It’s been a quick 20 years for Haynes and Gov’t Mule |

It’s been a quick 20 years for Haynes and Gov’t Mule

Scott Iwasaki
Guitarist and singer Warren Haynes, above, formed Gov't Mule with drummer Abts and his Allman Brothers Band cohort, the late Allen Woody, 20 years ago. Haynes is celebrating his two decades with Gov't Mule and will bring the band, which now features bassist Jorgen Carlsson and keyboardist Danny Louis, to Deer Valley's Snow Park Amphitheater on Thursday for the St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights concert series. (Danny Clinch)

It’s been a long, but quick, two-decade ride for Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule.

What started as three-man side project from the Allman Brothers Band turned into a full-time career for guitarist/vocalist Haynes and his co-founder and drummer Matt Abts.

"We had no intensions of going beyond a year or so, but it caught fire and developed its own path, so to speak, and here we are 20 years later," Haynes said during a telephone call to The Park Record from New York. "We didn’t think too much of the future, because that was never our intent."

Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule, featuring Abts, bassist Jorgen Carlsson and keyboardist Danny Louis, will perform at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Amphitheater on Thursday, July 16.

Haynes, who is also a solo artist in his own right, wasn’t sure of the set list, but did say it would most likely consist solely of Gov’t Mule songs.

"I tend to keep Gov’t Mule repertoire and my solo repertoire completely separate," he said. "There are very few overlaps.

"Still, this show will cover the many aspects of the bands, and every show we do is different," he said. "We do a different set list every night, so we don’t know exactly what we’re going to play. However, since we haven’t been to Utah in quite a while, the list will probably span the length of our entire career."

When Gov’t Mule first formed in 1994, the lineup included Allman Brothers’ bassist Allen Woody, who passed away in 2000.

"Woody and I left the Allmans for a brief period to focus solely on Gov’t Mule, but eventually, this became our priority and the only way we could prove to ourselves and the rest of the world that this was our priority was to do it full-time, which we did in 1997," Haynes said.

The guitarist was surprised at how his fans embraced the Gov’t Mule concept.

"It was completely different from the Allman Brothers, starting with the fact that we were a three-piece band, rather than a six-piece band," Haynes said. "We had some of the same musical influences, but had many different influences as well, and I think people were curious to see what we were doing in the beginning. We were just having fun and that dictated our next steps."

These days, working with different artists has led Haynes to various musical outlets, while absorbing different influences.

"I tend to take different approaches in the different situations, but I also tend to put my own personality into whatever it is I’m doing," he said. "Musicians are students for life. The whole process of getting better and acquiring inspiration is a constant. That’s what fuels any kind of art. I don’t think real artists want to stay where they are."

That’s why Haynes enjoys the opportunity to work with others. In addition to his work with the Allman Brothers Band and Gov’t Mule, he’s performed with the Grateful Dead, Dickey Betts Band and guitarist Derek Trucks.

"For me, having the opportunity to play as much as I do helps keep me, from a technical standpoint, up to speed," Haynes said. "I don’t practice in a regimented way as I did as a teenager, but I play all the time. So, the more inspiration I can draw from these different situations, the more they will help shape me and push me into the future. Any time you challenge yourself, you will come out better on the other side."

Haynes is also thankful that his fans have followed him on every step of his musical journey.

"I’m lucky that I’m able to express myself in different ways, because I think that if some musicians had a complaint, it would be that they could only represent one side of themselves and they have other sides people don’t know about," he said. "They are always worried that if they tried to represent those sides, their audience might not accept them.

"I’ve been lucky that my audience from the beginning has understood the different aspects of music that I pursue and maybe they expect the unexpected," he said. "I look at every situation as a challenge and learning experience more than anything else. I just try to adapt in an organic way."

Haynes’ musical exploration is the result of a musical background.

"Before I learned how to play the guitar, I was a singer, and my influences were soul singers from James Brown to The Temptations and Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett," he said. "When I picked up the guitar a few years later, it was all about Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Johnny Winter. Of course, that was a great time from guitar-driven music and I learned so much."

Even before he learned to sing, Haynes’ older brothers had introduced him to jazz, traditional blues, folk and reggae.

"I studied and pursued all of it and found it was great to move backwards," he said. "When I listen to people like Eric Clapton and Duane Allman, I would find they were listening to B.B. King and Albert King."

Of course, discovering Miles Davis and John Coltrane led Haynes to a whole different world.

"As a guitarist hearing people like Wes Montgomery, Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian is an eye-opening experience," he said. "I could give you a list of 100 guitar players that I have stolen from."

As Haynes contemplates the future of Gov’t Mule, he does know he wants to record new music.

"I think the next step is go back into the studio and make a post-20th-anniversary studio album," he said. "Our last album, ‘Shout,’ was a nice way to wrap up 20 years and portrayed a little of everything we do, so I think on the next record we will do a complete 180 turn and go to places that we’ve never been, but who knows? We’re not quite there yet."

While Gov’t Mule is still celebrating its 20th anniversary, Haynes will release his new solo album, "Ashes to Dust," in a couple of weeks. The album, recorded with Railroad Earth, leans towards the more traditional folk sound.

"I’ve been writing these types of songs all of my life and accumulating them over the years and probably have more songs in this direction than any other," Haynes said. "So this is probably the first of at least one or two more to come that will capture and document this side of me.

"It was a great experience recording this record and I’m happy with the way it turned out," he said. "I think people who have heard my solo acoustic performances will know what to expect. But it will be different for those who haven’t."

The Park City Institute’s St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights Concert Series will present Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Amphitheater on Thursday, July 16, at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $40 to $75 and can be purchased by visiting