Live & Direct: Gov’t Mule
The legendary Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule dropped by for a solo Live & Direct Session with Joey Spehar on July 25th, 2023 before their Dark Side of the Mule tour headed to Stage AE.
Listen to more Gov’t Mule here.
- “Beautifully Broken”
- “Gone Too Long”
- “Old Friend”
- Warren Haynes: Vocals & Guitar
- Host: Joey Spehar
- Audio Engineer: Thomas Cipollone
- Audio Mix: Tom Hurley
- Videographer/Editor: Nick Wright
- Program Director: Liz Felix
- VP, Broadcasting: Mike Sauter
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Joey Spehar: Good afternoon. We are Live and Direct today with Warren Haynes, the Leader of Government Bureau. I'm Joey Spehar. Real nice to be here with Gov’t Mule. You all are in town tonight for a show at Stage AE. They got a new record out. We're going to talk about all of that and probably more. But Warren, I'd love it if you could kick us off with the song.
Warren Hayes: Absolutely.
Song: “Beautifully Broken”
We are Live and Direct this afternoon with legendary musician Warren Haynes. He is in town tonight with his band Gov’t Mule — they’re doing Dark Side of the Mule at Stage AE. And you know, if you've been meaning to see the Mule play some Pink Floyd, I think that you better act now because these guys are putting the project on the shelf for a bit. Warren's tune it up for the next song, but we got a lot of great stuff to come here this afternoon. And if you haven't heard their new album yet, piece Like a River, you got to dive into that one because it is absolutely beautiful. We just heard the song Beautifully Broken, a classic. And h are we feeling?
Warren Hayes: Good. Good.
Joey Spehar So you're putting this Mule project on the shelf for a bit, right?
Warren Hayes Dark Side of the Mules started in 2008 when we played some Pink Floyd stuff for our Halloween show. We always do a thematic weird Halloween show and the Orpheum Theater in Boston. We did about 90 minutes of Pink Floyd for the second set and people flipped out over it and kept demanding that we do it again. So we did it a handful of other times and we actually released the recording, which we weren't sure we were going to do. We had kind of retired it until this year. We realized it's the 50th anniversary of Dark Side of the Moon, so we decided to do it one more time and then retire it for good.
Joey Spehar Well, I'll never forget the first time that I saw you play a Pink Floyd song. It was Bonnaroo 2004. My buddy Phil and I drove down from Pittsburgh to see the Dead who you were playing with at the time. And I mean, my God, what a musical experience that was. I actually had to verify: I didn't see you do any Floyd before because I did catch with Phil here in Pittsburgh a couple of years prior. But you just did a Gov’t Mule cover. But anyway, I had never heard Pink Floyd in the context of the Dead before, and I thought that that was so powerful and something that you've always done amazingly well, kind of connecting those musical worlds together. Do you ever feel like it's part of your mission in life to, you know, to tell these musical stories, whether you wrote them or not?
Warren Hayes: Yeah, I think that's part of it. I've always said that there's three reasons, three main criteria for me to choose a cover. One would be if it was a song I always wanted to sing. One would be if it was a song I wish I had written. And one would be if I felt like we can put our own spin on it and do it in a way that makes sense that people are going to connect with. But also part of it is connecting the younger audience with where this all comes from. You know, so when we do covers, sometimes they're really obscure and the fans have to go dive in and figure out what it is and listen to the original version for the first time or something. You know, there's a lot of young fans out there now, like 14 years old, that are coming to music shows that are just discovering Gov’t Mule for the first time, but they're also just discovering Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix for the first time. And it's blowing their heads off, you know?
Joey Spehar: Yeah. I mean, I personally didn't really discover Floyd or The Dead or any of that kind of classic stuff that you don't hear on the radio until I was in high school in the 90s. But you must have been, what, a kid or a teen when Dark Side came out?
Warren Hayes: I think I was, yeah. If maybe a teenager or younger. I grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, and a bass player that I knew had Dark Side of the Moon and played it for me. Is that '73?
Joey Spehar: '73, yeah.
Warren Hayes: So I was 13.
Joey Spehar: Okay.
Warren Hayes: And totally flipped out. Yeah. And now when I hear that music now again, you know, we've heard that stuff so much, but I went back recently and listened to some of it to kind of get a refresher. And, you know, it's it's even better now than it was then.
Joey Spehar: I think so, too. And I remember hearing Dark Side for the first time, you know, probably 25 years ago and thinking like, wow, this is really dealing with modern themes. And that record was already 25 years old at the time. So, you know, I feel if you, you know, switch around a couple of lyrics, you know, insert a line about tick tock. It could be made today. So, you know, what about Dark Side or some of these other classic albums make it feel timeless for you.
Warren Hayes: Well, the way they're recorded as far as sonically, you know, there's no stamp, no date stamped on it. It could be recorded in any era because it is recorded in a really organic, timeless way. They're not chasing the trends of the moment. And then lyrically and musically, all the influences that they choose are timeless influences and starting with the lyrics. My problem with a lot of music that I grew up with, some of it doesn't hold up lyrically, but the Floyd stuff is even more valid, you know? And it's just because those lyrics are so amazingly written and it's because they take the music so seriously. You know, it's not it's not chasing some trendy moment where you're trying to, no offense, get on the radio. You know, they were never trying to get on the radio. They did because they were so good.
Joey Spehar: Yeah. 50 years later. Still on the radio all the time. So what about your son? Is he interested in all of this?
Warren Hyes: Yeah, he's playing drums. He's 11, about to turn 12, and he's been playing drums in School of Rock, and he has a beautiful singing voice, but he's a little shy about singing in public at the moment, but he's got a really cool natural talent. I don't know if he'll choose to go that direction. I don't want to pressure him, but he really loves music.
Joey Spehar: Good. And if he loves music, he's growing up in the right household for it. We are Live and Direct this afternoon with Warren Haynes. He's in town with his band Government Mule, for a show at Stage E tonight. They'll be playing some Floyd, they'll be playing some Mule and who knows what else. And they've got a new record out called Peace Like a River. We're going to talk about that. But Warren, I would absolutely love if you play a couple more songs for us.
Warren Hayes: Well, speaking of the new record, I'll Do Something From Peace Like a River. I can't do many of those songs by myself, but this one, I think I can. This song called Gone Too Long that I dedicated to David Crosby. It's not about him, obviously, but it's influenced by him. And he passed before we finished our records.
Song: “Gone Too Long”
Warren Hayes: So I did a new and now I'll do an old. This is a song that I wrote, that we recorded with the Allman Brothers on the Hitting the Note record, and it was really just me and Derek Trucks, the two of us on acoustic guitar.
Song: “Old Friend”
Joey Spehar: We are Live and Direct today with the legendary Warren Haynes. My name is Joey Spehar. I'm on the radio each and every day. I've driven fast cars, man. I even won a thousand bucks on a scratch off ticket once. But there is no thrill in this world like watching Warren Haynes pull the slide out of his pockets. That was the old song Old Friend and the Mule are at stage a E tonight. You can find all the details you need about that show and a whole lot of other shows because there are plenty coming to Pittsburgh and you can find them all at wyep.org.
We just heard Old Friend and before that song from the new album called Gone Too Long. So Warren, I've been loving your new album. It's really great. And at least to me, it feels it feels a little different from, from some of the other records that you've made with your band. And I always love you guys in the way that you're able to, you know, call out nonsense and hypocrisy in the world. But I'm loving the positivity that's on display on this new one. Especially dealing with topics like loss. So can you talk about that a bit? Because it is different, right? Especially when you pair it with the Heavy Load Blues, the other album that you made at the exact same time?
Warren Hayes: Yeah, we had so much material accumulated during the lockdown and we had been talking about making a blues record, but I thought, well, we got to record all this new material, so maybe we can make two records. If we find a place where we can set up two different, completely different setups. We set up a bunch of old small vintage gear in this little room and played blues in that room. And we set up our normal toys in the big room and we would go in in the morning or noon and start working on piece like a river till about 9 p.m. And then we would move over to the little blues room and play blues the rest of the night.
And it was a formula that worked during lockdown. We couldn't tour, we couldn't travel. We had just started to feel comfortable being around each other. So we just had a tiny little group of people and making two records. I wouldn't normally recommend that, but under the circumstances it was really great. And so we spent several weeks in the studio. We started out writing and rehearsing because we kind of felt like we just needed to get our sea legs back. It had been so long since we'd been on the road. The new record, something about all the songs that I wrote during the lockdown. I didn't want to like wallow in the mire of negativity. I wanted the songs or I actually didn't have much choice about the songs having some sort of Covid centric themes, but I wanted to focus on relationships and moving forward and getting beyond this and what we learn from it and how we're going to make it in the future once this is all behind us, You know, so a lot of the writing turned to that, and I'm really, really happy with the way the record came out, because if you listen to it now, you get little glimpses of, Oh, this song must have been written during Covid, but it's not about that and it doesn't dwell on it. It just kind of takes it into part of the equation.
Joey Spehar: The production on it, I think, is so ambitious too. I mean, everything feels really beautifully dense on this album. I feel like if given a choice, you'd probably rather be on stage, but I think you do crush it in the studio. So when you go to make a record, is there a hard and fast plan? Do you know what you want it to sound like, or is it a Let's start playing and see what happens kind of situation?
Warren Hayes: Well, in the case of these two records, we knew that we wanted them to sound completely different from each other. We wanted Heavy Load Blues to sound like an old blues record made, you know, 50 years ago, but Peace… Like a River, we just wanted it to capture Government Mule where it is now and be much more sonically fresh. And I think we were able to accomplish both of those things. I co-produced with my friend John Paterno, who is a fantastic engineer, and the technical challenges all fell on him. Doing two records at the same time is a lot to ask of an engineer. You know, it was a constant challenge, but it was it was amazing. And it was an amazing way to spend time being creative at a time that we weren't allowed to or, you know.
Joey Spehar: Yeah. And a lot of great friends show up on this album. One of the ones that really stuck out to me was The River Only Flows One Way. And for people who haven't heard this yet, the song features a narrator more than a singer.
Warren Hayes: Yeah, Billy Bob Thornton, who is an old friend, he kind of talk singed or did spoken word in the verses. And then I sang in the chorus, but I knew it was it was the first time I'd written a song where I knew that I wanted the verses to be spoken. And we recorded it with me doing it, and we actually included that version on the bonus deluxe edition. But I knew that I wanted a more special kind of narrator voice. And Billy has one of those voices that just kind of draws you in to the picture. And it was perfect. He crushed it.
Joey Spehar: Yeah, he really did. And speaking of guests and friends, like I said, there's so many on this new album. You know, Billy Gibbons is on there. But I want to take you back a bit first. About 20 years and a month or so ago, summer of 2003, you walk out on the stage. We're going to talk about Bonnaroo again. But it was just you and an acoustic guitar. You sang a bunch of your favorite songs and then when you played Soul Shine, you introduced it. You said, ‘When you hear this voice, you're going to hear this voice for the rest of your life.’ And you were talking about a guy named Vusi Mahlasela. And you were right. I have not stopped listening to that since I heard it. So these days, I want to know who are you loving? Who do you think that we need to hear for the rest of our lives?
Warren Hayes There's a woman named Celisse that sang on Just Across the River on our new record. And she's not only a great singer, but a fantastic guitar player as well. And I had done something with her, I had heard some videos and stuff and really was digging her voice and her play in. And then we wound up on a benefit show together and we hit it off and talked about doing something. So we had her join us on this on this record, and she's fantastic. I mean, she's getting a lot of attention right now because she's such a great guitar player, in addition to being a great singer. So she's someone that I'm checking out a lot.
Joey Spehar: Yeah, She played here in Pittsburgh not too long ago. Or, you know, who knows what too long ago is now. Could have been 4 years at this point. But she is just magnificent to watch. So I'm glad that that you got her on the album. Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mul, are in town tonight playing a show at stage. They're going to be doing some Dark Side and some Mule stuff. Warren, I thank you so much for coming by and talking with you. It's always a pleasure. Would you play us one more song?
Warren Hayes: Absolutely. This is a Mule song called Captured that appeared on our record, Shout. Shout was a record where we did a bonus CD that had our friends and favorite singers doing alternate versions. And a lot of great singers like Ben Harper and Steve Wlwood and Myles Kennedy and Elvis Costello. We mentioned Elvis earlier. Jim James from My Morning Jacket sang the alternate version of this song on the bonus disc of Shout. But this is my version, which is more like the way I wrote it originally.
Joey Spehar: It's Warren Haynes, Live and Direct here on WYEP. Peace… Like a River is the new album, and the Dark Side of the Mule show taking place tonight at Stage AE. Warren, always a pleasure to talk with you. And I thank you for your generosity coming in today.
Warren Hayes: My pleasure. Good to see you.