Six-string local hero Warren Haynes
Warren Haynes: Guitar legend of the East Village
By David Callicott
When Warren Haynes was a nine-year-old boy in Asheville, North Carolina, his older brothers brought home the Allman Brothers Band debut album. Haynes liked what he heard a lot. Little did anyone know that 20 years later the Allman Brothers would ask Haynes to join their band. Almost 20 more years have passed since then, and Haynes, now 47, is still touring relentlessly with the ABB as well as his hard-rocking foursome Government Mule. Haynes six-string skills have elevated him into the upper echelon of todays rock musicians, earning him the #23 spot in Rolling Stones top 100 guitarists of all time. Between the Mule, ABB, and his solo gigs, Haynes performs over 150 shows each year in front of hundreds of thousands of fans. When hes not on the road, Haynes can be found nesting in his East Village apartment with his wife of ten years, Stephanie.
I caught up with Haynes last week and talked about life in the neighborhood, his favorite New York City moment, and the big party hes throwing this weekend (to which you are all invited).
David Callicott: What first brought you to the New York?
Warren Haynes: I came to New York for the first time in 1988 with the Dicky Betts Band. I was living in Nashville at the time and had been contemplating a move, and really liked it here. Then in 1989, I met Stephanie. She lived here, and that helped me make the decision. I packed up my things and moved, and have been living in the East Village ever since.
After Asheville and Nashville, how did you adjust to the chaos of the big city?
It wasnt any different than being on the road, really. And I thought the music scene here was amazing. I could pick up a paper and be able to choose from so many bands playing around town every night. That was back when The Wetlands was open, and I loved going down there to see music or play with someone. But it unfortunately closed in 2001.
A lot of local venues seem to be shutting their doors, most recently Tonic and Sin-é. Besides clubs closing down, what other changes have you witnessed in the neighborhood?
What I notice mostly is that there used to be so many more homeless people. And it was like, one day, during the Giuliani days, you just woke up and all the homeless people were gone. And Ive always wondered, you know, where did they all go?
Was that the catalyst for your benefit concerts for Habitat for Humanity?
No. We started doing our Christmas Jam concerts in Asheville 18 years ago, and we would always give the proceeds to different charities. Then about eight years ago, we got involved with the West [North] Carolina chapter of Habitat, and it was just a really good fit for us, so weve been working with them ever since.
You work with the New York chapter as well, dont you? Wasnt your all-star concert at Irving Plaza in March a benefit for them?
Weve just recently started working with New Yorks Habitat chapter in the past couple of years. The concert at Irving wasnt directly set up to be a benefit, though. But, as it turns out, after we paid for the airfare and hotel rooms for everyone who came out and played, we had about $10,000 leftover that we donated to the local chapter.
Youve played hundreds of shows in the city since you first moved here, including the Allmans marathon runs at the Beacon every year. Do you have a favorite New York moment that stands out?
I have a bunch, you know, but one of them would be playing Central Park with Dave Matthews (September 24, 2003). That was quite amazing. Just looking past a crowd of 100,000 people and seeing the city in the distance, it was just so beautiful. But yeah, I probably have a book full of New York moments.
I know youre on the road a lot, but when youre home in New York, whats a typical day in your life like?
A typical day for me here is spent in my apartment, working on music and visiting with friends, like it would be anywhere else. But music is a pretty consistent part of my daily routine writing it, playing it, listening to it.
Who are you listening to now?
As far as new music, Earl Greyhound. Im really loving the new Ray LaMontagne record, the John Scofield with Medeski Martin & Wood record, and the new James Hunter record.
Whats going on this weekend with your festival?
Im co-sponsoring the third annual Mountain Jam festival with WDST, Radio Woodstock, up in Hunter, New York. Hunter Mountain is a beautiful venue a couple hours north of here. Weve got a fantastic lineup Phil Lesh & Friends, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Ozomatli, Earl Greyhound, the North Mississippi All-Stars, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Government Mule of course, and a bunch more. Im really looking forward to it, its going to be a really good time. I hope you all come up for it.
Mountain Jam is June 1-3. Weekend passes are $115, or $140 including camping. Limited day passes will be available. Visit www.mountianjam.com for more information.