Jackie Greene began his career in his mid-teens working the bar and open mic circuit in and around his hometown of Sacramento. Since then, he has recorded seven albums and two EP’s, released a DVD, and published a book of lyrics. Upon witnessing his performance at Bonnaroo, Jon Pareles of The New York Times stated, “Jackie Greene could be the Prince of Americana.”
In addition to his own solo career, Greene has been touring with the Black Crowes since 2013 and has been involved in an ongoing side-project, Trigger Hippy, fronted by both Jackie and Joan Osborne and includes Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman. He also currently sings and plays guitar in Phil Lesh & Friends.
Back to Birth – Greene’s seventh album and his Yep Roc Records debut – is more than worthy of some serious attention. The 11-song set showcases the multi-talented artist’s uncanny knack for synthesizing his deep affinity for American roots styles into timeless, personally-charged music. Armed with a persuasive voice, a vivid songwriting skill and an instinctive mastery of several instruments, Greene has carved out a unique musical niche, and the album marks another creative landmark in his already compelling body of work.
Jackie Greene will be performing during AmericanaFest in Nashville on Friday, September 18th at Mercy Lounge from 11:00 – 11:45 PM/CT and in support of his appearance, Nashville Music Guide had a chance to do a Lucky 13 with him.
Lucky 13 with Jackie Greene
NMG: What was the first song you ever performed?
Jackie Greene: “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie. I had a knack for memorizing these kinds of things. It was for a public speaking segment in a High School english class. I got an A+.
NMG: What are your musical influences?
Jackie Greene: Mostly old rock and roll and blues. Stuff that sounds like it hurts.
NMG: What is a typical day/week like for you?
Jackie Greene: If we are on tour, it’s pretty rigorous. I like to exercise in the mornings, so no matter how late we play, I’m usually up early.
If I’m at home, I’ll be doing chores around the house. Writing songs here and there. Maybe drawing, painting. I like photography, so I find myself developing film in my bathroom a lot.
NMG: What personal advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue this career?
Jackie Greene: You have to really want to do it. Especially now. There’s not a lot of money to be made, so you have to do it for love. If that sounds like you, then I’d say never, ever give up.
NMG: If you had to do it all over again, would you still choose this career? Would you do anything differently?
Jackie Greene: I’d do it all exactly the same. Except my haircuts. I had some ridiculous haircuts.
NMG: How would you describe your music to someone that has never heard you before?
Jackie Greene: Like Perry Como trying his best to sound like Bob Dylan and failing miserably.
NMG: As a child growing up, music surrounds us; What type of music did you hear the most back then? How does it differ from what you listen to now?
Jackie Greene: I grew up in a time when boy bands dominated pop culture. There was a conspicuous lack of good rock bands where I grew up, so I found myself working backwards in time. I became a classic rock and old blues junkie for the simple reason that it was a viable alternative to what was on the radio at the time.
NMG: What are your songs about? (What specific themes do they cover?)
Jackie Greene: I write a lot of songs that relate in some way to the human condition. Mostly, it’s in the subtext. You have to sort of pay attention. The music I listen to tends to have more worldly themes, so I suppose that rubs off on me. I’ve never considered myself a topical songwriter, although at times I’ve tried to be. I don’t get too specific in songs, unless it’s absolutely called for.
NMG: What do you feel distinguishes “an artist” from just a musician?
Jackie Greene: I don’t think about those things that much. I suppose if you really get down to it, just about anyone can be a musician. You can bang around on a keyboard or a drum machine and as horrible as it might sound, you’re technically making music. Which makes you a musician. Doesn’t mean you have anything to say, however. It’s like writing. You can have a mastery of the english language and have read thousands of books, but if you have nothing to say, then it doesn’t do you much good. If pressed, I guess I’d say an artist is someone who has both the means and the imagination to successfully follow their muse.
NMG: If you could perform with anyone in the world – either dead, alive, or broke up – who would it be? Why? (Name up to 3)
Jackie Greene: Ray Charles – because I’m convinced I’d learn more in five minutes with him than I have in my career. Tom Waits – because he’s my musical hero. Jerry Garcia – because I’ve been playing his songs for years now and I always wonder if he’d like the way I sing them.
NMG: As an artists, how would you define SUCCESS?
Jackie Greene: I would define success as completing what you set out to do on your own terms. I wouldn’t attach a dollar sign to it. After all, that stuff is so fleeting and random anyways. If you can set a goal and complete that goal, you are successful.
NMG: If you had only five minutes on earth to perform one song that could leave a great impact on the world today, what song would you perform and why did you choose this particular piece?
Jackie Greene: I’d choose Beethoven’s 9th symphony. Final movement. It’s a high point for composition. Oh wait, 5 minutes? And I have to play it? Scratch that, I’ll go with Living La Vida Loca.
NMG: What are your up-to-date performance plans? New Releases? Tours ? News?
Jackie Greene: I have a new album out called “Back To Birth” on Yep Roc Records. We’ll be touring on it all year and well in to next year. Mostly, the US but we’ll try to get to the UK and Canada if we can swing it.
Check out Jackie Greene’s “Light Up Your Window”‘
Without music, I would be … Struggling to figure out what to do with my life.
Music is … the connective tissue that binds us together.
My music makes me feel … Light headed.
I write the songs because … I feel that it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.
Support music because … you really want to.