Sarah Lee Guthrie Talks Woody, Fans, and Wilco
Photo credit Arlo Guthrie
Do a lot of people want to hear Woody and Arlo’s songs without any kind of changes?
There are expectations. And there are people who want to hear the music a certain way. It’s a really grand thing, that they love the music, and we definitely want to keep it going. But there’s something to be said for the spirit of things and not doing it exactly like it was done before. I like thinking in terms of that and not trying to copy something or go back in time. We want to keep the spirit and move forward. That is the key to keeping it fresh for [the audiences] and for us.
You’ve always been gracious about playing the folk music that your family made famous, but you seem very enthusiastic now.
It was a very fine line for me. Maybe I wasn’t ready [to completely embrace] them before, but something has happened for me. Something very important about the idea of my life [and being a descendent of] Woody Guthrie. We enjoy walking with Woody Guthrie, having him with us. Now is the right time for us to celebrate and pay tribute to this man without whom we wouldn’t be here. And that feels really good.
I know you’re all doing some of your own music on this tour but you are also selecting an array of Woody Guthrie music. Is it all music we know?
Actually, no. We’re trying to find some very obscure tracks no one has heard, not to be so obvious.
That’s great, to give people a chance to hear more of his repertoire. That, too, sounds like something you’re very excited to do.
I am. Something shifted this year. Maybe in my dreams it came to me that I’ve got to play this songs. Let’s do it for Woody and represent him. We should! It’s a really neat feeling as the Centennial comes around and it’s a full tribute. We all feel it, all 14 of us out there. We are all excited to represent what it means. And there couldn’t be a better time in the world to do this. The world needs Woody Guthrie now so let’s do it and have fun. It feels good for both Johnny and me to stop out of our own world and do this.
Speaking of your world, I understand your new album is about halfway done. I know Jeff Tweedy and Pat Sansone of Wilco are the producers. You have a lot going on!
We do, and their schedule has been as crazy as ours but we keep pushing forward. Wilco is one of my favorite bands because they take very unique approaches. They never sound the same, every song sounds different. When Wilco and Billy Bragg came out with the whole Woody Guthrie sound, it was just kind of a revelation to me. I had grown up loving rock ‘n roll and then having Wilco and Billy Bragg do that project [the recent album “Mermaid Avenue” in honor of the Guthrie centennial], some of the more traditional came in. It was a revelation to me. Dylan brought Woody Guthrie to the last generation and Wilco is bringing it to this one. It’s come full circle and is still evolving.
What’s the process been like so far?
I love it and I love [Jeff and Pat]. Jeff is the guy who comes in and lets you know if you’re delivering the message or not. He’s really got a way of making you express yourself. This is very raw and each track is unique. When we first decided to go with Jeff, we thought ‘We are going to make a great Americana record.’ We’ve gone way beyond that. You can’t put a tag on it, which I like.
You and Johnny certainly collaborated on “Bright Examples,” but it seems your songs were very separate. I remember you talking about Johnny’s songs and him mentioning your songs. Not in a way to separate you, but just identify the different inspirations. Is it the same this time?
You know, I can count on one hand the number of times through the years Johnny and I have co-written but for this we’ve sat down and said ‘What do you think?’ We dive into each other songs. So the songs go from our basement to the loft and then out to you guys. We’ve given them a lot of songs and they are choosing them and it’s coming together.
It has to be nerve wracking in a way to have so much of the process out of your immediate control. I give you a lot of credit for putting such trust in your producers.
SLG: When you have Jeff Tweedy choosing your songs, you know they are the best so we feel very confident.
The Howlin’ Brothers take to the Relix rooftop and share a song they wrote with Warren Haynes.
Beth Hart shares the opening track from her latest album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, live at Relix.
Jamie Lidell sets up in the Relix boiler room and delivers a tune from his 2005 album Multiply
Duane Trucks is happy to announce his new project, King Lincoln. Watch them perform “Coffee” live and acoustic at Relix’s Online-Video Coordinator’s loft in Williamsburg.
Here’s another song from Crystal Bowersox’s new record All That For This, live at Relix.
WYATT share a song in the famed Relix boiler room.
Goodnight, Texas share a song from their latest studio album, A Long Life of Living, live at Relix.
Warren Haynes performs a solo, acoustic version of “Railroad Boy” and explains how he adapted the traditional Celtic song for Gov’t Mule, backstage at the Hangout Music Festival.
Australia’s Alpine recently made their NYC debut at the Relix office with this song from their new album A is for Alpine.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
- Preservation Hall Jazz Band: Free Download "Dear Lord (Give Me The Strength)"
- God Street Wine with Warren Haynes "Sweet Little Angel" (Live 1996)
- The Howlin’ Brothers "Big Time"
- Primus in Toronto
- Twice "The Joker" on Saturday at Bonnaroo (Gov’t Mule and Jack Johnson)
- The National’s Grateful Dead Tribute Album Dead Hot In Motion
- Daft Punk: Random Access Memories
- Visions of Bonnaroo Thursday (ALO, Jack Johnson, Polyphonic Spree, Allen Stone…)
- Interlocken Confirms Daily Lineups, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Punch Brothers, Keller & The Keels and More Added
- Mumford and Sons Cancel Bonnaroo Show, Summer Tour
- Ed Helms: Bonnaroo, Banjos and a Bit of Phish
- Robert Hunter Will Return to the Stage for Eight Shows
- Warren Haynes to Play Jerry Garcia’s Wolf on Symphony Tour
- Tedeschi Trucks Band Share New Song
- Jack Is Back: Jack Johnson Talks Bonnaroo, ALO and New Album
- Patty Griffin in Boston
- Doctor’s Orders: So what should we call the Super Ball IX Newspaper?
- John Kadlecik Posts Statement on Bob Weir’s Collapse
- "I Wanne Be In moe.": The Latest Volunteers
- Bob Weir Escorted Off Stage During Furthur Show
- Vote for Your Favorite "I Wanne Be In moe." Contestant
- Furthur Cancels BottleRock Show as Bob Weir Is Out Of Commision
- Doctor’s Orders: What’s Your Favorite Furthur Song? (Win Copy of Relix Signed by Phil and Bobby)
- On The Verge Poll