Singer-songwriter Jackie Greene played with The Black Crowes and Gov't Mule, and toured with B.B. King, Mark Knopfler, Huey Lewis, and Buddy Guy. He accompanied Joan Osborne and Steve Gorman in Trigger Hippy, as well as collaborating with Phil Lesh and Bob Weir, who calls Greene "the cowboy poet of Americana and Blues."
Greene recently released a new music video, called "Crazy Comes Easy," a song from his forthcoming The Modern Lives, Vol. 2 EP, dropping in October. Popdust caught up with Greene, asking him about his beginning in music, his influences, and his songwriting process.
How would you describe yourself?
I'm a pretty down-to-earth, blue collar guy. When I'm not doing music, I'm working in the garage or playing baseball. Anything I can do with my hands.
What is the most trouble you've ever gotten into?
I've kept my nose clean as an adult, but when I was a kid I got into a little trouble here and there. My friends and I stole a car once. We returned it, so I figured it wasn't exactly stealing. We got busted, nonetheless.
What kind of guitar do you play?
I play several. I have a lot of old Gibsons and a handful of Martins.
Why did you become a musician/singer-songwriter? What's the backstory there?
I was interested in music at a young age. I started playing piano when I was like 9 or 10. Picked up a guitar around then, as well. I got serious about it when I went to High School. I could play a little bit and I suppose the next thing was learning how to sing and play at the same time. From there, it was only a matter of time before I wanted to write my own songs. I'd say I got serious about songwriting right after High School. I'd go to open-mic nights and play coffee shops whenever I could. I had a gig at a biker bar a couple times a week playing Happy Hour. I was underage, so they made me go outside on breaks. I'd play all the old country songs I knew and sneak in a few of my own here and there.
What musicians influenced you the most?
Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and Ray Charles. I also grew up in the 90s and Hip-Hop culture was ubiquitous. I'm sure a lot of that rubbed off as well.
How, if at all, do your musical influences shape and impact your music?
To a certain extent, all artists are a product of their influences. I think the trick is to inject a healthy amount of your own personality into the work. Hopefully, people like it.
How would you describe your style of music?
I'd just call it Rock and Roll. But, I have a much deeper understanding of what that means than most people. Casual music fans have a pedestrian understanding of the history, at best. There are a lot of different influences that amount to what we call Rock and Roll.
You played in the super-group Trigger Hippy. What was that like? Was it a good experience or a bad experience?
It was a great experience. It's always fun to play music with your friends and peers. Joan and I really had some great duets. She's a great frontwoman and I learned a lot from her.
When you decide to write a song about a particular topic, do you make the decision consciously – "I think I'll write a song about that" – or does it just happen intuitively?
Generally, I'm not a topical songwriter. I find it boring, and somewhat limiting. I'd say of the hundreds of songs I have, maybe a handful started off that way. I usually just start writing and let my mind wander. I'll hone in on something later in the process.
What is your songwriting process? Do the lyrics come first, or the music?
Both. Depends on the weather, I suppose.
I really like your new song "Crazy Comes Easy," a potent blues rock number. What was the inspiration for the song?
I don't recall a specific inspiration point. I think it's just one of those songs I had that I tinkered with for a bit until it felt right to me. These days, a lot of my writing is about feel. I've becomes less cerebral and more physical with the craft.
Right now Spotify reigns as the middle man in the music world. Albums are deemed passé and collaborative singles are all the rage. What do you think of the current state of the music industry?
I don't think about it at all. Spotify is great and all, but it will be something else in 10 years. The technology will change, but music will remain. There's still music without the "music industry." There's no music industry without the music so I don't busy myself with the particulars. The "industry" can do whatever it wants. I'll still be making songs. I don't give a shit. I've been saying that for over a decade.
Will you be doing any touring?
I've got a new band that I'm bringing to a few places this Fall. NYC, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Los Angeles are on the docket. It's a very soulful group with a lot of Gospel influence and I think our fans are going to get a big kick out of the whole thing. Hopefully, we'll add more dates for next year.
Randy Radic is a Left Coast author and writer. Author of numerous true crime books written under the pen-name of John Lee Brook. Former music contributor at Huff Post.