By Timothy Dwenger
He’s a friend of Phil Lesh, he’s toured in an acoustic trio with Bob Weir and Chris Robinson, released seven solo albums, been dubbed “The Prince of Americana” by The New York Times, and most recently, he was a member of The Black Crowes for a year. While this sounds like the resume of a grizzled music industry veteran, it’s merely a snippet of the first twelve years of the career of one of the most prolific young musicians today.
Currently 33, Jackie Greene’s solo material could be described as Americana-infused rock and roll and with seven albums under his belt in a little over a decade, it seems that his schedule is busier than most could handle. But like a bottleneck slide solo, Greene is constantly in motion, and he’s always looking to put his hands in other projects.
From tours with jamband legends Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, to playing lead guitar in The Black Crowes, to recording on his own and with the band Trigger Hippy, Greene’s schedule is usually packed, and it’s just the way he likes it. “Maybe it’s just that I’m incredibly A.D.D. so I need all of these projects to keep myself interested,” Greene joked during a recent interview with The Marquee on one of his rare days off. “Maybe that’s all it really boils down to; maybe it’s just really simple, that I’m just a nutcase and I can’t stick to one thing for too long.”
With all the time on the road, neck deep in several different projects at once, it’s a wonder Greene has time to write his own music at all, but somehow he accomplishes that in prolific proportions. “I probably should try and carve out time for writing but I sort of just take it when I can get it. If I find myself in a situation where I have a couple days off and I feel inspired to write, then I’ll do it. Last year, I had no time ’cause I was with the Crowes all year and we had barely any time off. So, for the last year, I’ve hardly written anything at all. I guess things have calmed down a little bit now and I can go back to being able to carve out that time for myself to work on my own stuff and write. I sort of have to wind down from last year; it was just a lot of work,”said Greene
It may have been a lot of “work” but from the sound of it, Greene enjoyed every minute. “[The Black Crowes] asked me to join the band for that year and play rock and roll guitar. It was something I always wanted to do, just be a guitar player and get to use my big loud amps. It was a lot of fun,” he said. “They’re such a great band. It’s really loud and it’s very primal rock and roll; stuff that I grew up on and really like. It was a lot of fun to play with Rich [Robinson], who’s a very different guitar player than myself, so it’s pretty interesting to play off of him.”
When The Crowes announced that he was going to step into the role recently vacated by guitar wizard Luther Dickenson of The North Mississippi Allstars, they had some fans scratching their heads and others even vocalizing their displeasure with the choice. Suffice it to say that as the tour went on Greene proved his chops and had many hardcore fans singing his praises as he sparred with Rich and shredded solos that many thought he couldn’t touch. “In a lot of projects I play in I’m still singing and trying to emote the song in some way. I look at that as my main job in those situations,” Greene said. “When my only task is to play rock and roll guitar then I put all my eggs into that basket and I let her rip and just go for it. It’s kind of reckless for me, in a way, and I like it.”
The marathon touring with The Crowes came to an end in December of last year and Greene recently wrapped up two weeks in the studio working on his next solo album, which should hit shelves in early 2015 if all goes according to plan. “I started working on it in Portland with my friend Steve Berlin [Los Lobos], who did a couple of my other records. We’ve been at it pretty hard for about two weeks straight, so now we’ve got to step away and listen to it and see if it’s where we want to be,” he said. “The songs are very — how do I put this — there’s a lot of pretty piano ballads on it. A lot of sort of heartfelt ballads, kind of like the stuff I used to do when I was younger. I guess it’s just sort of where I’m at in my head. It’s my early Elton John phase.”
Given that he was tearing it up on the guitar for a year with The Crowes, it’s not terribly surprising that he would want to change things up and focus on another side of his musical persona on his next record. To date, Greene has never been afraid to take chances and push the envelope and so far, things have gone very well. “I guess at the end of the day it’s about what you really want out of life,” he philosophized. “For the short time we’ve got we might as well try and enjoy ourselves, I suppose. I figure anybody ought to try and make a living doing what they like to do — doesn’t matter what it is.”
:: Jackie Greene ::
:: Gothic Theater :: June 20 ::
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