Always Refreshing
Celebrating Twenty Years of G. Love

Words by Audra Tracy
Photo by Emmett Malloy

Remember when you were young, hanging out with your friends on a sunny summer afternoon, blasting your G. Love & Special Sauce CD, jammin’ along to ‘Baby’s Got Sauce’ and ‘Cold Beverage’? Yeah, well, as it turns out, that was twenty years ago.

The trio is celebrating the anniversary of their debut self-titled album in 2014 by bringing the original line-up together and hitting the road for a national tour. We caught up with G. Love (aka Garrett Dutton) in between a few West Coast gigs to talk about his super sweet new album, Sugar, and what he’s learned through two decades in the music biz.

Reaching this milestone is mind-blowing for the Philly-based artist, who was just a teenager when his band unleashed their signature blend of hip hop and blues. “Looking back, I’m like damn, I was so young, but this is pretty profound”, Dutton says of the debut album.

2014 not only marks the trio’s 20th anniversary, it also coincides with the upcoming release of a rockin’ new record, Sugar. Together again, Dutton (vocals/guitar/harmonica), James “Jimi Jazz” Prescott (upright bass) and Jeffrey “The Houseman” Clemens (drums) created their first album in over eight years, and it can be yours this April 22nd via Brushfire Records.

“We really came back to the hip hop/blues on this record, which is kind of what the first record was. So Sugar is right in that vein”, he says. “We wanted to approach this session like an old blues recording – have everyone in the room together, no isolation, not a lot of overdubs”, he goes on. “And really capture the magic. Sometimes that can go both ways, but this time the band was playing great and everyone was really into the material, so I think it was our best session ever.”

Sugar gets even sweeter with the addition of some special guests, including Eric Krasno (Soulive), David Hidalgo (Los Lobos), Marc Broussard, Shamarr Allen, Kristy Lee, and Merry Clayton.

“The first night David Hidalgo from Los Lobos came in and played guitar….and having him in the studio really inspired us”, Dutton shares. “We really caught something that first night, and got three takes that made the record…and so after that we were just kind of in it and just rode that energy.”

Dutton and his crew are taking that energy on the road this year to celebrate both the past and the present. For the first set, fans will hear the debut album in its entirety, while the second set will showcase a little bit of Sugar.

“The first set is a lot of passion, with this great group of songs that everyone knows and loves, and then we come back after that and kick people’s asses with the new shit”, he laughs.

The ‘new shit’ comes from a whole new world, as the music industry’s landscape has changed a lot since 1994. But even as the digital age continues its rapid evolution, Dutton is taking it all in stride, and sees the bright side of this new frontier.

“There used to be such an emphasis on being radio-friendly or commercial”, he says, “but now…it doesn’t matter if you record with one mic or a thousand microphones, it just has to be great. There’s no rules, and that’s kind of liberating right now. You feel like, now more than ever, you don’t need to compromise, and you shouldn’t compromise.”

So if hindsight is 20/20, what would advice would ‘2014 Garrett’ give to ‘1994 Garrett’ today?

“Get your shit together!”, Dutton laughs. “Learn the music business. It took me a while to wrap my head around it. When I was younger I was so strong-willed and such a purist about the whole thing we do. Because of that, we made some great music, but also because of that we missed some opportunities. If I could go back, I would do a lot the same but some things differently.”

So with a head full of Sugar and a pocketful of memories, G. Love is poised for whatever may be on the horizon.

“You are as good now as you ever were or will be”, he concludes. “I mean that because you can get better on the guitar and harmonica, and become a better singer and performer, but ultimately what you are getting across is you, and you’ve always been you and you’re always gonna be you. Some days you are gonna hit it, some days you’re not, but it’s gonna be always you.”

Get some ‘Sugar’ here, and see all tour dates here! | Sugar