“Before I’d ever heard of Cream or Jimi
Hendrix, I heard soul music,” exclaims Warren
Haynes, whose new album, Man in Motion [Concord]
is a paean of sorts to his first musical inspirations. “I
was a singer before I ever picked up the guitar,” continues
Haynes, who counts himself as a member of
the Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule, and the Dead. “So
I was listening to Sam and Dave, the Four Tops, Otis
Redding, and the Temptations. For Man in Motion,
I wanted to merge those formative influences with
my blues guitar influences like B.B., Freddie, and
Albert King. Plus, I had been writing a lot of tunes
that didn’t fit with Gov’t Mule or the Allman Brothers,
but they did seem to have the common thread
of soul music. That made me think it was time to do
my first solo record since 1993.” Tracked at Willie
Nelson’s Pedernales Studios with a grooving band
that includes Ivan Neville on background vocals
and organ, Ian McLagan on piano, Ruthie Foster on
background vocals, George Porter, Jr. on bass, and
Ron Holloway on saxophone, Haynes delivers the
goods on Man in Motion, with his scintillating
guitar playing buttressing his soulful
vocal delivery and tight songcraft.
What can soul music teach a guitar player?
It shows you how to be part of an ensemble,
how to play behind a singer appropriately,
and how to play songs instead of just
solos. There’s a big part of guitar playing
that doesn’t hinge on playing solos. Plus,
if you listen to old soul records, if there
are guitar solos, they were usually very
short, but extremely effective and perfect
for the tune.
Do you feel you play differently over the type
of grooves found on Man in Motion than you would,
say, on an Allman Brothers record?
Definitely. But mostly because I went
for a cleaner tone on this record and that
made me change the way I play. In fact,
this album has the cleanest tones I’ve used
on any recording. It fits the music better.
It would have been out of place to use the
same tone I use in the Allman Brothers
or Gov’t Mule. Besides, one of the coolest
things about music is responding to
the tone you have. When you plug in and
it sounds cool, you’ll play a certain way.
And, in some cases, playing with a sound
that you’re not used to will inspire you to
explore and go down different roads.
Was there ever a time where you thought you
were using too much distortion?
Well, getting your tone is an evolving
process, and I don’t know exactly when it
was—but there was a time when I realized
that playing with a more distorted tone
made everything easier, yet it didn’t necessarily
sound better. You have to find the
fine line where it’s dirty, but you’re still
struggling a bit.
How much preproduction did you do for Man
We didn’t do much. The band came, we
learned the tunes from scratch, rehearsed
them a little bit, and started rolling tape. I
always take that kind of approach. It’s the
same approach we take with the Allman
Brothers and Gov’t Mule. My favorite way
to track is with everyone in the room looking
at each other and playing live, solos and
all. I much prefer my solos that I track live
because there is a subtle give and take with
the musicians. When you’re overdubbing
it’s a one-way street—you can respond to
the track but the players can’t respond to
you. The other way ends up sounding much
What did you use to track the album?
We used three amps and combined them
in various ways. I borrowed a Trainwreck
from a friend and ran it through a Marshall
4x12 loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s. I
also used a 1960 Fender Deluxe that belongs
to Willie Nelson, and a Fender Pro Junior.
I would have the Pro Junior facing me like
a monitor, but it’s so small it didn’t bleed
into the other mics. For guitars, I only used
my Les Paul on two cuts. On four other
tunes I used a 1959 ES-345, and the other
four were cut with my D’Angelico New
Yorker. This was the first time I recorded
with that guitar, which has flatwounds on
it for the jazzier solos.
What are you using onstage these days?
With the Allman Brothers, I’ve been
using a PRS Dallas head and my Cesar Diaz
CD-100 head that I’ve used for years. With
Gov’t Mule I’ll use the Diaz and sometimes
my modified Soldano SLO head or my old
You use effects, but very sparingly.
Yeah, I’m not a fan of an abundance of
effects, but used at the right time they can
be really cool. In fact, I’ve developed a taste
for the challenge of picking the right effect
at the right time. Growing up I was never
a big user of effects, but when we started
Gov’t Mule, it was a trio and I needed all
the ammo I could get. So I started using
tremolo, Leslie simulators, and octave dividers—
anything to make a three-hour show
more exciting rather than having the same
guitar sound all night. I have a Bradshaw
switching system that I use depending on
which band I’m playing with. In the Allmans,
I plug straight into the amp. In Mule,
I’ll use a Boss Octaver, a Hughes & Kettner
Rotosphere, a Chandler delay, a Bradshaw
stereo tremolo, a Dunlop Cry Baby, and
an Emma DiscumBOBulator. Most of my
overdrive comes from the amp. If I want
more, I’ll kick on a Klon Centaur or a Diaz
What are you using for strings, slides, and picks?
Strings are GHS .010-.046—or .011-
.052 depending on if I’m tuned down to
Eb—and my picks are Dunlop 0.88mm.
For slides I have some Coricidin bottles—
I even have a couple that used to belong to
Duane Allman that I’ll use in the studio. I
never take them onstage for two reasons:
they have historical value, but they also trap
moisture inside and it messes up the callous
on that finger. I’ve been using openended
Dunlop slides and my tech has been
painting the inside so they stick to my finger
better and don’t roll around.
Improvisation is such a huge part of what you
do. Surely you have those nights when you’re just
off of your game, right?
Yeah, everyone has those nights, even
the best players in the world. But I have
this theory that your “off” night doesn’t
always come across to the audience that
way. To me, a great night is when I’m experimenting,
breaking new ground, and doing
things I’ve never done before. But sometimes
when you’re having an uninspiring
gig and you have to rely on your stock licks,
you may still connect with the audience
because it’s your signature thing—your
bread and butter sound that’s very identifiable.
I’ve had nights that I thought I played
horribly and people would come up and say
it was the best they’ve ever heard me play.
And I’ve had other nights where I thought
I played really good and friends would tell
me, “Eh, I’ve heard you play better.” So I
don’t think what the audience gets from
your performance is necessarily the same
as what you get from it as a guitar player.
That being said, there are definitely nights
where there is that undeniable connection
between the crowd and the band and everyone
You’re always playing with so many different
people—legends in many cases. Is there something
you can glean by actually playing with a person that
you don’t necessarily get by listening to the records?
Oh yeah. For example, when I joined the
Allman Brothers in 1989, I had been playing
those tunes all of my life in bar bands
and garage bands. But when I played them
with the Allmans, I heard what really makes
them tick from the inside. Even though I was
a huge fan and studied that music, all of a
sudden, I was getting insight to what makes
them work on a higher level.
Okay, the million-dollar question is, what makes
Well, it’s kind of hard to describe. It’s the
same thing when I started playing with the
Dead—you get a better sense of what each
individual player’s role is and how to separate
each personality from a listening perspective,
which allows you to respond better
to the ensemble as a whole.
You’ve said that musicians are continuous students.
How do you stay in that learning mode?
That’s the challenge, isn’t it? Always
being a student will keep you inspired. As
musicians, it’s our job to find new ways to
express ourselves, and new ways to set up
a learning environment. That being said,
it’s easier to do when you’re surrounded by
great players, which I’m fortunate enough
to be. It also helps to have different projects
with different players involved, which
is also something I always do. Even in the
context of Gov’t Mule and the Allmans, we
have friends coming up on an almost nightly
basis, and when that happens something new
and interesting is bound to go down. So the
learning aspect isn’t a tedious thing at all.
If you’re playing with great players, you’re
learning how to better express your music