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Published: 2012/03/09
by Dean Budnick

Peaking at The Beacon with Warren Haynes

Photo by Dino Perrucci

When the Beacon shows were first announced back in January, the initial press release emphasized the 40th anniversary of Eat A Peach. Most of those songs you play regularly as it is, with the exception of the two Dickey [Betts] tunes. As you head into the Beacon, is that something specifically on your mind or is that something in the background?

I think the fact that it’s the 40th anniversary means that we’re going to take it into play as far as concentrating on a lot of those songs and opening some of the tunes up and exploring them differently than we’ve ever have. We did Eat A Peach in its entirety in Boston [11/30/11] so that’s not an extremely new concept. But that might appear one night as well without being announced.

You mentioned that you’ll be working up new songs for the acoustic sets. Are there any new originals that might be performed this year?

Not brand new originals that we’re doing acoustically, but some old songs that haven’t been done in a long time and some different covers and some different arrangements of songs that we maybe have played but not this way. We’re taking all those things into consideration. And also bringing back some of the instrumentals that haven’t gotten played in the last couple of years.

In terms of the songwriting process, I just received a copy of Gregg’s book, My Cross to Bear. Have you had a chance to see it yet?

No, I haven’t.

He’s certainly very complimentary of you. In it he says, “I’ve never written with anyone else as closely as I’ve written with Warren…Writing with Warren is kind of like writing with yourself.” How would you characterize your working relationship with Gregg?

Co-writing is a very sensitive thing and it’s hard to force a co-writing situation into working. More often than when not writers get together and try to co-write it doesn’t turn out as you might hope. When you find people that you feel comfortable writing with and the results are better than either one of you could come up with on your own, then that’s a positive thing.

It took Gregg and I a while to reach that point. If you look historically from the time I joined the band, I wrote with Dickey a lot in the early years. I knew Dickey better than I knew Gregg at that point because I’d been in Dickey’s band for three years. So it took time for us to get to know each other well enough to write together. It wasn’t until ’93 that Gregg and I started writing together at all. And then the past 10 or 12 years we’ve been writing more and more and I think we’ve just become close enough to where there’s no ego involved. We’re in it for the best results and however it comes about is fine.

I think a lot of times when writers first get together to co-write you spend most of the time trying to get to know each other’s personalities. We’re very close to the extent that there’s very little about each other that we don’t know, so we just go straight to the music. I think since we have such similar taste in songwriting that makes it easy but also the differences make it better than the sum of its parts. I think what we end up with are for the most part better songs than either one of us would write on our own. And that’s something I’m very proud of.

Back to the Beacon, guest musicians have become a part of the run. Now on one hand it’s New York and you have a lot of friends there. On the other hand, I think it’s fair to say there’s some audience expectation in terms of those special guest players. At this point, to what extent does the band feel that’s part and parcel of the Beacon run, so that you extend invitations in advance and to what extent do you just take it as it comes?

I think it’s become part of the Beacon tradition to include a lot of guests. It does come about in a very organic way. In some cases we don’t know until the day of the show that a certain individual may be showing up and sitting in. In some cases we’ve made phone calls weeks in advance and talk about what songs we’re going to do and in some cases we’ll get together during the day and rehearse with the individuals. But a lot of the time it’s really impromptu. I’d say 50/50 as to whether it’s been planned out or just happens.

Without naming the individuals, are there any notable players who have never appeared with the ABB who might be on the horizon for this year?

If things go as we’re hoping, there will be a few people returning who have joined us before and a few people joining us for the first time…

Head over to for more much more with Warren Haynes.

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