Warren Haynes with his Cherry Red 1959 Gibson ES-345. "I always think back to B.B. King, Freddie King,
and Albert King. That was the sound I
was looking for, and they played a lot of hollowbodies."
Photo by Stewart O'Shields
Warren Haynes is probably the leading
candidate to take over the late,
great James Brown’s title of "The Hardest
Working Man in Show-Business." Haynes’
ability to morph into any musical situation
is a rare trait and one that has brought him
to the forefront of modern guitar heroes.
Combining a Southern rock attitude with
a classic rock ethos, Haynes’ main creative
outlet has been Gov’t Mule. Shortly after
he formed the group in 1994, they released
their self-titled debut album. The muscular
sound of Haynes, drummer Matt Abts,
and bassist Allen Woody forged one of the
strongest power trios in recent memory.
After Woody’s death in 2000, Haynes and
Abts expanded the group to include keyboardist
Danny Louis and current bassist
In 1993, Haynes released his first solo
album, Tales of Ordinary Madness
critical acclaim. Produced by legendary
session keyboardist Chuck Leavell, this
album foreshadowed the sound and material
that Haynes would later develop further
with Gov’t Mule. Since then, he has
released two live solo albums, (2003’s The
and 2004’s Live at Bonnaroo
released 16 live and studio albums with
the Mule. It is easy to see why his latest
album, Man in Motion
, was a long time in
With Man in Motion
, Haynes returns
to his roots with a collection of R&B
tunes that combines elements of Motown,
Stax, and Muscle Shoals into a modern
tribute to his heroes. “This album was a
real labor of love and a dream that Warren
has had for a long time,” says Gordie
Johnson, who co-produced the album
with Haynes. Even though this is a new
release for Haynes, he recorded the album
at the same time as the most recent Gov’t
Mule album, By a Thread
For this project, Haynes wanted to expand
the sound beyond the trios and quartets he
usually plays with. Joining him on the album
is a New Orleans-based rhythm section that
includes drummer Raymond Weber, bassist
George Porter, Jr., and keyboardist Ivan
Neville. Rounding out the band is saxophonist
Ron Holloway—a longtime Haynes collaborator—
and vocalist Ruthie Foster, who
is also a fine guitar player. And while Haynes
was tracking the record in Austin, he invited
former Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan to
join the musical party.
We recently caught up with Haynes
between rehearsals for the Allman Brothers’
annual residency at New York’s Beacon
Theater to discuss hollowbody guitars, the
three kings of the blues, and how he still
continues to kick out the jams.
You’re quite a prolific songwriter. Did you
write the songs on Man in Motion specifically
for this project, or have you been collecting
them over the years?
Haynes digs into a Gibson non-reverse Firebird with three P-90s during a gig in Negril, Jamaica, on January
27, 2011. Photo by Dino Perrucci
It was a combination of both. The majority
were probably written with the project in
mind or at least within a short window of
time in the last two or three years. There
are a couple of songs that go back further,
like “Real Lonely Night” and “Your Wildest
Dream,” that I’ve just needed an outlet for.
Most of the other stuff is pretty new.
What was your songwriting process?
I’ve been a lyrics-first type of guy, but in
the last few years I have been trying to do
the opposite just to shake things up and
not fall into a pattern. I often tend to write
when I am lyrically inspired and then somewhere
during the process of putting the
lyric together I get some sort of cadence or
melody in my head, which will eventually
lead to the music. But that’s not always the
case. Some of the songs on this record were
written with the music first. I guess I don’t
have a set way to write.
How did you choose the band for the album?
They were all exactly who I would prefer to
interpret the songs for this kind of project and
this type of music. George Porter, Jr., Ivan
Neville, Raymond Weber, Ron Holloway, and
even Ruthie Foster had all worked with me
on previous projects. The only person I had
not worked with before was [Faces keyboardist]
Ian McLagan who was kind of brought
in at the last minute. Gordie Johnson, the
co-producer and engineer on this project, had
been working with Ian on some other stuff.
Ian lives in Austin, where we were recording,
so Gordie thought it would be nice to have a
dual-keyboard setup, similar to The Band with
Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel, where
there are two keyboardists playing all the time.
Ivan knew Ian from when they worked together
on a Keith Richards project. I met Ian in
the studio for the first time and things just fell
in place very quickly and organically.
Did any songs develop in something different
once you were in the studio?
“A Friend to You” originally was all one
time signature. Right before I showed
the songs to the band, Gordie and I were
messing with the arrangement and I came
up with the idea to make the intro and
the bridge in 6/8 instead of 4/4. The final
version, which was what we showed the
band, had those time-signature changes.