Jackie Greene is finishing 2016 in style with a Dec. 31 show at the Crest Theatre, which figures to be different from any others he’s played this year.
“The Mother Hips are playing that show as well,” Greene said in a mid-December phone interview. “That’s going to be great because hopefully we’ll do something together because (singer/guitarist) Tim (Bluhm) is my best friend, and the Mother Hips are one of my favorite, probably in my top 10 favorite rock-and-roll bands of all time and a huge influence on me growing up. They’re a generation older. I used to see them in Cesar Chavez Park. …
“There’s going to be a lot of musical love happening, a lot of shared interests.”
Fans can expect some musical surprises from Greene and his band during their own set as well.
“Every tour we’ll pick – and this has been going on for at least the last couple of years now – we sort of pick a handful of old songs that we don’t play a lot and then some new covers, some interesting covers to do, sometimes at the very last minute,” Greene explained. “It keeps everything a little bit fresh.”
A key reason Greene feels free to throw in unexpected covers, as well as allow his own songs to evolve in how they get played live, is because he’s never been burdened with a bunch of hit singles. He views the gradual growth in his career to have been far better for his creative health.
“I’ve always felt if you got too big too quickly, too popular too quickly, it’s easy to paint yourself into a corner (musically) that way because people expect a certain thing out of you,” he said. “That’s not good for anybody, I don’t think, especially the artist, the person doing it. It’s like it’s easy to get disgruntled if that happens.”
Greene, 36, a long-time resident of Sacramento who moved to New York City (Brooklyn) a couple of years ago, also tries to apply a willingness to evolve his music to his albums. He has started work on his next solo album, and if he continues down the path he’s started, it should be a perfect example of Greene’s desire to keep trying new things as an artist.
This time, rather than bringing in a band and recording in a professional studio, Greene is recording at his home studio. He’s playing all of the instruments himself and hoping these home recordings will become the finished album and result in recordings that feel authentic and help listeners better connect with the emotions of his songs.
Greene started work on his most recent album, 2015’s “Back to Birth,” with a similar idea. But after making his demos playing all of the instruments himself in his home studio, he realized the songs needed to be recorded with a full band in a professional studio.
As a result, “Back to Birth” illustrates Greene’s musical diversity. The mid-tempo rocker “Silver Lining” has a bit of the Eagles and Black Crowes with its country and Southern soul touches. “Now I Can See for Miles” rocks a bit harder, but retains the album’s rootsy feel. “Where the Downhearted Go” is a blues ballad in the B.B. King vein, and there’s also a mandolin-specked ballad, “A Face Among the Crowd,” that has a bit of a wide-open spaces feel.
That sort of sound seems to reflect both Greene’s musical tastes and the kind of music he has played in between the eight solo albums he has released since 2002.
In 2007, he was recruited to play in Phil Lesh and Friends, the band assembled by the Grateful Dead bassist. And in 2012, he did an acoustic tour with Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir and Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson.
Greene then went on to play lead guitar in the Black Crowes for that band’s final tour in 2013. Greene also was a member of Trigger Hippy, a group featuring singer Joan Osborne and Black Crowes drummer Steve Gorman.
Trigger Hippy released an excellent self-titled debut album in 2015, but Greene that July left the group to focus on his solo career.
Greene knows these and other outside projects have interrupted his solo career from time to time. But he is happy to have done them.
“I’m nothing but grateful for those experiences,” he said. “It’s easy to say, ‘Oh yeah, if you would have just focused on your own s---, then you would have more (solo) records out by now and maybe you would have been more popular and this and that.’ But there’s no guarantee of that. And, quite frankly, the decisions I made to be in those bands and to play with those guys, I’m following my bliss. And at the end of the day, that’s all you’re supposed to do as an artist.”