Social Distancing With Warren Haynes: Canceled Shows, New Songs, and Bill Withers

As the world fights a pandemic, we reached out to some of our favorite artists with a few quarantine questions about these unprecedented times. Warren Haynes played at one of the last major arena shows before the lockdown – the “Brothers” tribute to the Allman Brothers Band on March 10 – and also participated in the Love Rocks benefit at New York’s Beacon Theatre two nights later. (Four participants in that show, including Jackson Browne and guitarist Larry Campbell, tested positive for the coronavirus, but Haynes appears to have emerged untouched. “I seem to be okay,” he says. “I remember Jackson and I approaching each other and giving each other the elbow bump and smiling, like, ‘This is the way it’s gotta be now.’ It was the beginning of a new mindset.”)

Haynes, who turned 60 this week, was scheduled to play shows with Phil Lesh and Friends and also to tour Europe with his own band, Gov’t Mule. All those concerts have been postponed. Here’s what he had to say about his time off.

What are you doing with your unexpected time at home?
I’m luckily out in the country [Westchester County, New York] where we have a few acres of land. We walk around and go out on our Kawasaki Mule. I’ve been doing a lot of writing, which started several months ago but has carried over obviously due to having a lot of unexpected time at home. I do most of my writing when I’m home anyway, so I intend to take full advantage of the situation. In an odd way it feels good to be forced to slow down a bit.

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What music do you turn to in times of crisis for solace and comfort, and why?
When I need music to lift me out of a funk I always seem to gravitate towards timeless stuff – the stuff that I consider top-shelf. Before Bill Withers died, I would have included his Live at Carnegie Hall as one of those go-to records, but since then even more. Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks is one I turn to for a soul cleansing along with Ray Charles’ True to Life. I could give you 20 more: anything by Otis Redding, the first John Prine record, any of a dozen Bob Dylan albums, mostly old but including Oh Mercy. The only “newer” artists I would tend to include in that company would be Chris Whitley, Jeff Buckley, and Ray LaMontagne.

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 Anything else you want to say to your fans right now? 

It seems like we’re headed back to the Sixties, in the way that it’s up to us – we’re all in this together. Post-conflict, post-crisis situations tend to inspire a lot of positive change on the other side and that, historically, translates to music as well. I’m hoping we will be better on the other end – as people, as a country, as a world.

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