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Features, Print February 23, 2022

Still Thirsty: G. Love & The Juice Stir it Up

by Dan England

The band still carries his name, but G. Love is taking a step back from the spotlight. 

G. Love was as synonymous with the Special Sauce as a Big Mac and fries, but he’s now touring with The Juice, and the move signals a shift in musical direction, both in his music and the way he approaches it. 

In the first summer of COVID-19, he and some friends he also respected felt like a bunch of shipwrecked musicians, he said. No one was going anywhere, as gigs were scarce. He had a lot of time to reflect — didn’t we all? — and the band he put together to get those friends some work turned into The Juice. The band, an eight-piece blues outfit full of fiery players, was significantly different from Special Sauce, a trio.

The experience rejuvenated him. Since their beginnings back in ‘93, he’d always felt nervous before a show with Special Sauce, the kind of pressure a quarterback, goalie or starting pitcher might feel before a big game: He knew it was on his shoulders.

On the road again – G. Love and The Juice. (Cover image by Kaelan Barowsky.)

“Special Sauce has been great, but I’d been thinking about a bigger band for some time,” G. Love said in a phone interview for BandWagon. “It was a chance to play with a lot more soloists instead of just a trio. It was a lot of fun for me.

“If you know sports, you take the player out for a bit so he can catch his breath. Even if you are able to have a couple other soloists, it gives my voice a break. I like to pass around the mic a bit more now. It takes the pressure off me.”

He’s now on tour with The Juice again — he plays four gigs in Colorado over the first weekend in March, including the Aggie in Fort Collins on March 4 — and preparing to release his second album with the band. He has big plans for the ensemble, saying he’s hoping for another Grammy nomination, just like the band’s first album he released in January 2020, and he wants to headline Red Rocks, just like he did in 2008 and ‘09. 

“That was one of the big pinnacles of my career, and I’m trying to get back to that,” he said. “When a musician wants to try and get up to that next level, a lot of times it involves making changes. I need a fuller sound.” 

G. Love and the Juice kick off their spring tour with three Colorado dates, starting March 3 in Denver. Photo by Philamonjaro.

He put that first, self-titled Juice record together with icon Keb’ Mo’ and calls the style “hip-hop blues,” or really, blues with G.’s signature sound, but it’s still a vastly different direction for him. It was a direction he had wanted to pursue for years.

“I’d wanted to work with him a long time,” G. said of Keb’ Mo, praising his meticulous songwriting and production methods. But the coronavirus interfered with that writing and recording, of course, and it ended up taking three years to make. G. loved the process, but it’s also what made his upcoming album so refreshing. It was exactly the opposite.

For this record, he worked with blues legend Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars fame – a Grammy nominated act who have played the Greeley Blues Jam. In Dickinson’s personal studio, G. collaborated with a bunch of younger players who contributed  both solos and songwriting to the tracks. He cut the album in four days.

Flip through the full February issue of BandWagon by clicking here.

“We got some hip-hop artists as well,” he said. “It was a lot more spontaneous. We’d lay a groove and write to it on the spot. It was really cool to see all the artists step up and let the creative juices go. That’s the best thing about collaboration. Everyone is supportive. Really cool things happen.

“This record is really special to me,” G. continues. “It’s a lot different, but it’s unreal and really strong.” 

He’s also excited to be on the road with his new lineup. He finds them inspiring enough as people and musicians to change what he’s done after decades of playing and touring in a trio. 

“There’s still an edge there, but generally before I hit the stage I just think ‘OK, this is going to be fun,’” G. said. “Let’s go rock this.”

G. Love and The Juice play March 4 at The Aggie in Fort Collins, as well as March 3 at The Bluebird Theater in Denver, March 5 at The Fox in Boulder and March 6 at Belly Up in Aspen. Visit philadelphonic.com for more.