An Interview with Guitar Legend Warren Haynes
Warren Haynes is one of those rare individuals who is a shining light in both his musical career as well as his personal life. Already revered by his peers and fans as one of the best guitarists to ever take the stage, the Grammy Award-winning artist continues to reinvent himself and his music. His command of his instrument, like an extension of himself, takes you on a musical journey. He is a Musician’s musician, the kind that everyone wants to be around and wants to play with.
Haynes’ kindness transcends the musical and into his personal life. Here in Asheville, Warren Haynes and his annual Christmas Jam (the 28th annual event took place last winter) have not only created magical musical experiences for the audience, but also raised money to help those in our community in need. Over the years, this benefit concert has raised over two million dollars for Habitat for Humanity.
We caught up with the legend, who offered some insight into what drives him as an artist and philanthropist.
Q: What was the impetus for the Christmas Jam when it first started?
A: Truthfully the way it started was just as a reason to get all the local musicians together at the only time of the year when all musicians seem to be in town, which was the Christmas holiday. It was really more about getting everyone together to play, and we didn’t make that much money. We’d just pick a charity and donate the proceeds to it. The first few years, the charity changed from year to year, and then somewhere along the line we stumbled upon Habitat, and just thought it was a really good fit, and stayed with it. And that was coinciding with when the event started to get bigger.
Q: You have raised a tremendous amount for Habitat for Humanity here in Asheville. As a thank you and in recognition for your contributions over the years, they honored you by naming the new subdivision and streets after you and your music.
A: Well, Hudson Hills is named after my son, Hudson who just turned five… Soulshine Court was the people at Habitat’s idea…which I thought was a cool idea. I’m honored and flattered any time they come up with an idea about utilizing something in our lives.
Q: You mentioned your son. How has fatherhood changed you?
A: Everything changed when he was born. It’s all cliche, it’s all the same stuff you hear about, but when it happens to you it all comes true and all makes sense.
Q: Has it been a challenge for you to balance your music with your new, growing family?
A: He was born at a time when it was starting to make sense for me to maybe slow down my pace a little bit, and also coincidentally a time when I had a little bit more control over my schedule. I still have a very vigorous schedule, but it’s kind of turned into a situation where work and family are pretty much all I do.
Q: Can you share a favorite memory from past Jams?
A: The year Ralph Stanley came to Christmas Jam was the only time that I can remember that every artist, every musician was standing on stage watching one of the performers… And that was also the same year John Scofield was there (I believe) and it’s kind of a testament to the diversity of the event.
One of the things that makes it easier for people to last seven hours is the fact that there’s so many different genres of music being represented, and I think it keeps people’s attention more than if it was the same type of music.
Q: What new projects are you working on, anything new on the horizon?
A: Government Mule is working on a new album right now. And we’re actually at the tail end of it, almost finished, starting the mixing process… I really enjoy doing different projects and being fortunate enough to explore different directions because I enjoy so many different types of music.
Q: What twist can we expect on this new album?
A: I wanted to explore some directions that we had never done before and also revisit the beginning of Government Mule… We’ve even recorded a couple songs that have a folkish, country-ish tinge to them… We’re just trying to fill in the gaps and explore the influences that we hadn’t gotten to yet.