaking out. I was smoking cigarettes at the time. Phil gave me a couple of unopened packs of Jerry Garcia’s cigarettes from his old road case where he kept a bunch of personals for good luck. It was this thing where we would touch it to each other’s head before we went out. He took the time to chill me out. It calmed me down and I did my best. And again, maybe it’s that authenticity that people latch on to. I was genuinely moved by these songs, and I was genuinely doing them for the first time. The first time I sang Sugaree was at this huge venue. Phil told me he would like me to sing it, and I had never heard that song in my life. He said I will be fine. So I was like great. And he was right. It’s on the job training really. I think that’s about as fresh as you can possibly get. He’s pretty wise in that regard. He knows his way around the stage.
AS: You claim you’re not the type of musician that can fake it. What was does transparency mean to you?
JG: If you know me well enough, you’ll know it if I’m not having a good time on stage. In song writing, I have a hard time singing things that I’ve written that I don’t necessarily believe or at least feel on some sort of level. It doesn’t mean it’s not autobiographical or a true story. It just means there’s a truth embedded somewhere in the lyric that I believe. If that is true, then I am fully capable of singing the song and doing it justice. Which is why we choose our covers very carefully. I have a hard time singing something that I’m lukewarm about. I know people that can, and they’re great at it. They’re really great at singing a song that they couldn’t care less about. But I’m not. I’ve done it before, but it’s just uncomfortable. I feel like I’m full of sh*t, and I don’t like to feel that way.
AS: You seem to be very passionate about the underlying message of a song as opposed to “fancy” guitar tricks or solos, and I think that’s reflected in the production of your latest project. Is the idea of not overthinking it something you live by?
JG: There’s definitely a trap you can fall into now, particularly nowadays, where the recording process can be so swift and quite frankly cheap. I think you can easily fall into the trap of overcooking a song or production. Because you can try just about anything. One of the things that has always fascinated me is how they got records to sound so perfect in their imperfections. But also perfect in such a limited power to work with. I just think that translates to pure ingenuity and talent. Some painters can make any color just out of the primary colors. And some painters need to have every hue of every color on their palette. I tend to be the kind of painter that only needs the three colors. When I hear music that is made from nothing, it’s what gets me off. That’s the element of truth: there’s not a lot of trickery to it. If I fall into that trap, I don’t see myself getting out of it. There’s a song where I keep adding more and it doesn’t necessarily make it better. Picasso famously said that a painting is never finished. Meaning you should just leave it the f*ck alone.
Some painters can make any color just out of the primary colors. And some painters need to have every hue of every color on their palette. I tend to be the kind of painter that only needs the three colors."
All photos taken by Jeremiah Nickerson of Nusun Pictures.
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A self-described blue-collar rock star,
but a rock star nonetheless
September 22, 2016
It’s easy to picture the life of a hard working musician — playing late into the night, touring long cross-country miles on a bus, lugging equipment from town to town. But when Jackie Greene mentions work, that’s not the kind he’s talking about.
“As an artist, I am supposed to be vulnerable,” he says. “It’s my job.”
Music may be Greene’s art and his language, but it’s also his livelihood. Some say it’s the kind of job you’re born to do and yeah, talent is important, but to watch Greene play is to watch 35 years of life exploration pour out, each time better than the last.
His approach to music is susceptible and open, with the kind of wisdom that knows beauty happens when you are just as impressionable as you are creative.
Back to Birth, his latest album from 2015, is his most personal yet. The album is full of the honest truths of his day-to-day and, just like good folk music, it feels like sitting with a good friend while he tells stories about love, loss and the hard road of life.
Greene’s vulnerability is evident in his voice, in his expressions, in the way his hands strum the guitar, strike the piano or orchestrate the other musicians on the stage — it’s as if the music relies on Greene’s rhythm for its own.
Since his early 20s, Greene has played with Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Neal Casal, Gov’t Mule, BB King, Tim Bluhm and the Black Crowes, to name a few. In sharing the stage, Greene’s art and life is reminiscent of the so-called gurus in his artistic lineage. He’s been able to assimilate their knowledge of music, allowing it to leave a mark on him in the process.
Perhaps more notable than any stylistic similarities are those that lie beneath. The various artists in Greene’s musical lineage have each maintained an enduring humility, rarely succumbing to the vanity of their stardom. Instead, their popularity only seemed to fuel and inspire their love of live music.
Greene is likewise emerging as a master of live performance and comes at it with a sincere curiosity explored through an emphasis on the present.
“As an art form, [live] music is funny because you play it and then it is gone,” Greene says. “Not like a painting — you paint a painting and it is there and it is the same when someone else looks at it, but music is weird, it goes away. It is fleeting, you know? Where does it go once you play it?”
On the stage, familiar songs take on new life, each time telling their story a little differently, keeping a slightly different rhythm, staying true to their origins and reinventing themselves at the same time.
Similarly, Greene is a bridge between history and future, constantly bringing his music to the next generation without forsaking the traditions of the past. And, over the past 10 years Greene has progressed from the young talent in fine company to the leader of the pack — a powerful and humbling transformation to watch.
It’s powerful because he stepped into the role of conductor, orchestrating the notes as they are played and elevating everyone in the process.
It’s humbling because Greene seems to lead as if from behind, making everyone else shine more brightly, forsaking his own spotlight for the proverbial love of the game.
The result is ever-evolving music, each performance adding to the last.
“Let’s say you go see a concert and you hear your favorite song — that becomes the definitive version, that time you saw it,” Greene says. “It could be different every time, sometimes it is a lot different, sometimes not so much. Every time I go on stage it is a chance to make it a new, definitive version of every song we play.”
Greene feels a sense of relief in shedding constancy and embracing change — a messy style that fits Greene well, but is ill-suited for anyone who wants to take the blue collar out of being a rock star.
“I think there is a lot more power in just creating day-to-day art and music and whether or not you are commercially successful kind of doesn’t really matter,” Greene says. “For me being successful is more a matter of the art that you are able to create in your lifetime and what you are able to put out, music wise, in the world. A successful life for me includes all of those things: It includes music, it includes a family, it includes some sort of stability financially, it includes — you know I hate to say it — but sort of the normal things in life.”
Lately, he’s used this artistic mentality to explore other media — from photography to painting and linoleum block prints — where Greene is getting the chance to see his otherwise immaterial process take on a physical form.
“Basically I make huge messes,” Greene says. “I have paint everywhere. If this were the music studio, there would be cords and tables and shit lying around, but it’s paint and it’s everywhere. There is paint on the floor, for God’s sake.”
No matter what art form, creating is a fundamental part of living for Greene. The end product is often unrecognizable from its origins, but Greene says that’s more than OK — that’s how it should be.
“That’s part of the fun of the whole thing,” he says. “You don’t really know what’s coming.”
See Luther Dickinson and Jackie Greene Jam in New Guitar Series
D'Addario's Guitar Power collection features host Greene trading stories and licks with a range of guitar heros
The secret to Luther Dickinson's signature wailing slide-guitar groove? Start with the basics.
"In my community, everybody played with their fingers and everybody played slide guitar and open tuning," the North Mississippi Allstars frontman tells Jackie Greene, who sat down together during Nashville's Americana Fest to discuss Dickinson's approach to his instrument. And, of course, do a little noodling. (The two did time in the Black Crowes at different points in the band's career.) When Dickinson plays, his fingers do the walking — something host Greene points out in the video, the first of D'Addario's Guitar Power acoustic series.
"I don't think I've ever seen you use a pick," says Greene.
"I do, and I love them," insists Dickinson — though you're much more likely to see him capturing a "loose and light" style where he climbs freely along the entire neck of the guitar. He credits this approach to some early coaching from his father, Jim, a musician who played with Ry Cooder and pushed his son to study the rock & roll greats.
"He showed me Bo Diddley, and that's a great place to learn," Dickinson says, passing on this bit of advice to any aspiring axe-people: "I think the key to learning guitar with slide or your fingers is one string at a time."
As much as Dickinson is known for his guitar chops (he even has his own signature Gibson ES-335), he actually doesn't rely on the instrument as a songwriting tool.
"I like piano and drums. That's really my favorite way, to get a beat," he says, before dissolving into a "slow and bluesy" jam with Greene. "Get your song written, and then take it apart as if it wasn't even yours."
Future installments of the D'Addario Guitar Power series include guests David Rawlings, Chance McCoy from Old Crow Medicine Show and Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek.