Jackie Greene Talks Jazz Fest, New Music, and His Favorite Grateful Dead Songs

Guitar virtuoso Jackie Greene is not only a crowd-pleaser, but also a true musician’s musician. If I had a dollar for each time I’ve heard another artist sing Jackie’s praise, I’d certainly have enough money to buy a plane ticket to see him perform during Jazz Fest this week.

Although best known as a superlative guitar player, Jackie’s also a musician with several sonic weapons stockpiled in his arsenal. At one moment you might see him singing and shredding his guitar on stage, only to see him moments later belting out a harmonica or piano solo.

With his sterling reputation and musical versatility, it’s no wonder Jackie is a constant member of supergroups comprised of the world’s finest musicians. During this upcoming Jazz Fest, for example, Jackie is slated to perform with two different all-star bands in the 6th Annual Nolafunk Series During Jazz Fest.

Jackie Greene

This weekend on Saturday 4/29 and Sunday 4/30, Jackie is performing a 2-night run at Republic NOLA with Dead Feat, a band comprised of Paul Barrere & Fred Tackett of Little Feat, John Kadlecik of Furthur, Anders Osborne (check out our Anders interview here), Brady Blade, and Carl Dufrene. Founded in 2011 and a frequent Jazz Fest after-hours performer, Dead Feat is a true crowd pleaser that performs the music of Little Feat, the Grateful Dead, Anders Osborne, & other catalogues. Tickets for Saturday’s Dead Feat show with special guests Midnight North featuring Grahame Lesh can be purchased here, and Sunday’s show with Vince Herman & Friends can be purchased here.

Dead Feat

The following weekend, Jackie’s performing a second two-night run at Republic NOLA with Voodoo Dead, another supergroup featuring Steve Kimock, George Porter Jr., Jeff Chimenti, and JM Kimock. Voodoo Dead recently completed a winter East Coast tour that sold out venues like Irving Plaza in New York City and Ardmore Music Hall in Pennsylvania, attracting swarms of jam enthusiasts with their unique New Orleans-inspired interpretations of the Dead’s catalogue. Tickets for Saturday’s late-night (5/6) show can be purchased here, while tickets for Sunday’s (5/7) show, which is branded as a 40th Anniversary of the Dead’s legendary 5/8/77 Barton Hall show featuring special guests Oteil Burbridge (Dead & Co.) & Papa Mali can be purchased here.

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Ahead of these four star-studded shows, I had the special opportunity to catch up Jackie about Jazz Fest, his sell-out Voodoo Dead run, new music, and many other topics. More information about other shows in the Nolafunk Series During Jazz Fest can be found here, with the complete lineup below.

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CEG: Hey Jackie – thanks for taking some time here to catch up with us ahead of Jazz Fest. To kick things off, you just completed a sell-out East Coast run with your supergroup, Voodoo Dead. Tell us about your experience touring with that collection of musicians. Was there a stand-out night, set, or moment from that run?

Jackie Greene: I think that one of the unique things about this project is that every night has the potential to be totally different from the last. In that sense, there are dozens of moments that span several nights which stand out to me. The energy at Irving Plaza in New York City was palpable. I think there was something in the air that night and we tapped in to something special.

CEG: During Jazz Fest, you’re performing a two-night run with Voodoo Dead from Saturday May 6th – Sunday May 7th at Republic NOLA. What can we expect from these two stellar shows?

JG: I think if you approach the show with an open mind and open ears, you can potentially have a life-changing experience. If that don’t float your boat, you can at least expect to hear a group of kick-ass musicians play kick-ass music for some awesome people in an amazing town. Seriously, the vibe is going to be fantastic and we expect everyone to have a great time. I’m personally hoping for a bass dual between Oteil and George!

CEG: Also during Jazz Fest, you’re performing another two-night run from April 29th – 30th at Republic NOLA with Dead Feat. Tell us a bit about your history performing with these musicians, and if you had to choose, what’s your favorite Dead song to perform?

JG: Considering that Little Feat is one of my favorite bands of all time, to do anything with Paul and Fred is an absolute joy for me. Last year, one of my favorite moments of the whole run was doing “Spanish Moon” with that group. I hope it’s on the list for this year! I’ve gotten to know Anders pretty well over the last several years and he’s become one of my favorite cats to play with. He’s just an awesome human being. We did an acoustic run together this past winter as a duo and it was a ton of fun. He’s been around and has a lot of wisdom to pass on. (Not saying you’re old, bro!!) His band is killer as well. I got to play with them in New York recently and we had a blast! Brady and Carl are super fun to play with and adding our good friend John K to the mix will definitely put it over the top. Favorite Dead song? That’s a tough question. I’ll narrow it down to 3 for now: “He’s Gone,” “Jackstraw” and “So Many Roads.”

CEG: In addition to the guitar, you’re well-known as an incredibly versatile musician who also plays the banjo, harmonica, mandolin, drums, and even the keys. Within your arsenal of alternative instruments, which have you grown fondest to over the year?

JG: I’m not sure I have a preference. I probably gravitate towards guitar, because it’s what I do the most often. But, the truth is that I’ll play whatever is necessary. I let the song and the situation decide. I wouldn’t try to force another electric guitar in when what is needed is some organ, for example. On the other hand, sometimes the situation is ripe for a ton of guitars. Sort of depends.

CEG: Are you working on any new recorded music that you’re at liberty to talk about here?

JG: Absolutely. I’m about to release an EP called Modern Lives Vol One, probably in late June or July. A companion EP will follow in the Fall or Winter. It’s music I’ve been working on since I moved to Brooklyn a couple years ago. I’ve got a small basement studio and have been writing and recording since I’ve lived here. I’m in a new situation now with a label called Blue Rose. It’s much more of a partnership than a traditional label/artist relationship and I’m quite happy about it. Consequently, I’ll be able to release new material more quickly and more often, which is something I’ve always wanted. So, I’m excited about the years to come.

CEG: When writing new music, what creative process do you employ inside or out of the studio? Where do you draw inspiration from to create a new song?

JG: I do a lot of writing in the studio these days. Part of my process would involve the recording process. Finding a sound or a part that inspires new parts and imagery for whatever it is I’m working on. I usually start with a very basic idea and take it down to my basement and start hammering away at it. I call it my laboratory. It’s a bit like going to work in the morning. My wife packs me a lunch and fills my thermos with coffee and down to the basement I go. I’ll come up for air every once in awhile and punch out around 5ish.

CEG: Finally, looking beyond Jazz Fest, what festival, concert, or career landmark are you most looking forward to in 2017?

JG: I’m actually looking forward to having a bit of time off this summer. We’ve been working non-stop for years, it seems like. It seems like I’ve got a few moments to really enjoy myself this summer, so I’m looking forward to that.

CEG: Thanks Jackie, have a great Jazz Fest!

Jackie Greene

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