Garrett Dutton AKA G.Love (of G.Love and Special Sauce) Shares Cannabis Stories
We think it safe to say that every rock star has a unique and interesting relationship to cannabis- whether or not they use the plant themselves. This week, The Mary Jane Experience had the opportunity to interview Garrett Dutton – better known as G.Love – the lead singer of G.Love and Special Sauce. We have to admit, we fell in love with him a little bit. G.Love was honest, kind, funny, way cooler than we will ever be, and completely full of entertaining stories.
G.Love has not been shy about his use of cannabis, he has a song called “Who’s Got The Weed” and the subject comes up often in his music.
While G.Love is clearly no stranger to smoking weed, we were curious to hear about how cannabis has influenced his music and overall career, crazy backstage stories, if he is looking to get into the cannabis industry and insights into his life in general.
We recorded from The Green Room at the Belly up in Aspen, Colorado – where many of the biggest names in music play – and quite honestly, this is one of the coolest interviews we have done to date.
While the entire interview is transcribed below – we highly recommend listening to the podcast version of this episode to hear G.Love’s unique way of speaking and the many laughs that came along the way.
Check it out:
How Many Times Have you Played Belly Up?
We’ve been playing this room well before it was Belly Up, when it was the Double Diamond. We played it back in the early nineties. Then we used to play the Howlin’ Wolf also, which was another place in Aspen, maybe before the Double Diamond. We’ve been planning this room forever, we’ve probably played it almost every year since it’s been the Belly Up.
You have to watch out here because you’re high up in the mountain. So if you are drinking on stage it can get to you. And then if you smoke some of that could Colorado Kind Bud – one night I got a little ahead of myself and one fan was really pissed off and he was tweeting at me saying ‘you’re fucking drunk, I came to see your show not to see you be a fucking drunk ass’.
I was disappointed. I always want everyone to be happy and put on a great show. You have to respect the stage and respect your audience. People spend a lot of their hard-earned money to come to a show and you want to give them a great show. They wouldn’t spend the money if they didn’t love the music. It sucks if you turn somebody off like that.
Colorado’s interesting, I stopped drinking before the shows. It’s been about three or four years now, it started at Red Rocks when we were opening for Blues Traveler. My friend from Colorado was like, yo just be careful with your pre-show drink up here. I used to take like a big cup of tequila like Don Julio or Patron and sugar-free red bull, and that’d be my format – Speedball.
Man, that did the trick because it gets you going. I was using it a little bit as a crutch to push me out on stage, which is kind of a terrifying thing to do.
At Red Rocks that day, I didn’t do it. That was big crowd to get out in front of, and it went really well and I felt really connected and euphoric. It changed my tune.
Do You Get Stage Fright?
Yeah. It’s something that I manage. There are nights that I do get very nervous. I feel pretty relaxed on this tour right now. I think probably has to do with the fact that I had surgery on my foot and I’m dealing with the tail end of that. So I’ll be sitting down tonight, which is not really a big deal. I mean, the first half of my career, I always sat down for my whole show.
It wasn’t till like the last 10 or 15 years that I got up a lot more and work to stage a lot more. Um, but it is a little weird to go back to completely seated with a band show. Also, we just have a really cool set going right now. So I feel really good about where the band is at and where all our materials at.
But stage fright is real. It’s not a bad thing because music is all about like tension and release.
The stage fright is the tension and then when you get out on stage and start playing the music, then all that nervousness and the anticipation of being on stage eg. ‘what am I going to do? What if people don’t like it?’ that all goes away and all that nervous energy to attention has the release. That’s a beautiful thing.
I think if you talk to a lot of artists like James Brown would have stage fright. What’s even harder is public speaking. We just got married this fall and Kelsey, my wife is really good at it. When I get up and public speak I just feel like I say the stupidest shit and then at the end I’m like, damn, I should have said this. You know what I mean?
So You’re Not Drinking Anymore Before Shows. Have You Ever Used Weed Before Shows?
I’m like a midnight Toker late-night smoker. I like to play on marijuana. I usually take my first head of weed during the day, during the set break. The reason is that I can tend to get a little introverted. I can get paranoid because you don’t know what you’re going to encounter when you get on stage. If someone’s gonna talk shit, I mean it happens, you know? When you’re high you’re really in your head about it.
So generally like I get my groove going, get the crowd going, get the band going before I get high.
I don’t really smoke during the daytime because generally it’ll just knock me out for the day and I can’t really get a lot done.
What are You Smoking?
I grow some good ass weed in Massachusetts now where I live. When I’m home I just smoke all my own weed, which I grew like OG Kush and Blackberry something.
What Was Your First Encounter with Cannabis?
I grew up in the city. It was junior high. And I’ll tell you what it was. My manager has been my best friend since second grade. He hasn’t smoked weed for probably 25 years or something, but in ninth grade, he got busted selling weed. So he was asked to leave our school. Then he went to GMVS which is Green Mountain Valley School – he was a big skier, he was trying for the junior Olympics and stuff like that.
Abby Cohen used to have these parties at her house and that was where everything was happening, including me smoking weed for the first time in the bathroom. And Jay was just like, come on you’re going to fucking do it now!
I don’t know if it was peer pressure, but I probably already drank a 40. I smoked weed a couple of times and I either didn’t understand what feeling I was supposed to be having or I feel it first off.
But then I did get into it and when I think back, cannabis had a big influence on my life. About 10th grade is when I started smoking weed more. At the same time, I got heavy into my music and songwriting and playing out on the street and just wanting to constantly make music.
Marijuana has had a huge influence on my life for better or for worse. When everybody else was wanting to go to keg parties, me and my homie would be smoking weed. We might start at the party, but then you’re like, all right, let’s get the fuck outta here and go on our bikes and go do crazy shit in the woods or on a beach or just jam. Cannabis has always enhanced the musical experience for me. If you break it down like that, it’s been a big influence in my life.
How Has Cannabis Influenced Your Songwriting and Music Overall?
For me personally, cannabis opens me up. If we smoked a joint and I just have a guitar, I’ll just start creating something fresh. It will be subconscious of flow, my fingers would just start getting into a groove and then you’re feeling good and then maybe come up with some lyrics. When we’re starting to jam after the show or whenever I always run my phone and record stuff. A lot of those freestyles end up becoming songs later.
A lot of them aren’t good, but a lot of them are really pretty cool. I find it really helps the creative process. For me personally, it doesn’t help me in the honing in part. The work aspect of everything goes out of the window. I can’t really edit stuff or tell you if it is good or bad or tell you what to do as far as leading a band.
When I smoke pot, I become a different person. The dominant part of my personality that can lead people and take people in certain directions goes to the wayside in place of a more open and creative person that comes out.
What is Your Songwriting Process, in General, Look Like?
A lot of it happens on the fly just constantly. If you said something or I read something or saw something in a movie – I’m always looking for a sticky phrase, a sticky word, sticky melody or something like that makes my ears jump and my mind pop and then I’ll write it down.
It could be something I read out of a book and I’ll just write down a sentence.
Then I have all these lyrical ideas for something that I think could be a song later. Later when I have a day I’m wanting to do some songwriting I get a pot of coffee going and I’ll go back to all those ideas. Ideas that I either got along the way or freestyles that we made up on crazy nights after the show on the bus.
Then I go through those ideas that were kind of pure and dig some stuff out of it. That’s one process.
The other is writing with the band where Jeff might say, ah, I’ve got the groove and I got an idea for his guitar line or something. Or they’ll have a groove going and then I’ll say, well, I’ve got lyric for that.
Then sometimes you write with other people, other musicians, other producers, and that’s more like a studio thing. You’ve got to start with a piece of music or a lyrical idea and then flesh it out. Yeah.
But sticky, stickiness is the thing. That’s the whole thing. Like that’s everything. You always want to say something that’s never been said before or say something in a different way if it has been said before.
If you look at my catalog, I would hope that you would see a ton of that. My greatest songs or my most popular songs like, ‘Baby’s Got Sauce’ no one ever said that before. That’s super fucking sticky. No one knows what that is. Or ‘Cold Beverage’, like who said that?
Or ‘Who’s Got the Weed’ – that was just a silly thing – we were walking in Park City after being at the bar all night, the streets were empty, it was like negative two degrees, and my buddy was like “Who’s Got the Weed??”. Then we made it into a song.
Tell Us About Jack Johnson and your collaboration with him. Did you Guys Smoke Weed Together?
I’ve known Jack for over 20 years now. Jack does not smoke a lot of pot. I can think of just a couple of times when I’ve smoked with them. I can think of a lot of times when I’ve been high making music with him because we’ll be on tour and I’ll do my show and then I gotta wait for my sit in with Jack.
Generally, after my show, it’s party time. So I’ll maybe take a hit before I go out and sit in with Jack just to have that euphoric thing. Whats really interesting about music is that you can play a song a hundred times, a thousand times, but then when you smoke weed right before you play it, it’s almost like you’ve never played it before. It becomes a whole different voyage and that’s exciting. It makes it challenging in a way.
Jack and I are not the type of friends that sit around smoking weed and write a song. He has no problem with weed. Jack is so laid back, but then he’ll let go surf like some fucking 40 foot wave.
How Did You and Jack Johnson Meet?
We met in LA, I was recording my fourth record, the Philadelphonic record which just turned 20. A surfing buddy of mine from Avalon, New Jersey. This guy named Scott, Avalon guy, local surfer, a couple of years younger than me but we were great friends. He became a photographer and ended up going out to Cali and linking up with the Malloys.
They were doing surf films with Jack Johnson as well. Jack was his friend and he said, Hey man, there’s this kid you got to meet. He’s a big fan and he’s got this song called rodeo clowns and I think it’s really great and I really think you should hear it. He wants to meet you. Can I bring him by to studio to say hi? And I was like, yeah.
They came by, we went for a surf at Topanga Canyon, and then we went back and traded songs.
I just remember thinking, wow, this guy – it was super effortless. Just like he is in the songs. He basically played me his whole first record. The Rodeo Clown Song really jumped out to me that day. I kept saying, yo – play that song again.
So I worked out my solo right there and then he gave me a demo. I played it for my producer T Ray, who was a hip hop guy who did like a lot of cool old cool shit, like Percee P, Double X Possie, Cypress Hill, Funkdoobiest.I played it for him and he was like, yeah, let’s cut it.
I said, Jack, can I cut it? And he goes, well I got to think about it. He was just a college kid.
Just a kid with a guitar. I said, all right, well, okay, let me know cause we’re going to the studio. So then he called back and he said, could we do it as a collaboration, as a duet? And I was like, well I never had done something like that with someone I didn’t really know. So I was like, sure, let’s do it.
We went into the studio two days later and Jack was so great, I just remember the producer being like I don’t want to burn you out. And Jack was like, you can’t burn me out. And he nailed it on the first take. Like I said, I had worked out my solo, so basically the two of us sat with two acoustics, played the song live and I played a solo and Jack sang it live and then, and T Ray had put up a hip hop beat.
Jack overdubbed a harmony and another lead and then I went back later and overdubbed. It’s my lead. So if you listen to the track, it actually has three of Jack’s vocals and then one of mine right on top.
It was kind of weird because he was so good. Even then, he was that good just to come to a big Hollywood studio – this is back in the day when there was money – and really nail it. To the point where I was scared, I had to match his flow which was challenging.
So I basically said to him, you know what man, I think the song is really great. I think you just got to take this recording and I know you can go get a record deal, hands down on the strength of this tape.
I said I don’t want to do it on my record. He talked me into it, talked me off the ledge. He was like, no, I really want you to do it. It was cool because even then he had the presence to turn it around on me and kinda coach me through it too.
So I ended up doing it. I still think it was better without me on it, but it ended up being a single and then that helped to kind of launch Jack. We’ve been friends ever since.
The trajectories of our careers were interesting because we had started our first record shop in 94 and then I met Jack and 98. We cut that and then that thing came out in 99. That was a big record for us.
Then two years later, off the strength of that album (philharmonic) Jack got signed by Ben Harper’s manager and to enjoy records – JP Plunier was his name. We’re friends now, but in the day, he kinda cut me out of it. That’s why I’m not on Jack’s first record and Ben’s on it. I probably should’ve been on that first record too, you know?
Basically we had Jack in our camp and then JP swooped in and took them. It really worked out well for Jack.
So then our next record was called Electric Mile. We were disappointed with Sony Records because we delivered them a hit record and we felt like they didn’t capitalize on it. So the next record, Electric Mile, we were like, fuck this man. We don’t want to have anything to do with like making any type of radio-friendly shit. I just want to make a really jammy record, which we did.
So then we got dropped and then at the same time Jack thing took off. So my thing was kind of going down and then I got dropped by Sony and, and Jack’s thing took off like crazy.
Brush Fire – it was like a wildfire and it was unbelievable. Long story short, it was great.
We started looking for a record deal and the process took us a couple of years. Jack and his manager Emmett Malloy came back and he said, we’re going to start the label and you know, we really want you to be on it. So the label at first was Donovan Frankerieter, us (G.Love and Special Sauce), Jack Johnson, and Matt Costa.
We were with Brushfire for 16 years. My new record, The Juice is my first record on our label, Philadelphonic records. So with the blessing of Jack and Emmett and everybody at Brushfire, we all felt like it was time or everyone to do something different.
We’ve done a lot of records with them and it’s been great. Jack’s playing a Bernie Sanders rally today in San Jose. So I was pretty proud of him for doing that.
We Heard that you Have G.Love Beer and a G.Love Hot Sauce? Tell us About Your Other Businesses?
Another person that I look up to is Jimmy Buffett. Not so much as a musical influence – I’m certainly a fan – but I can’t say that he’s had a huge influence on my songwriting. However, when I look at Jimmy Buffett’s career, he’s been a multifaceted businessman and an absolute master brand maker.
Talk about a guy who knows something sticky – even though I say I’m not influenced by Jimmy buffet, at the same time, I think that we write similarly. The way we approach songwriting, not taking ourselves too seriously, but writing heartfelt stuff about the simple things in life, but also the big things in life too.
Not being afraid to write a song like, Margaritaville or Cheeseburger in Paradise. Some people won’t write a song like Cold Beverage or Booty Call, but I will and Jimmy buffet will.
So when I look at what he’s achieved musically, that’s one thing. But when you look at what he’s achieved also with all of his brands like his Landshark beer, restaurants, and casinos. I mean, it’s unbelievable.
I’m always looking for things other than music that correlate with the music. Hot sauce was something I always wanted to have. It was a dream to have a hot sauce. So eventually I finally convinced my manager to do the hot sauce. I don’t think we’ve ever made a dime off the hot sauce, but it’s pretty cool to have.
The beer, well, I love beer and I love craft beer. We get local craft brews in every town or we go to. I always have a case of local craft brews to taste what’s happening.
I’ve always dreamed of having my own collaboration. I did do one with New Belgian, The Peach Porch Lounger. That was a one-off some years ago. I wanted to have one that we could work with a company on branding.
So we teamed up with Goodlife Brewing out of Bend, Oregon. We just played a show in their parking lot and we’re taking a tour of the brewery and I was like ‘Would you guys want to do a Collaboration?’ And they said hell yeah.
It’s not a hazy IPA, t’s more of a lighter, floral IPA. It has this thing that I call the juice cloud, when you take a sip it’s like exploding cloud that busts the top of your pallet of this flavor. The goal of this beer is to be a super drinkable IPA with a super flavorful profile. But also not so heavy.
What about a Cannabis Product? Do you See Yourself Making Something in this Market?
Yes. Actually it might come out soon. Now that my older son is 18 and I don’t have to be beholden to the child court system, which is a legitimate thing, now I can just be myself. So I think I would like to have a weed strain. I’ve been working with my friends down in Fort Collins called Organic Alternatives.
It’d be either The Juice or The Special Sauce, why wouldn’t I?
Another great friend of mine, Dave Sullivan from Philadelphia, he has been out in Eugene, Oregon since the day. They have Sweet Leaf Farms. TheOGplant is their Instagram.
Whats one of your Favorite Cannabis Stories?
I have two good stories. One of my main influences is a musician named John Hammond, John’s a Delta blues player. His first band was The Band, Robbie Robertson. He introduced the band to Bob Dylan. He’s been a major influence on everybody from Jimmy Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Rolling stones.
He’s remained in Delta blues purists throughout his career. So he never achieved the same type of commercial success as a lot of his peers. But anyways, wonderful musician if you ever get a chance to see him.
Him and his wife Marla, they like to burn and they’re older – like my parents’ age – he’s like my musical father. We’ll hang out and he’ll be like, you got to try this shit G. This is good shit man. It’s just so fun to smoke joints with this older couple and enjoy being high with them and then jamming and stuff.
The other story that popped into my head was when I was out in LA. This is about 19 years ago. We were doing the house band on the Wind Ben Stein’s Money Show. So we were in LA for two weeks recording. This was when I was total party G, so I’d be out at the club every night.
One night, I was like, I’m just going to chill tonight. So I had a six-pack of Corona and I had flown out to LA with some of my homegrown that I grew up back in Philly, which I call I95 from some seeds I brought home from Amsterdam.
This was the one night I wasn’t going to go out. So I’m in the hotel and I roll up a personal joint, which I call a Skinny Philly. And tall of a sudden my phone rings, ‘yo, dude, you gotta come out’, So I go out. I grabbed my personal joint and I went out to the club.
When we got to the club my buddy Fez is like, come on dude we’re bouncing. Where are we going? Oh we’re going to Snoop Dogg studio. Oh shit. Alright.
There was me and two other dudes and then like four chicks. So basically we were the guys that showed up with the chicks at the studio. So all the guys in the studio, like Snoop Dogg and Warren G and everybody were all interested in the girls that we brought. But like they’re like, who’s this fucking white guy?
But anyhow, I spark up my joint and I was like ‘Snoop you gotta try my Homegrown’ – I pull out this little joint and they’re just like, you fucking loser. It’s not even the size of a pencil. So I spark up my joint and, and I’m trying to pass it to Snoop and he takes his hand with the lighter and blocks the joint.
Long story short is, are you going to hang out with Snoop dog you better bringing a bigger joint.
So You’re a Joint Guy?
Yeah. I have a bong, but I’ve never really been into smoking a bong or smoking out of a bowl or a one-hitter. As a vocalist, I had this awesome Laryngologist when I was going through some vocal issues. He said G I assume you smoke marijuana. Right? If you do, I recommend the Illadelph ice bong.
I don’t want you to smoke out of a one-hitter because it’s too much heat. It’s really bad for your vocal cords.
Guys on the bus, like my crew managers a wax guy. He’s rigged up smoking wax, from the time he wakes up till the time he goes to bed. Just wax, he doesn’t smoke any flower and I’ll smoke some wax with at him at night. But like that shit just put you on your ass.
I mostly smoke joints and sometimes I smoke a little spliff, but I’m really kind of backing off the tobacco these days.
The best feeling is smoking the homegrown that we grow. It’s really great weed. I’m gonna admit I’m a terrible trimmer, I do artisanal hand-torn. In Massachusetts, we can grow 12 plants per person. It’s obviously it’s organic and growing next to my vegetables. It’s just so fun to grow the plants.
Any announcements that people need to know about?