by Jeff Niesel
While laid-back blues/hip-hop singer-songwriter G. Love says 2013 hasn’t been as busy as most years, he’s had a full schedule ever since his winter tour came through Cleveland in January. Love, who plays a special “Concert in the Kitchen” show at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday as part of the International Beer Fest Grand Tasting Session at the I-X Center, recently phoned in from Los Angeles; he had just returned from playing a few shows in Fiji where he had some time to hit the waves and surf alongside champion surfer Kelly Slater. “There was a big swell and I was out surfing with these great surfers from all around the world who had come out for it,” he says. “I tested my limits on that trip. I had to recognize that I’m not a pro surfer. I’m a pro musician.”
You played here earlier this year, what have you been up to since then?
It’s been a great year. We’re perpetually on the road. This past year we were two years out from the last record. We’re just mixing the new record right now. We’ve been working on that. We worked on it in May for a couple of weeks and we did another session this October and we did this session in May with Ryan Hadlock who produced the Lumineers album this past year, and we did one more session with Robert Carranza at the Brushfire studios. We lit it on fire at that session. That’s been a big focus this year. We toured throughout the year as well and these are always fun years because you’re not out promoting a certain batch of songs, and you can mix it up and try a lot of new stuff and play a lot of old stuff. I like those kind of years even though they’re not as busy as a record release year. You’re under the radar a little bit.
Do you write songs on the road?
I do. I write wherever I go. I’m always writing down ideas. When you’re on the road, you can write with the band. You stumble on a riff during soundcheck or during the show and you can explore that and flesh it out a bit. That’s always pretty cool. You have to get home and get your feet on the ground and take it from there and put it all together and see if you have something good.
Bob Dylan once said he couldn’t stand the sound of his own voice. You have a similar vocal delivery. Do you feel the same way about your voice?
Yeah, I think it’s something a lot of people struggle with. Your guitar is like a third party. You can pull off good guitar licks and get a good tone going. It’s easy to feel good about. Your voice is something to feel self critical about. It’s the hardest instrument to maintain on the road and a hard instrument to learn. That can be a struggle at times. This record was cool because what I like to do and I think I’ve have the most success at is do everything live. I’m not a great singer. I kind of do the rapping blues. I can sing, but I’m not great. Actually, I have been taking vocal lessons the last five years, mostly to learn how to protect my instrument night in and night out. I had a vocal surgery in 2008 that shut me down for a good half of the year. Especially, the last recording that was five days of cutting sessions and Dave Hidalgo from Los Lobos and Money Mark from the Beastie Boys played on a track. We got loose and lit it up. All the vocals were live so it’s real.
Who’s your favorite rapper?
I mean, the one that popped into my head was Q-Tip or Guru. Rakim and KRS-One are probably my biggest influences.
Talk about how growing up in Philadelphia influenced your music.
I think mostly growing up in Philly influenced me because it’s such a melting pot. It’s a melting pot like New York is but it’s a smaller city and everything is right there. You’ll have the Italian neighborhood and then black and Latino and Irish and polish. Those lines have become more blurred as the years go by. When I was growing up, it was more clear-cut. That being said, I grew up in the city and you’d see all walks of life and all different types of people expressing themselves. There’s a lot of street musicians. That influenced me. Everything from Big Al who used to play the spoons on the milk crate to full on drum circles and puppeteers. There was lots of energy in the ‘70s and ’80s. I became a street musician and that’s where I cut my teeth. The other side of it is that Philly had a big blues and folk scene. You had the Philadelphia Folk Fest. I got exposed to bluegrass and folk music and delta blues. At the same time, Philly was one of the epicenters of hip-hop. There was a late night radio show called Lady B’s “Street Beat.” That’s where we got exposed to hip-hop.
You’re playing a food and beer festival here. Do you have a favorite cold beverage?
Well, lemonade is my favorite, but I’ll drink anything if you put it in front of me. I love a good craft beer. This past year, I did a collaboration with New Belgium and we put out the Peach Porch Lounger. That was fun going out to the brewery and sampling lots of stuff and we sampled like 20 different beers. We wanted to make a beer that represents the music so we put malted biscuit powder and molasses and peach extract in it and it was really something. I’m psyched to play a food show because we’re releasing our hot sauces and we teamed up with a company from Kansas City and we’re releasing three hot sauces. I’m a real foodie, and I’m happy to be there. It goes along with the music. All the hot sauce recipes are based around my musical travels.