Your guitar tone on this album is much
cleaner than your usual tone with
Yeah. The music itself dictated a change in
my approach. I went for a much cleaner,
more old-school blues and R&B sound.
Most of the sounds on the record are what
I consider to be “pre-rock” with lower gain.
For the most part, I am playing vintage
hollowbody guitars like Gibson ES-335s and
345s. On a couple of tracks, I played my Les
Paul and on a couple I played my D’Angelico
New Yorker. The intent was to go for a completely
different thing. The vibe was to take
the soul music of the late ’60s and combine
that with early-’70s blues—right when they
were making that transition more towards
soul music. We didn’t go in wanting to copy
anything directly. We just wanted to take a
cue from two worlds we felt would best represent
the songs we’d chosen.
What was it about the sound of the hollowbody
It just seemed like the right sound for the
music. 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. Of course Albert played
a V, but his sound was distinctive. We just
wanted to find something that matched the
music more than anything else.
Did you use a multi-amp setup?
Yeah, it was usually a combination of two or
three amps we recorded separately during the
session and then blended during the mixing.
I used a Trainwreck amp I borrowed from
a friend because my gear was all in New
York. Because we were recording in Texas,
it wasn’t possible for me to bring all of my
vintage gear. So I just brought a few things
and then borrowed the rest. Most of the amp
sounds were the Trainwreck, an old Fender
Vibrolux, or a ’60s Fender Super Reverb.
Armed with his vintage Gibson ES-335 and PRS amps, Haynes discusses a tune with
saxophonist Ron Hollaway at Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studios in Austin, Texas.
Photo by Stewart O'Shields
You and Gordie Johnson have worked
together before. When you’re in the
studio, what is the dynamic between you
When we start to record, Gordie is in the
control room and I’m on the floor with the
band. Once we graduate beyond that, we
work very well together and I take a very
hands-on approach. Gordie and I have a
very good working relationship. We trust
each other’s instincts, and if one of us
feels really strongly about something, the
other one usually backs off.
Does that happen very often?
Most of the time we agree, but if we
don’t, the one who feels the most passionate
takes the ball and runs with it.
But I trust his instinct so much, which
is why he is there. I not only trust him
sonically, but also from an arrangement
perspective. From a creative standpoint,
he is one of the best I have ever worked
with. The end result is always great
because neither one of us are going to
settle for less than something that satisfies
both of us.
Did recording at Willie Nelson’s
Pedernales Studios add to the vibe of
We recorded the last two Mule records
at Pedernales, so I’m very comfortable
there. Gordie works a lot out of there—
it tends to be his home base. There is a
big “comfort factor” there. Gordie knows
how to get what he is looking for in that
room, and it’s just a great place to record.
In order to do this kind of record, we
really needed a studio with a great vintage
mic and amp selection. It worked
Many of the songs have stretched-out
sections. Did you plan this going in?
We went into it knowing there needed to
be a lot of guitar playing in addition to
the songs and my voice, which tend to
be the focus of the record. The jams—
especially in the song outros—went
down just like you hear them on the
record. We had the option of shortening
them or fading sooner, but we felt that
would be the wrong choice. Most people
who buy this record would probably prefer
the longer version.
How did you decide on a good performance
in the studio?
When I’m looking for a good performance,
the most important factor is to
get the chemistry of the band together.
The call and response, and the interplay
between the musicians is more important
to me than how well I am playing at any
given moment, and that carries over into
Did you cut your solos live?
All the guitar solos were recorded live on the
basic track with the band—I don’t go back and
overdub them later. I find that’s pretty futile
in improvisational music. For me, capturing
the spirit of the whole band hitting on all
cylinders is the most important thing, and the
best way to capture that is to have the whole
band in the room looking at each other while
we’re playing. That’s what I am accustomed
to. It’s how we make Gov’t Mule records and
how we did the last Allman Brothers record.
Sometimes I think, “Well, maybe for the next
record I will overdub more,” but it never turns
out that way. I always find I’m happier with
the solos I play on the live track.