Gov’t Mule makes annual pilgrimage to New Orleans

Photo provided by Gov't Mule -- Gov’t Mule is a Southern rock jam band that sprouted as a side project of The Allman Brothers.
Photo provided by Gov't Mule -- Gov’t Mule is a Southern rock jam band that sprouted as a side project of The Allman Brothers.

Gov’t Mule, the Southern rock jam band that sprouted as a side project of The Allman Brothers in 1994, has collaborated with some of the most renowned musicians of the time, including Les Claypool of Primus, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jason Newsted of Metallica and George Porter Jr. of The Meters.

When the band was in New Orleans for the Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2003, it rounded up more than 20 guest musicians for a live recorded tribute to late bassist and founding member Allen Woody. The performance at the Saenger Theater lasted nearly six hours and became a two-CD, plus one DVD set called “The Deepest End.”

The Jazz Festival late-night show has become a tradition for the band, although it does not play the fest itself. This year, the band will be taking the stage at the Mahalia Jackson Theater at 10 p.m. Friday.

The longevity and success of Gov’t Mule sometimes even surprises the band’s frontman Warren Haynes.

“We were going moment by moment, doing something for the fun of it,” Haynes said. “We had no idea that we would do it year after year and continue to make records.”

Gov’t Mule, which consists of Haynes (guitarist/vocalist), Matt Abts (drummer), Jorgen Carlsson (bass) and Danny Louis (keyboards/trumpet/guitar/vocals), has been making music for nearly two decades and is working on its newest studio album.

“The newest record is going to come out in September,” Haynes said. “We’re promoting it worldwide so I’m very excited to go places we’ve never been. We played one time in South Korea. It’s nice to find out that we have fans there.”

Haynes creates the majority of the songs for Gov’t Mule. His love of music stems from being exposed at an early age to the music of the ‘60s.

“I started singing when I was 7,” Haynes said. “At that time, I was listening to soul music — James Brown, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Four Tops, Sam & Dave. When I heard Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Johnny Winter, that’s what made me want to play guitar.”

Every artist finds inspiration at different times. Haynes seems to create some of the band’s best music when no one else is awake.

“Songwriting is a weird personal space that you have to get in,” Haynes said. “A lot of my best songwriting happens at 3 in the morning when everybody else is asleep, and my brain is really tired and unfiltered.”

Gov’t Mule now has several hundred songs in its archives. With so many tracks at its disposal, the band has to take extra care in order to get each one right during the show.

“Gov’t Mule plays a different set each night,” Haynes said. “Over the course of a tour, we may play 150 different songs, which means that sometimes you forget them. We will rehearse at sound check and remind ourselves how a certain song goes. At the beginning of a tour, a couple-days rehearsal is a nice luxury, but we don’t always get that.”

On the Gov’t Mule’s current tour, the band is scheduled to play some of the biggest festivals of the summer. They will be on stage at the Beale Street, Hangout, Mountain Jam and Bonnaroo Festivals. They will also perform at several prominent European festivals.

“The festival concept is great because new fans get to discover music,” Haynes said. “From a band’s standpoint you get to turn your music on to new listeners. Also, it’s a good chance to see your friends. It tends to be like a family reunion.”