.Guitarist Jackie Greene Wanders to Guild Theatre

Former Black Crowes guitarist’s solo work has a distinctly rootsy ethos

Born in Salinas, Jackie Greene grew up in the Sacramento region, where he started off playing tiny venues multiple times a month, playing anywhere and everywhere to get his word out.

And ever since his music got released on a national level via independent label Dig Music, this 43-year-old singer, songwriter, guitarist and former member of the Black Crowes has been in demand.

What makes Greene stand out are his melodic sensibilities and ability to morph into any live situation. Besides becoming a surrogate brother of the Grateful Dead family, playing alongside both Bob Weir and Phil Lesh and the band’s extended family, his rise has been the result of time on the road honing both his vocal and guitar chops and, consequently, adapting to each new musical venture.

Greene, who plays both as a solo artist and with his band, has landed some coveted support slots with the likes of Gov’t Mule, Los Lobos, Mark Knopfler, B.B. King, Phil Lesh, Ratdog, Huey Lewis, Susan Tedeschi, Taj Mahal and Buddy Guy, Additionally, he’s been featured at some of the biggest stateside festivals, such as Gathering of the Vibes, Mountain Jam, Newport Jazz, Newport Folk, Winnipeg Folk, Bonnaroo, and Outside Lands.

Greene’s current West Coast tour includes a stop at the Guild Theatre in Menlo Park. We caught up with Greene while he was preparing to go back on the road. 

Your sophomore record Gone Wanderin (2002) really set the ball rolling on a national level. What other cities gave you support early on?

Jackie Greene: A lot of the areas where the college radio stations were playing my stuff seemed to take off. Rita Houston, rest her soul, was a big help at WFUV in New York. Pittsburgh and Chicago AAA radio stations were also playing a lot of my stuff, so that was a big help. Beyond that, we just kept on touring.

You are married now and have two children. Are you consciously taking fewer out-of-town show offers?

I’m very lucky to live near the Bay Area, where there’s a lot of music happening. I don’t consciously take less out-of-town shows as it’s important to never take this lifestyle for granted. However, I do have a family now so that’s my No. 1 priority. There was a time I toured for weeks and barely broke even and was still somehow satisfied. I certainly can’t do that anymore and always make sure I come home with money.

Do you have songs and a working title for the next record?

I have a whole new album that I’ve been working on for a couple years. The working title is “Family.” I’ve been playing many of these songs in my set, such as “Goodbye Old Glory” and “Karma.” As you might expect, most of the songs deal with the general theme of family. My good friend Anders Osborne and I also cut an entire album of new songs together last year that we’re going to finish soon.

You’ve worked with some amazing musicians and bands, including the Black Crowes, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Gov’t Mule, and more. Any particular moments where you pinch yourself?

Every night I’m in awe! Last year, I joined Gov’t Mule for their Dark Side of the Mule tour, which was obviously Pink Floyd stuff. Warren [Haynes] hired me to play guitar and keys. We had a huge laser light show with sound effects. I remember we played a sold-out show on a Monday night at Red Rocks [in Colorado] and was saying to myself, “I can’t believe I get paid for this!”

Jackie Greene plays June 29 at the Guild Theatre, 949 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. Songwriter R.O. Shapiro opens the show. Tickets are $40 advance and available at guildtheatre.com. Doors open at 7pm and the show begins promptly at 8pm. 


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