Warren Haynes Talks Christmas Jam (A Look Back)
In terms of those collaborations, what sort of role do you take in facilitating them?
I try to direct people towards one another if I think the collaboration has potential but a lot of the time, I let people decide on their own who to gravitate towards. A lot of beautiful collaborations come about just from people hanging out in the dressing room, the rehearsal area or knowing in advance that so and so is going to be there. It changes all the time. One moment somebody’s setlist may indicate that x amount of songs are going to be played and then 20 minutes later, “Oh no scratch that, so and so is going to join us for this song and so and so is going to join us for this song.”
A perfect example is last year with Michael Franti who came as a duo with his guitar player Jay Bowman. Mickey Raphael had called me weeks in advance if not months in advance and said, “You know, I’m a huge Michael Franti fan is there any way I can play with Michael?” So I called Michael and said, “Mickey would love to play with you” and he said, “Absolutely.” So the next thing you know they’re in the rehearsal room and John Paul Jones says, “I’d like to play with Michael Franti as well.” Then Robben Ford and the next thing you know all these amazing musicians are assembling around Michael, who an hour earlier was going to play as a duo. Those are the things I like to see happening. Branford Marsalis playing with Marty Stuart or Branford Marsalis playing with Dave Matthews, that’s not something you hear every day.
Brad Whitford [Aerosmith] is going to be there this year. How did that come about?
Brad and I became friends initially in the mid-90s when he sat in with Gov’t Mule in Boston. And one of the songs we played was “Born Under A Bad Sign,” so I imagine he’ll be one of the people who’s going to say, “Hey, I want to play with William Bell” (laughs). Brad’s a great player and we had talked a few times since about Christmas Jam and I ran into him a couple years ago in LA and he told me, “Hey, I moved to Charlotte and I hear great things about your Christmas Jam I’d love to be part of it.” So this year it worked out and we’re very excited to have him there. I think the sit-in possibilities with him are wonderful.
Has that happened quite a bit? Someone expresses interest to you and then at some point maybe a few years later it just works out in terms of scheduling?
The way it seems to work a lot of times is people express interest and it may take a year or two or three for it to work into their schedule. Some people it works out right away, there are some people that are still trying to get here that haven’t made it yet. The more the event continues to grow, the more people seek us out and say, “I’ve heard great things about your Christmas Jam,” which is great because in the past it was always the other way around. I was having to reach out to people. So the word is spreading, which is good.