Garrett Dutton has never really ridden at the forefront of the technology curve. Dutton, better known by his performing handle of G. Love, once swore he would never own a CD player, that he was only into vinyl. He caved. Now he has an iPod.
Some years later, his manager introduced him to a new sensation called “blogging.” His response? “Wow, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. I would never do something so stupid.” Then he tried it. Now he embraces it as a creative outlet and as a means to drive traffic to his Web site.
Later, his manager came back with another suggestion, saying Dutton should film some songs to post on video website YouTube. Again, the suggestion met with a reluctant – to put it mildly – response.
“This is so f—ing stupid,” Dutton recalls his reaction. “[I told my manager] I’m just going to do my blog instead of this stupid video s—.” Then he got a Mac with a plug-in Web cam. Now he films spontaneous performances from the studio or his living room and throws them up on his MySpace page.
“It’s just interesting for the fans and just viral marketing, getting your name out there and maybe turning on a few new fans,” Dutton says. “Then I’ll be out playing shows and people will ask me to perform one of those songs or ask if what I wrote in the blog really happened to me and I’m like ‘Oh s—, people actually watch that? That’s weird.'”
It may be weird, but when it comes to attracting a following, it’s working. Rather than merely rekindling the dying embers from a past when G. Love and Special Sauce was a mainstay of the college tape-trading scene, the new technology, and some new tunes, have propelled Dutton onto the biggest tour of his career.
G. Love and Special Sauce join the John Butler Trio and Tristan Prettyman for a performance at Wolf Trap Friday, Aug. 15, part of a nation-wide amphitheater tour. The group will be touring off their latest effort, Superhero Brother, the band’s 10th album that again falls within the Dutton-originated “hip-hop blues” genre.
Dutton first developed the unique sound during his days as a street performer in Philadelphia. Initially influences like Bob Dylan shaped his songwriting, but then he discovered “everyone sounds like Bob Dylan” at the coffee shop jams he attended. Driving for originality, he turned towards the blues, which eventually took on a hip-hop flavor given his song’s urban subject matter and his tendency to cram in more and more lyrics. Then came the breakthrough.
“One day, I finished singing about one of my things and I kept playing this groove and I realized I started rapping Eric B and Rakim rap called ‘Paid in Full’ over my groove. It was like a remix or a mashup, but this was like 10 years before anyone had done a mashup. So I’m thinking, holy s—. This was my epiphany as a street performer. The next week, I wrote my first rap over a slide riff on the dobro. My style was born.”
All these years later, that style is just as prominent on Superhero Brother. Within Dutton’s overarching genre there are some variants, like the fun and carefree feeling of “Peace, Love and Happiness” and the frivolous and funky-dance-inducing “Wiggle Worm,” that keep the album fresh.
The album’s creation was aided by some live show trials that helped make the record the most enjoyable studio experience of Dutton’s career.
“We tend to really battle each other creatively and [this time] we really enjoyed a very positive atmosphere and very creative atmosphere,” Dutton says. “A lot of the cream did rise to the top before we did the recording session as opposed to after.”
And now that Dutton has warmed to today’s technological tools of the trade, there are ample ways for G. Love fans to savor it.
- G. Love and Special Sauce perform Friday, Aug. 15 at the Wolf Trap Performing Arts Center. Tickets range from $30-75. For more information on G. Love and Special Sauce, visit www.philadelphonic.com.