Jackie Greene to play Crystal Bay Crown Room
Jackie Greene likes the idea of throwing a few surprises at fans in his concerts.
“We have a good, well over a decade under our belts. So, it’s like at this point now, our live shows can be pretty interesting,” Greene said in a recent phone interview. “Every tour we’ll pick, and this has been going on for at least the last couple of years now, we sort of pick a handful of old songs that we don’t play a lot and then some new covers, some interesting covers to do, sometimes at the very last minute. It keeps everything a little bit fresh. You know, we’ll throw those into the show. Like the other day we did that Bruce Springsteen song ‘Dancing in the Dark.’ We’d never done that one before. We were at the Stone Pony (a club in Asbury Park, New Jersey, that Springsteen often played coming up as a local artist) the other day. ... So, we worked it up. We did a bunch of stuff we’d never done, some Allman Brothers stuff we’d never done, some David Bowie we’ve done, stuff like that. That keeps it fun.”
A key reason Greene feels free to throw in unexpected covers, as well as allow his own songs to evolve in how they get played live, is because he’s never been burdened with a bunch of hit singles. He views the gradual growth he’s seen in his career to have been far better for his creative health.
“I’ve always felt if you got too big too quickly, too popular too quickly, it’s easy to paint yourself into a corner (musically) that way because people expect a certain thing out of you,” he said. “That’s not good for anybody, I don’t think, especially the artist, the person doing it. It’s like it’s easy to get disgruntled if that happens.”
“If you get into the mindset where you have to do that, the same show every night and it has to be that, then I think it gets real boring – maybe not for the people who only come see you one time a year,” Greene said. “But for us (as musicians) it gets real boring because we have to do this (same show) 150 times a year. I think it’s better for everybody when the band is engaged and interested in what they’re doing.”
Greene, a longtime resident of Sacramento who moved to Brooklyn, New York, a couple of years ago, also tries to apply that willingness to evolve his music to his albums. He has started work on his next solo album, and if he continues down the path he’s started, it should be a perfect example of Greene’s desire to keep trying new things as an artist.
This time, rather than bringing in a band and recording in a professional studio, Greene is recording at his home studio in Brooklyn. He’s playing all of the instruments himself and hoping these home recordings will become the finished album.
Greene said he likes the idea of creating an album that feels organic, intimate and not overly produced – and that’s what he hopes to achieve with the next album.
“You see it a lot on You Tube, but it seems like the things people really gravitate to on You Tube are things that are very authentic feeling and don’t really have great production value to it, like when people are singing in their bathroom or something like that, whatever it might be,” Greene said. “I feel like people long to get closer to the source in some way.”
Greene actually started work on his current album, 2015’s “Back To Birth,” with a similar goal. But after making his demos playing all of the instruments himself in his home studio, he realized the songs needed to be recorded with a full band in a professional studio.
“Back To Birth” indeed benefits from the full-band sound and illustrates Greene’s musical diversity. The mid-tempo rocker “Silver Lining” has a bit of the Eagles and Black Crowes with its country and Southern soul touches. Another mid-tempo track, “Trust Somebody,” shows a poppier side to Greene’s sound, while “Now I Can See For Miles” rocks a bit harder, but retains the album’s rootsy feel. “Where The Downhearted Go” is a blues ballad in the B.B. King vein, and there’s also a mandolin-specked ballad, “A Face Among The Crowd,” that has a bit of a wide-open spaces feel.
That sort of sound seems to reflect both Greene’s musical tastes and the kind of music he has played in between the eight solo albums he has released since 2002.
Two of his outside projects have put him in the orbit of the Grateful Dead. In 2007, he was recruited to join Phil Lesh and Friends, the band assembled by the Grateful Dead bassist. And in 2012, he did an acoustic tour with Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir and Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson.
Greene then went on to play lead guitar in the Black Crowes for that band’s final tour in 2013. He has recently formed a new band, the Magpie Salute that includes three other former members of the Black Crowes — Rich Robinson, Marc Ford and Sven Pipien.
Greene also was a member of Trigger Hippy, a group featuring singer Joan Osborne and Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman. Trigger Hippy released an excellent self-titled debut album in 2015, but Greene, in July 2015, left the group to focus on his solo career.
Greene knows these and other outside projects have interrupted his solo career from time to time. But he is happy to have done them.
“I’m nothing but grateful for those experiences,” he said. “The decisions I made to be in those bands and to play with those guys, I’m following my bliss. And at the end of the day, that’s all you’re supposed to do as an artist.”
Besides, he knows some fans of the Grateful Dead and the Black Crowes, among others, were introduced to his solo music through those ventures. Greene is seeing the benefits in the growing attendance at his concerts.
“After I started playing with Phil and Friends, like a couple of years later, we’re playing one of our (solo) shows in Boston, and the next thing I know the veggie burrito guy is setting up in the parking lot,” Greene said. “All of a sudden there are glass blowers in the parking lot. And I thought it was amazing.”