G. Love: ‘There’s no other white kid on the street playing Dobro and rapping’
Twenty years ago, after moving from Philadelphia to Boston, G. Love’s musical career quickly rose from the streets and subway stations to regular club gigs that eventually landed him a record deal that brought him back to Philly.
“I moved to Boston because I knew it was one of the only places you could get a permit to be a street performer,” says G. Love (born Garrett Dutton). “I got a ride up there and went to Inman Square to get a permit to play in Harvard Square. I found a room in Jamaica Plain and I used to get on the 39 bus to Copley Square and hop on the Green Line to the Red Line with all my f—ing s—. I looked like a homeless person. I had this cart with a folding chair, my amp, a mic stand and all my gear and my guitar. I would wear a seersucker suit and Pumas with the fat laces. It was pretty competitive out in Harvard Square and I wouldn’t make too much money, but I got my s— together and that led to some solo shows.”
After Mark Sandman of Morphine got G. Love a weekly gig at the Plough and Star in Cambridge, interest from record companies soon followed. The headstrong 20 year-old who started merging hip-hop with his Delta blues and Dobro guitar had created a signature blend of musical stylings very unique for the time.
Hip-hop/blues may seem like an strange classification, but ask G. Love if he finds it odd and he’ll tell you, “Well, no, because I made it up! I really believe that,” he says. “I remember the exact moment that I stumbled upon it and I was playing on the street in Philly and I finished playing this sort of driving blues groove of mine, and it was just a two-chord jam — nothing fancy. I just started rapping these lyrics from Eric B. and Rakim’s ‘Paid in Full,’ and it worked. I was like, ‘Damn that’s some s— right there’. That was kind of an epiphany for me. I thought ‘There’s no other white kid on the street playing Dobro and rapping, I bet.’”
Two decades later, G. Love is back living back in Boston. Nine LPs and several EPs deep, he is promoting his 2011 album, “Fixin’ to Die” out on Brushfire Records, Jack Johnson’s label, an artist who he frequently collaborates with, and even had as a special guest on his record when Johnson was still relatively unknown. But Dutton sounds like he’s doing anything but fixin’ to die.
“It’s funny,” he says. “It’s our 20th year right now. We’ve messed around with a bunch of styles. Right now in the studio, I just want to make really honest and raw music without getting caught up in producing and stuff like that. We make our living on the road and we can write songs and be in the studio and it can all be about the music and the purity of the expression. For me, there are no rules right now. It’s just about making amazing records.”