G Love has been a staple of the Philadelphia music scene for what seems like forever, with his first album, G. Love and Special Sauce, coming out nearly 21 years ago. But G. (born Garrett Dutton) never stopped making music and is back to the old touring grind this March with an extensive U.S. tour, which includes two stops in Philly at South Street’s Theater of the Living Arts, to promote his newest album, Sugar.

But this year’s Sugar Blues Tour is just the latest in G. Love’s storied music career; he’s basically toured nonstop over the course of the past 20 years, and doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon. In this interview for The Key, G. talks about his band hitting the drinking age, the return of original bassist James “Jimi Jazz” Prescott, and the grind that’s necessary to stay relevant in the music business.

The Key: So the new album Sugar is the first one in a while with Jimi Jazz, right?

G. Love: Yeah.

TK: What does he bring to the band now that he’s back? Because it definitely sounds like old school G. Love.

GL: Yeah man, it’s great. Jim was off the road for about five years and then we reconnected at my tour manager/sound guy’s wedding in the Dominican Republic, I guess two years ago? I hadn’t seen him or talked to him in so long and we just had a heart-to-heart and I was like, “would you wanna come back on the road sometime?” And he’s like “I don’t think so, but I’d record.” We went to make the new record and we asked Jim to come in the studio with us and he was into it and he just showed up with the fire. He was playing his ass off and it was such a great vibe and we just really caught on to something special in that session, and then the last day we were loading out his gear and I was like, “so we’re going on the road now, are you like…” and then he’s like “yeah.” (laughs)  This is our second year back at it [with the original trio] and the vibe’s better than ever. I don’t know, there’s something about a certain chemistry you have with certain people musically. We almost have like a subconscious communication and it’s just a magical thing. So, I’m really thankful for that and that we’ve been able to keep it going for so long.

TK: So he definitely missed touring and recording, it seems like?

GL: Yeah, I mean. I mean, I’ve played with some great players. We had this guy Timo Shanko with us for about six years on bass who’s an old musical friend of ours from Boston, and he’s a monster, and he was killing it. So, it’s nothing against him or his playing, it was just time to put back the original trio. I’ve always compared it to relationships because, you know, sometimes you’re thinking about your ex-girlfriend! You might be happy in a new relationship, but you might sometimes think about your ex. It’s just always going to be different, you know?

TK: I saw you guys for the first time at the TLA the last time you were in Philly and you guys were just crazy. I know the first night people just wouldn’t leave. I think you played like, what two encores? So what’s it like coming back to Philly and seeing that and stuff?

GL: Oh, it’s such a good feeling man, it’s always special to come home. I live in Boston now, so it’s always nice to get home and see all my homies and The TLA, I grew up right down the street from there and, you know, my first gigs were playing on the street right there. There’s just a lot of magic for me on that town and especially on that street. Right across the street from The TLA there was a store Workbench and that was one of my spots I used to post up in. It’s always great to be there.

TK: Yeah, South Street must have been a pretty cool place to grow up.

GL: Yeah, growing up – especially back in the day – I mean, there was so much color and creativity flowing in that neighborhood that it was a pretty sweet inspirational spot to grow up in. And it had a lot to do with my musical development. A lot of the sound came from, you know, living in Philly and being in that culture and being a part of that and seeing all those street musicians as a kid. It just was like a natural reaction to become one of them, you know what I mean? And then I did!

TK: Yeah, and it happened a while ago, the first album came out 21 years ago. Your band has officially hit the drinking age

GL: Yeah, haha!

TK: What’s that like?

GL: Yeah, it’s been a wild ride. It happened so fast, and then you blink your eyes and all the sudden you’ve been doing it for 20 years and you’re like “where’d the time all go?” And it’s been amazing to me. You know, you feel really blessed because you see a lot of bands come and go during that time, you know, some of them have a lot of huge hits and maybe made so much money that they don’t tour anymore or they broke up, you know, people make mistakes and lose their career. Anything can happen, you know? People die. So just to be able to do it for so long and everybody be genuinely happy and healthy at what they’re doing is just a real special thing.

And I think the longer you do it, you never take it for granted because throughout the years you have your kind of peaks and valleys. The music business is just such a thing that even if you have a number one record or number one song, it’s only going to be number one for days, weeks, or months. You get hot some years, and then some years people are like, “you again?” You know? I mean, like, even now, I’ll see people or meet people and then they’ll find out that I’m G. Love and then they’ll be like, “Oh, well what are you doing now?” Like, what do you mean what am I doing now? I’ve been doing a 150 shows every year for the last 20 years.

It’s just interesting because you’re just not always on a mass radar scale as far as like notoriety, but then at the same time, we’ve been really blessed to have such a hardcore fanbase that’s really kind of a cult following. I always feel like if you ask people have you heard of G. Love and Special Sauce, they’ll either say no, or they’ll freak out because they’re a big fan. So, that’s, like, pretty special. A lot of people say, like, “oh, we couldn’t do it without you.” But it’s really true, you know, obviously if no one comes to the shows then you’re not going to have a show. So, I always feel, like, so humbled every night, you know, like, “is anyone coming?” And then you look out in the audience and there’s a huge crowd and it’s just like “wow, this is awesome.”

TK: Yeah, and it’s a really unique sound. Like, the whole bluesiness mixed with dabs of rap and stuff. It’s a really unique combination. I can’t think of too many other bands like G. Love and Special Sauce, you know?

GL: Yeah, I know, that’s another reason to keep it going. And that’s another thing I’ll tell anybody that asks, like, “what’s the most important thing for musicians?” You gotta have originality and you gotta have a work ethic and be able to hustle. Because it never gets easy. You constantly have to keep finding ways to put yourself out there and get your music out there. There’s always a tendency to say “oh, what’s hot this year? Well look at this record it’s super hot this year. I like this record, maybe we should just do something like that.” But ultimately, you really can’t chase trends and what other people are doing. You always have to stay as completely original as you can.

G Love | photo via

G Love | photo via

TK: You mentioned work ethic, what is the work ethic of a working musician? Do you treat it like an actual job? What’s that like?

GL: It’s a hustle because, for one thing, you have to stay up and practice your instrument. You have to give yourself time to shred on your instrument, and also if you write you have to give yourself a lot of time to write, and you have to practice your new tunes a lot. You know, people don’t realize that for every song that makes a record, there’s probably ten others that didn’t make a record, and for all those songs that are written, it takes hours and hours and hours to write a song and ten get it to a place where you can perform it and it’s good, and you feel it deeply.

So there’s that, and then there’s off the stage and out of the studio. You know, nowadays with social media and connecting with your fans and drumming up interest, and just behind the scenes on the business side. Learning how to deal with your management and the media team and your record company and, you know, be able to do interviews, just everything that goes with it. And, like, I’m not going to lie to you: the thing about being a musician is, like, you never have to work, but you never really have a day off because you have to constantly stay engaged in your music. My drummer Jeff has this saying: “the music doesn’t lie.” Right? So if you ignore the music, it’s gonna ignore you back. And the more you talk to it, the more it’s gonna talk back to you. You know, it’s like a woman. You gotta treat it right and then she’s gonna give you the reward. If you just kinda shun it or take it for granted, then it’s gonna leave you.

TK: Over the past 21 years, some of your albums were released with the Special Sauce, and others were just released as G. Love. Why?

GL: For different reasons. Most of the records have Jim or Jeff playing on them. Even the records that just say G. Love. For instance, Lemonade is kind of a G. Love and Special Sauce record but I thought it sounded better just calling it G. Love. And The Hustle was the same thing. You know, that’s a G. Love and Special Sauce record, technically. But I just thought it sounded better. You know, G. Love – The Hustle. Plus that record in particular was, like, we had been out of a deal and my manager Jason Brown and I really spend, like, years getting everything set up and making a lot of different moves. We ultimately ended up signing with our friend Jack Johnson’s label and we’re still with them now.

Then the Avett Brothers record, that record was just like, alright I need to do something different, so let’s just go into their world and that was the Fixin’ to Die record. And actually, Jeff ended up playing on half of that record anyways. I think Sugar was, like, alright we did Fixin’ to Die, which was like a roots blues record, and then I wanted to follow it up with a more rocking hip hop blues record reminiscent of our old sound a little bit. The 20-year thing just kind of happened simultaneously by accident almost as the creation of Sugar. But it was certainly time to step back as the original trio and represent that.

I think the next record, which we’re talking about right now, is gonna be more like Lemonade, in the fact that it’s going to be a collaborative record – and we haven’t even started recording it yet, but it will be more blues-oriented. So that record will probably have Jim and Jeff on some of the tunes, but maybe not all of them, because I might have to go to different studios with different artists I’m going to be working with and their band, you know?

TK: So, sticking with Sugar, obviously you’re from Philly, you told me you live in Boston now, right?

GL: I’ve only lived in Philadelphia and Boston my whole life. Because I moved to Boston from Philly in ’92 and then I started putting the band together.  I moved back to Boston again in 2004 because my son’s mom and I broke up, so she moved to back home to Boston, where she’s from and now I live there again. So I’ll be there until my son Aiden graduates high school, and then I’ll probably move to New York or LA, I think.

TK: Yeah, I saw Aiden, he played the drums with you at the TLA at that show.

GL: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, he’s becoming a good musician.

TK: You guys jam a lot?

GL: Yeah, we jam — we don’t jam every night — but we try to jam as much as we can. A couple times, three or four times a week when I’m home, you know.

TK: So there’s a song off Sugar called “Nothing Else Quite Like Home.” Where is home? What place are you singing about? Are you singing about Philly, Boston, or what?

GL: Well that track actually, I wrote the music on it and then Dan Reynolds from Imagine Dragons wrote the lyrics. And I think that that record, just from listening to the lyrics, it was definitely a song written by a traveling musician who’s on the road and, you know, has attained his dream and is getting to be a rock and roll star.

But after a while the road kind of, like, there’s a thing that “life on the road is always the same / nobody told me I would miss it in the fast lane.” Miss home, you know. So yeah, I always feel like there’s a certain amount of…I’m not complaining, living on the road and going from town to town every day, it’s a different kind of existence. It’s not for everybody and it certainly can be lonely. And you miss the things, like simple things like waking up in your own bed and going down to your fridge and getting whatever you want to eat. And you miss your family and you miss your friends, your dog or whatever you got and, you know, you miss your chick. Suddenly you have a family and then it becomes even more alone, and like, it’s really tough. My kid’s 13 now and I tried going on the road for the first time when he was like two months old and it never gets easy saying goodbye to him, you know?

TK: Yeah, I can imagine. Because it’s everybody’s dream to grow up and be a rock star. I’m sure it was yours. When you eventually became one and had to leave and go on the road for half the year, did it not live up to your expectations? I’m sure you still love it, obviously you still do it. But did it live up to the glamour of your expectations?

GL: It’s not glamorous. We have a nice tour bus and we’ve been in the bus since ’98 I think. But, you know, I was going coast to coast in a van for, like, five or six years, and certainly being in a tour bus is a lot more luxurious than riding in a van, but you know, the level that we’re at, we’re like a working band so, you know, it’s not like we’re pulling up and staying at the Four Seasons every day. We’re staying at the Super 8, you know?

And, like I said, it’s like the road has a lot of trappings. The best thing about it is the music, and that’s the gift that keeps on giving and all the other stuff that goes along with it, whatever you want to do after the show, there’s certain trappings there. It’s hard to maintain relationships because there’s a lot of temptation on the road and, you know, it’s harder than ever to have long distance relationship period. So, any relationship I’m in ultimately ends up being a long-distance relationship and that’s a tough thing.

G Love goes trout fishing | photo via

But then, you know, being up on stage is the glamorous thing, like having people dance to your music — there’s no better feeling than that. Today I’m in Park City, Utah and a buddy of mine – I’ve known him for 15 years; he’s a fly fishing guy – he took us out fishing today. We caught some good trout. So, you don’t get to do something fun like that every day, but every once in a while you get to do some great stuff. And because you’re a musician you get to meet a lot of great people and, you know, it’s a lot of fun like that.

TK: I think I touched on everything I wanted to ask, is there anything extra you wanted to throw in?

GL: Uh, probably just a plug for our hot sauce. G. Love’s Special Hot Sauce. And people can order it on

TK: Well that’s a good question, how did that come about? I mean, obviously the name sort of clicks.

GL: Oh well, I’m, like, a big food person in a food family and I always wanted to have hot sauce because I felt like it went along with the kind of went along with the style of music we played. So, we’ve been doing it since about 2007, so that’s a lot of fun.

TK: Is it, like, your special recipe?

GL: Yeah, well we have three different flavors, if you read the stories on the back of each bottle, they’re all kind of music related to how we picked that recipe and, you know, some of them had to do with, like, going to this Vietnamese place after our rehearsals when we first started, and then other touring stories, so yeah, it’s been fun to do the sauce stuff.

G. Love performs at the TLA on Friday, March 13th, and Saturday, March 14th; tickets and more information on the show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar