In the 1970s, the Allman Brothers were on the forefront of the Southern Rock movement in the U.S. Twenty-four years later, Gov’t Mule sprouted from the same bluesy seed as lead singer and guitarist Warren Haynes and bass player Allen Woody put their own spin on the genre.
What started as a casual side project in 1994 turned into a wildly popular Southern Rock band that today has millions of fans worldwide.
“We had no idea that it was going to turn into something beyond that,” Haynes said. “We initially thought we were going to make a really low-budget experimental record and do one tour and then go back to our day jobs, but it just kind of grew its own steam and became more than that and we were faced with the decision of how and whether to move forward.”
Starting with just three members, Haynes told whatzup that the trio’s first album was inspired by the more classic rock bands. Gradually, their individual influences began to expand the group sound.
“We remained a trio for our first two records, but then by our third record about half the material felt like it needed a larger ensemble, so we brought in keyboards for about half of those songs.”
Gov’t Mule, or just “Mule” to their fans, developed a unique style that combined rock, blues, and jazz in a revolutionary way.
When their bassist Allen Woody passed away, the group dynamic shifted and they questioned whether they should even continue making music.
“We were faced with the decision of whether to keep going or not, and it took a long time to realize that we could and should keep going,” Haynes said. “In the beginning, it was not something we felt like we were up to.”
Once the group decided to press on and continue Gov’t Mule without their bassist and friend, they substituted other legendary bass players in Allen Woody’s place.
Haynes said he wrote new material that complimented the style of each of these musicians. This added a new dimension to their already soul-filled sound.
“So by the time we made our next official studio record, the band was kind of pursuing these natural directions. And I felt like if you could follow it from the beginning, you could see with each record we were keeping one foot where we started but the other one kind of moving forward.”
Gov’t Mule’s latest album, Revolution Come...Revolution Go, is an example of this. While the album certainly sounds in-line with Mule’s style, it is woven with a message about the country’s current political climate.
While this is not meant to be a political album, Haynes said it does have some political connotations.
“[The album is] mostly from an observer’s standpoint of how divided our nation is at the moment,” he said. “I wouldn’t look at it as per se a political record .... We’ve had political connotations from the very beginning, I mean our band is called Gov’t Mule .... Most of the songs are about reflection and personal relationships and looking back from the perspective that we have now.”
Haynes said he hopes their music inspires people to overcome their differences and work together.
“We’re all in this together, it’s up to us to fix it. If we’re depending on politicians to fix it, it’s not going to get done.”
But at the end of the day, Haynes said, “it’s always about the music first.”
Long-time Mule fans know this to be true. Whether you are Democrat or Republican, there is just no denying that smooth and somewhat rugged musicality.
While crowds can always count on an energetic and compelling performance, the band likes to keep their fans on their toes.
“We play a different setlist every night,” Haynes said. “So every night is different.”
Their choice of tunes is based on what was played at their last performance in a location and influenced by the energy of the audience.
Gov’t Mule is bringing their production to the Clyde Theatre on October 31. The performance begins at 8 p.m. and doors open at 7 p.m. General admission tickets are available, or you can enjoy the show in VIP style with upscale ambience, balcony seating, and an exclusive VIP bar.
Haynes said they haven’t played in Northeast Indiana for a while, so Fort Wayne should expect a performance with a wide range of diverse music from across their 24-year career.
“I think hardcore Mule fans know to expect the unexpected, and new fans or music lovers who are just now discovering us and are feeling out what our hardcore fans know, which is it is really hard to pigeonhole what we are because we include so many different influences into our music,” Haynes said. “It is hard to use words to explain our music anyway. It is best to experience it.”