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Shelby: Getting paid to be a musician is for a lot of people the ultimate dream job. I'd say interviewing one of your favorite musicians is a pretty close second. In this episode, I got to do just that when I sat down with Garrett Don, aka G Love, of G Love and Special Sauce. I'm Shelby Stanger and this is Wild Ideas Worth Living.
[music]
I've been a big G Love fun since I was in college. I heard his music all the time growing up and when he played at Emory University where I was going to school in Atlanta, Georgia, I was over the moon. At the time, not a lot of kids at my school totally knew who he was, but G Love was always on the radio in San Diego especially when he did that song with Jack Johnson Rodeo Clown. What I love about Garrett Don is not only is he such a talented musician who's mixed from different genres including hip hop, folk, blues, rock, skate, and surf, but he's a pro. He's been making music and touring successfully for over 20 years.
When I was 22 in 2002, I actually spent a year traveling on a tour bus as a music journalist. It was my first job right out of college for the Vans Warped Tour Festival. Bottom of my heart for musicians, especially ones who make songs I really love and ones who happen to do activities I like like surfing. I always feel a little nostalgic when I get in a tour bus. When Garrett came through San Diego on his latest tour and we sat down on his tour bus, it was a special treat. We talked not only about how he started playing music at age eight, but how he turned that into a lasting career in the industry and his advice to anyone who's a creative and wants to make it doing something they love.
[music]
I'm with Garrett in the tour bus. Welcome to Wild Ideas Worth Living.
Garrett: Thanks, Shelby. Thanks for having me.
Shelby: Thank you so much for coming on. I haven't been in a tour bus in a while. It's a treat and I love it. This podcast, initially the idea was to find someone who was really inspired by the outdoors and the love of the sport and was a musician. I was like, "G Love." I'm from here in Cardiff by the sea. I went to school at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. I graduated in 2001.
Garrett: Why did you go there?
Shelby: Because I knew I'd surf if I went to USC or UCLA and I wanted to study journalism to focus. CNN was there and I knew I would have to focus and the soccer team was pretty cool. That got fun though. I wanted a cultural experience and so I went to school in Atlanta. You played at our school and people didn't get it. Jack Jones was also around there. I was like, "Oh, my God, you guys have no idea. These guys are the best." I got to stand on the front row the whole time and people loved your music. I don't think the kids at Emory in Atlanta totally knew and then we would follow.
Then I had a girlfriend who we went and saw you in Jacksonville or in some college towns in Georgia and South Florida. People raged at your show. They were so fun. Do you remember playing shows in the early 2000s in college towns? Me still. It's still the same crowd. That's great background of influence. It was hip hop and blues. It's a different mix and a lot of artists. Can you talk a tiny bit about that?
Garrett: I guess on two sides. The musical side, my mother put me in folk guitar lessons when I was a young kid. I didn't like it, but I stuck with it. Then eventually it started sounding pretty good when I was 13. I learned a lot of Beatles songs. Seemed like a lot of teachers would teach me Beatles songs and other people, Bob Dylan or just all different acoustic strummy songs. That was the interesting thing to first learn how to sing and play a song by playing Beatles songs which are one of the greatest songwriters of all time. Certainly, I was learning good songs, good crafts, good changes.
Then I got into the Delta Blues through playing harmonica. This is the '80s, I was playing the harmonica on rack when all my friends were playing in cure cover bands. Somehow I found folk and Bob Dylan and Peter Paul and Mary and Leadbelly and Woodie Guthrie and all this stuff. Then I found the Delta Blues through an artist named John Hammond. That changed my life listening to John Hammond because John did records of interpretations of other bluesmen songs.
I was able to trace that back and find Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson and Skip James and Elmore, James, Mississippi, John hurt and Mississippi from McDonald's list can go on and on. There was this side of me that was this folk kid and writing songs about the city and the country. Then I got into blues and started writing more about the city of Philadelphia. Then, the same time I was like a surfer skate rat. I had that beach thing, but I also grew up in the inner city of Philadelphia. I had this whole street culture thing going. I was skateboarding. I was writing graffiti. We were break dancing. We were playing basketball.
We were really a part of the street hip hop culture in the '80s which the soundtrack was the Beastie Boys and LL Cool J, Randy MC, Public Enemy. Later De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest, Eric B and Rakim. I had this juxtaposition from this hippie crunchy kid to this skateboarding, graffiti writing kid. One day later, they just collided. When I was a street musician, I started rapping the verse for this Eric B and Rakim song Paid In Full over my blues riff, then I knew at that moment, that it was like the sky opened up and that was one of my great epiphanies of my life like, wow, I just found a style that no one's thought of before.
Shelby: You have this perfect blend. That's so awesome that you have that. Philly and Boston they don't seem like the easiest. they're so different than Jersey beach town or San Diego.
Garrett: Philadelphia was a really interesting city. Then, again, it also had a lot to do with where I was from. Philadelphia is a city. It's a walkable city. It's a grid. We always would say we live downtown on 2nd and Delancey, I lived in a nice upscale inner-city neighborhood. Philadelphia is like neighborhoods. Especially back in the day, it was real clear cut the line. This neighborhood is white and this neighborhood is Italian.
Then it went to the project where a lot of African American communities lived. That's south. If you go north, it's going to go working class Polish and then go to Puerto Rican and then African American neighborhood or then China Town. Every day we always say if you go west first you're going to hit the Irish neighborhood. We always say, "Don't don't walk too far in one direction on any given street because you're going to end up someplace where you probably don't want to be." That was real, but at the same time, that proximity was a real melting pot.
I played in a basketball league. That was they wanted only white kids in there. That was the first time I heard the Beastie Boys. One of my friends put his headphones on and it played this Beastie Boys song Hold It Now. Then, "Hold it now, here it is." I was like, "Oh, that's so cool. What is that?" He's like, "Yes, that's Beastie Boys. They're white just like you." I was like, "No, they're not." Especially then hip hop was a really pure African American cultural music of those neighborhoods. Then that's what it was as a white kid I loved to listen to. You never thought of yourself being a rapper.
Then one day it just happened to me. Anyhow, Philly was unique because of that melting pot thing. A lot of ideas were stirring around. There was three bands that came out of there that really took hip hop and spread it in a different way. That was the goats who you might not know. I'm sure you know their roots. We all graduated the same year, grew up in different neighborhoods, 10 blocks away from each other, whatever it was. We were all the same age. The roots are interesting because there were black kids that wanted to recreate hip-hop records that they love with live instruments because they were all art school kids.
That's what they did. Before that, hip-hop was just two turntables and a microphone or a DAT and a microphone. It was very specific. It wasn't meant to have a live band but they did that and then obviously you see where their career is going and same thing for us. I was a white kid with a guitar and my band's basically a garage band and we were rock and roll blues with hip hop. This was at a time when those three bands blurred the lines.
Then of course on the west coast at the same time, Beck came out at the exact same time. It was a generational thing where kids like me they grew up with the old-school hip-hop guys started taking it in different directions. But we were lucky because we were the first. A lot of it has something to do with timing.
Shelby: It's cool you did that, you broke ground. Today it's still super relevant and what I love so much is that, well, obviously it's G love. Love is such a big part of everything you do. Has it always been since you were a little kid like were you sensitive? I'm just so curious.
Garrett: Yes, I guess I was sensitive. I'm a sensitive kid.
Shelby: It takes a lot for people who are at a high level to realize that they need to let go of their ego and let love show the way.
Garrett: It's the hardest thing. I think, much of the way we all act and interact with the world is ego driven and that's a natural thing. Of course, it can be very helpful and it can also be very harmful to your performance. Surely if you can let go of the ego especially if you're in the position that we're in performing for the people. It's a funny thing as music is inherently completely personal and you spend your young days as a teenager when you learned to become a musician isolated and alone and you're doing this for yourself, at least for me, without thinking about was I going to be able to be on stage or anything or I just was writing songs.
Shelby: It's very selfish but it's also selfless.
Garrett: Yes, and then when you're playing music you have to first connect with yourself. You have to connect with the people that you're playing with. Then you have to get that vibe out. I guess over the years, I've become more thoughtful about what it is I'm doing. I think ultimately if I boiled down what my mission is every night is to connect with people and to make people happy and inspire them. That's what I'm trying to do because if I wanted to play music just for myself, I could just be at home. This is not only a job for us but it's my life's work and passion to be on stage and I love it. It is all about love.
Shelby: That's so great. I'm actually friends with Eric from Nosara and I know he did his podcast. You talked about this mantra that you do before shows.
Garrett: Yes.
Shelby: Do you still do that?
Garrett: I do, yes.
Shelby: Could you just tell us a little bit about the mantra because I found it so inspiring that I started the last two mornings waking up and saying, "I'm going to have a great day, I'm going to be really nice to myself, I'm going to go out with tons of energy, I'm going to send lots of love to everybody and I'm going to give everything I have to my podcast." It's been a game-changer.
Garrett: I guess it's the same thing just the power of positive thinking. Before the show, I have a little routine which, basically, we're coming up to it right now. After we finish this podcast, I'll do a quick sound check. I'm going to do a little VIP show. Then I'll come get something quick to eat and then take my little nappy-poo. Then we all nap here before the show, a little disco nap to get ready for the night.
Shelby: Then nap is not just for little kids?
Garrett: No. I like to separate the day from the night and for us everything gears up. On a show day, the whole day gears up to that hour and a half, two hours, on stage. Want to have all our energy. I wake up from my nap, I meditate for 10 to 15 minutes. I do a vocal lesson over the phone with my teacher.
Shelby: What does that look like really quickly because I've been looking for vocal lessons for a while?
Garrett: Well, my teacher is this woman Donna Newman and she's this quirky older lady from New York. She's crazy but she's one of a kind. My friend Citizen Cope turned me on her. He was doing lessons before every show and I said, "What?" I started doing it and it's been a complete game-changer for me. I had vocal surgery in 2008 so I've learned a lot about the voice but this is a real game-changer because you're working with a personal trainer if you're an athlete right before your game. So we do a number of exercises, usually the same exercises we've been doing them for three years. I've probably taken 500 vocal lessons in the last three years.
Shelby: What do you do? Do you go like, "Me me me me ear, Bumblebee bumblebee?"
Garrett: Well, you start like, [sings] and then she's like, "Okay, you're in good voice. What did you do last night?" Then just a lot of different exercises like compared to a falsetto. It's like [sings]. I don't know just stuff [laughs] It really helps. Then right before I go on, I do have this- I guess it's more of an affirmation than a mantra and it got long over the years.
Shelby: Can I video this?
Garrett: Yes you want me to say it?
Shelby: Yes.
Garrett: All right, well, it's funny because I had it in my notes in my iPhone and some of it got deleted but I know most of it by heart but it goes basically like, "I feel happy and euphoric with joy to be playing music. My skills are practiced and on point. I feel seasoned and confident from years on stage, engage the crowd and connect with them all. Tonight I play my greatest show ever, let tonight be its own night, a great night inspired in its own way. Then I feel my body moving agile and loosely. I sweat and feel my body release any tension. I feel synergy and a connection with my band, I feel the crowd I don't judge the crowd.
I'm happy if there are zero to a million people tonight because I'm happy in myself playing music. I feel the vibe. I'm a rock star. I'm a man of the people. I stalk the stage like a great panther. If I'm injured or sick in any mental physical or emotional way let the music lift me up. Music heals my soul. The show is the best part of my day. I'm at my best when I play music. The people I love and respect, love and respect what I do. I am the blues. I'm a living legend of the blues.
My voice is strong and supported, my notes are of pure pitch and timbre. My guitar is singing and cutting, the harmonica is blazing, the rhythm is pulsing like a freight train. I'm a human freight train. I'm love. I love my band, I love the songs, I love the crowd, I love myself, I love the stage. I'm ready, let's have a great show, love saves the day. I let love shine and truly save the day. Thank you for letting me play my music."
Shelby: I love that.
Garrett: I say that to myself and then we have a group hug and then Frank makes the announcement then we go rock out.
[music]
Shelby: Garrett isn't just a musician. When he was young he discovered surfing and fell in love. So how did a kid from Philly find surfing and how does he find time to surf when he's on the road touring? Well, you can find out where he surfs and how he does it after this message from our sponsor.
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Shelby: How old are you now? Can I ask?
Garrett: I'm 46.
Shelby: Nice, you're still young. You started playing music when you were eight years old.
Garrett: Yes.
Shelby: That's incredible. You started with a guitar and you were also a really good athlete. I heard that you were a basketball player but then you found skateboarding and surfing. How did surfing in particular stick? You grew up in Philly.
Garrett: Yes.
Shelby: So how did you find surfing?
Garrett: Well, I was lucky enough. We had a beach house at the Jersey Shore in this town called Avalon, New Jersey, and so we grew up surfing there since I was a kid. For any parents out there all the stuff that really shaped my world, I started when I was eight. I started playing guitar when I was eight, I started surfing when I was eight, I started playing basketball when I was eight. Those were the three pillars--
Shelby: Three loves?
Garrett: Yes, my hobbies.
Shelby: Guitar, basketball, and surfing.
Garrett: Basketball's too hardcore to play now, but surfing I surf as much and as often as I can. How has surfing affected and changed my life?
Shelby: How did it first stick? There's always that moment where you-- then let's talk about how it's changed your life.
Garrett: I guess it first stuck because I was a kid and that's what me and my best friends did. I always loved the ocean. I don't play golf, but I imagine it's a lot like golf. It's like you against yourself.
Shelby: No way. It's nothing like golf. You're like in the ocean, there's dolphins [crosstalk]
Garrett: I just feel like the pursuit of it's not like a team sport necessarily.
Shelby: Totally.
Garrett: It's like you and the ocean. It can be very frustrating because some days, it can be like you feel like the king in the world or just in one session you can feel completely like an idiot and humbled and you can feel like a superhero. It's one of those things and no matter how great you get, or how bad you suck, [chuckles] you're always trying to get better.
Shelby: You're never master.
Garrett: Yes, recently, I hope that no one takes offense to this, but my new line is that surfing is misery. [laughs] Because it's like falling in love with someone that will never love you the same way that you love them. It's like you can never quite get her. [laughs] You know what I mean?
Shelby: That's so true.
Garrett: You obsess over it. Here we are, sitting within a stone's that throw to the ocean and it's been raining, the waves are sucky and all my boys down here are like, "No, don't go surfing, the water's super dirty and you're going to get a cold. I wouldn't recommend it while you're on tour." "Okay." I'm miserable here because I got my boards in the trailer, got my wet suits, I want to go to surf.
Shelby: Here, your boards, all of them in the tour bus?
Garrett: Yes.
Shelby: You can go tomorrow, in the morning.
Garrett: I want to go to Salt Creek tomorrow.
Shelby: That's smart.
Garrett: [laughs]
Shelby: It'll be fun.
Garrett: [laughs]
Shelby: The idea of this podcast was to find someone who could talk about how surfing or whatever their sport was, and music, collide.
Garrett: For me, it's been this unbelievable thing. Of course, I grew up surfing and I wrote a lot of songs and played a lot of guitar at my parents' beach house on the front porch. Those summertime vibes. I always liked to sit outside and play. I think, just being in that beach community, which was like many beach communities, we were "shlocals," summer locals, but we're pretty local and grew up there.
Shelby: "Shlocals", I've never heard that. That's great.
Garrett: It wasn't inherently like-- I guess the closest thing I had to actually, being literally music and surfing was I wrote a song called, My Mom Was a Surfer. It's on this G Love booth. I got G. Love and the King's Court. It was about my mom, because my mom, she also grew up surfing at the Jersey Shore and there was this -
Shelby: Your mom?
Garrett: Yes, there's a picture of her in the '60s, in a bikini, standing on the board, which I have the board still. It's like this whole log.
Shelby: That's really rare for women to have surfed in that era.
Garrett: That was the era of Gidget.
Shelby: I know, but-
Garrett: [laughs]
Shelby: -there were some, but there weren't that many.
Garrett: Yes.
Shelby: Your mom was a pioneer. Hell, yes.
Garrett: She doesn't surf anymore, but I'll give her props.
Shelby: Sure. I think she's a legend. Your mom was a surfer?
Garrett: Yes.
Shelby: You wrote about your mom?
Garrett: Yes. I had that and then ultimately, I too, you went to Emory to focus, I moved to Boston, where I also didn't know anyone. I wanted to be away from my family and friends, just away from anything other than just me being, "Don't mess with me and I want to play music." That's what I did and that's led me here. Along the way, I'll never forget this day, in the late '90s, probably '97, some of the legendary locals at our beach, one lives out here now, because Scott Garner, and I was just riding my bike and he said, "Garrett, come over to the crib. I want to show this video. You're in a surf video." I was like, "Oh my God, the coolest guys in town," because I was kind of a cook. Now, the best surfer in town was like, "Come over and watch a surf video because your music is in it," and I was like, "What?"
Shelby: What? That's awesome.
Garrett: We went to watch this video and it was called A and it was a Malloy Brothers, Jack Johnson film. They had basically put- it was the whole soundtrack was songs from my first and second record, because they never cleared it.
Shelby: Of course. They just bootlegged your music.
Garrett: They never got permission to use it so I was watching, I was like, "Wow." Then I'm like, "Wow, this guy's just fucking ripped off all my music." I was like, "This is awesome," but I called my manager and I was, "Yes, you got to call these people ripped off our music." Of course, that's how we initially made contact with them, just saying, "Hey, you used all our music and you have to license it." Well, they don't have any money, but they sent us a bunch of surf wax and On A Mission track top and leashes [laughs], and that started.
I didn't know it yet then, but that would lead a couple of years later to out here in Cali, I was recording my fourth record in Malibu. I was staying at Topanga Canyon Ranch Motel, and my good friend, Scott Sowens also from Avalon who became a great surf, skate photographer over the years. He was working with Jack and the Molloys, and he said, "Garrett, you got to meet this kid, Jack Johnson.
He's a huge fan. He's an awesome surfer and he's got this song you've got to hear called Rodeo Clowns. Can we come by?" "Yes, come on by." I went by and when I first surfed, it was super flat and then Jack and I traded songs. Then the rest is history. Two days later, we were in the studio, where we cut his song Rodeo Clowns, which ended up being a single for our record. It happened out of here in San Diego at 99X the station.
Shelby: 91X, yes.
Garrett: 91X. They were banging Rodeo Clowns and the intro said, "Hey--
Shelby: They played it every minute on the radio.
Garrett: They were like, and the intro started, "Hey, this is G. Love. I just got out of the surf in Cali, even though I'm Philly-born and bred. I'm here with my man, Jack Johnson, blah blah blah."
Shelby: "Jack, what time is it?"
Garrett: Yes. "Jack Johnson, what time is it?" A couple of years later, Jack made his record, then they recognized the name, and then they spun it. Then it just went like wildfire. That's not a great term to use out here, but it spread like-
Shelby: It's spread like mad mess.
Garrett: -brush fire.
Shelby: Brushed fire.
Garrett: It really connected. Obviously, one of the great musicians of our time was born. Full circle that, just being down with Jack and then his crew, of course, there's people like Kelly Slater and Rob Machado, and all the other wonderful surfers. My surfing got a lot better. Have to admit Jack is I got to surf and be great friends with all these guys. It's been a wild trip. Surfing remains a passion of mine and I'm finally moving to a beach town in Cape Cod-
Shelby: Wow.
Garrett: -in Orleans, and our beach is called Noosa beach, where we unfortunately have a crazy, active, and highly congested great white shark population.
Shelby: What? Are you are just saying that so people don't come in? [laughs]
Garrett: No. It's crazy. You see them.
Shelby: That's wild.
Garrett: You're out in the water and then you're tagging sharks like a hundred-yard string. No one had gotten hit since the 1930s. Last summer, two people got hit, and one was fatal. All of a sudden, last summer, it got really real for us.
Shelby: When you surf, because you spend so much time in the water, do you ever come up with songs in the water?
Garrett: Yes. [laughs]
Shelby: You do?
Garrett: [laughs] All the time.
Shelby: What do you do, because if I come up with a story idea in the water, it's super stressful. I'm like "I don't have a pen." I finally got a little waterproof-
Garrett: No way, that's awesome.
Shelby: -notepad that I've put in my wetsuit before, but it's annoying. I'm not going to put a pen in your bikini, it's just put all things, but I've done it before because I've had an idea come up. What do you do?
Garrett: It happens all the time. It just shows you, when you're surfing, it's like your mind's lucid, like it is when you're going to sleep or waking up. You're at peace and--
Shelby: You're in flow.
Garrett: Yes, you're in a flow and your mind is expanding. Oftentimes, yes, I'll come up with a catchy melody or I'll start singing a verse. The question is, do you get out and go through all that and run back to your car and go write it down and singing it in your phone or do you just keep surfing and repeat it over and over and over and over If it is a really really good idea, you're most likely remember it hopefully.
Shelby: You're a high achiever and it's really cool that you approach your music like a job. You have a coach, you're so professional doing this interview. I so appreciate it. What's your process? I know you have a coach but in writing songs do you sit down and just write them and bring them out? Or do you wait for them to come to you? The reason I'm asking you this is there's this famous TED Talk with Elizabeth Gilbert, the girl who wrote Eat, Pray Love, and she had interviewed Tom Waits. He said that songs would come to him while he was driving in traffic in LA and he had no phone, nothing with him and he'd be like, "I can't pull over." How do you catch up song will come to you? Do songs come to you or do you sit down and sometimes just by showing up and doing the work they always come?
Garrett: I think the most important thing is just to be open, leave yourself open to being a watcher and an observer and note taker of your surroundings everything you eat, drink, touch, see, smell, hear, read. It could be something you hear two drunk guys saying on the corner, it could be something funny you say to me, "Oh my god what did you say?" Well, that's a song. I'm always looking for that sticky phrase, that sticky melody and I'm always writing them down or singing them into my phone. My notes and my phone, even my voice memos these are all just jams-
[crosstalk]
Garrett: It's the same thing. Let's see if there's some song.
Shelby: Do you just type your notes? You type your songs into your iPhone?
Garrett: Yes, and I type ideas and then when I get time to have an afternoon or a day that I dedicate to getting some of these ideas out into a regular song and then you take that sticky phrase and the band comes up with a great groove that sounds like I have something, I got something I can go over that and it happened all different ways but I think ultimately, all the work has occurred your whole life and for me now I have close to 20 records out we have a lot of songs.
Shelby: 20 records, how many songs is that? Eight per song?
Garrett: If you were going to say 10 or 14 songs on every record it's over 200 songs.
[crosstalk]
Every record that you put out you probably went in the studio with 20 songs or 30 or 50 songs. Basically, two things. One is that for making a song, if it starts feeling forced at all, or I don't feel it truly inspired or I feel like I'm just doing this for, I'll just stop. A song has to come from a pure place for me, has to be something that's pure. Whatever it's about. If it's just about something stupid and funny, or if it's about something very serious, or it's about politics, or if it's about social stuff, or if it's something very personal, whatever it is, I want it to be true and pure and come from a place.
This is a piece of art this is not something that's meant for some commercial reason or anything that. It's got to be a pure place and it's got to be good and if it's not, then these days I just step off it sooner because I have so many great songs. I guess I'm more self critical. Song writing is definitely, like anything, it's something that you have to develop the craft and put in a lot of time. This is early on, I would force myself to write and force myself to finish a shitty idea. That's an important process too just being able to focus and do that, but now, I don't do that as much. Like I said, it's just got to be pure.
Shelby: Now you know it's going to be good and you'll like.
Garrett: Ultimately, the best songs are easy because your whole life's leading up to that moment and you've been working on your craft so that when you do get something great, it's like, boom, and it should just flow and it's playing and there's this killer song.
[music]
Shelby: In addition to being a surfer and a musician, Garrett Dutton is also a dad. He loves getting outside with his family and on his own to pursue his passions and it's really in the outdoors where some of his best works and song lyrics are born.
Shelby: Is it is a trip to be touring still? You've got a kid, you're married.
Garrett: Yes, I got a 17 year old who's going to graduate high school this year and I have a three year old. Well, he's about to be three this month.
Shelby: So you're in it? Full on dad mode. What do you like to do with your kids outside? Surf, obviously. What about your three year old?
Garrett: We're beach people for sure and Lewis is the young one. He's just starting to get to the age where he can cruise around pretty good. When Aiden was a kid we'd go camping all the time. I've been an outdoor kid my whole life. I've done a lot of stuff on the trail. I did a summer in the Greater Yellowstone Recovery Corps with the SCA, Student Conservation Association, building trail maintenance and stuff in the back country and I hiked to base camp at Mount Everest with Love Hope Strength Foundation. That was tough. We like to get outdoors.
Shelby: You've played some benefit concerts in Costa Rica my favorite town.
Garrett: Yes, we'd go down to Nosara in Costa Rica every year and do a benefit down there.
Shelby: You're friends with Robin Kelly. Have you gotten to go to the wave pool yet?
Garrett: Yes.
Shelby: I'm just kidding. Awesome. What was it like?
Garrett: It was frustrating. I learned a lot about being an East Coast surfer obviously to run in is not my specialty. Although Rob Kelly's seems to be doing a good job with it. The most helpful thing about the wave pool is that they film every wave so you can go back with one of their coaches and he can show you, “You keep rolling up into two because you're not holding the line.” I'm trying to adjust to the two. No one really ever told me, "You got to stick it and just stay on the line." I've gone to Tavarua a bunch with Kelly and his crew and I've gotten to surf with Kelly a lot over the years and it's all you got to kick yourself because we're the same exact age.
When I grew up he was my age on the cover of Surfer mag or the Sundeck add back in the day. I've always been star struck. Every time I hang with Kelly I'm just like, “I’m hanging with Kelly!” But yeah, I said, “What's your best advice when you're in the tube? I can get in the tube but I can't get out.” “Well, I guess just get out.” That's what he said something like that. "How do get out of the tube?" "You just get out of it." But then someone said also, "You just got to look out of it don't look at the walls, follow the light." This is ongoing for G Love to get barreled. I've gotten barrel but nothing-- my real good photo up yet. [laughs]
Shelby: I'm really covered up. I got it was in the channel who took a picture of it so it looks like I'm barreled. I think you'll get it. I think there's a lot of wave pool trips in your future.
Garrett: My buddy Michael Shwabbe, who's an investor in the Chaos Wave Pool they're working on one right now too so I got some friends in high places. They're going to get me pitted. [laughs]
Shelby: That's awesome.
Garrett: I'm telling you watch it on Instagram and stuff.
Shelby: It looks easy.
Garrett: Looks easy because everybody mostly guys who are pros, it's definitely a challenge and you learn a lot so it's a bucket list.
[music]
Shelby: Garrett might not have had as much self success as he would have liked at Kelly's Wave Pool, but I've heard he's an amazing surfer. What's so great about Garrett is his attitude about success and failure in the music industry is incredibly healthy. He's not afraid to talk about failure. [music]
I think part of living wildly or pursuing a career at the highest level like you do, means you got to have some failures or you know how to get over failure. Do have any stories about failure that you could share?
Garrett: I remember when we got dropped by Sony Records in 2001, that was a bad one but then we had our biggest year on the road ever after that.
Shelby: You have some hustles--
Garrett: I don't know, man, I've been doing this for so long now. We've had records that have gone out and really clicked. I've put out records that I wasn't even happy with and they've been-
Shelby: You did well.
Garrett: -really popular, then I put out records that I think are a real achievement for myself and the band and no one cares. It's interesting. I've had shows where you get off stage and you feel like that suck and little shitty fucking experience that was because whatever-
Shelby: But they love it.
Garrett: -happened. That's the worst if you feel like to yourself, you had a shitty night and just didn't perform well and didn't feel it and then people say, "That was so great." You say, "Really? Were you listening? It sucked." I think if they try to not beat yourself up and it's a good thing about music, it's not like an NFL game where if you lose this game you have all year to think about it. We have a show most nights.
If we do have those bad nights it's like, "All right, the next night it's going to be great." I guess it's just perseverance. You don't give up and try not to beat yourself up. You try to just do as best you can and you're only human. If you have a night where you feel terrible about it, you just fucking get up in the morning and dust it off and get another chance to do it.
Shelby: How have you had such a long career? It's really remarkable to see-
Garrett: The love, man.
Shelby: The love, yes, so it is the love. [crosstalk]
Garrett: Yes, you have to love this and you have to-
Shelby: You love it.
Garrett: -show up every night and you have to show up whether you just got dumped by the girl you love or your grandmom died or your dog died or any terrible things or you're sick or whatever it is. It's show business, you're going to have to get on stage and leave it all behind. There's a certain amount of you have to show up. You have to show up for the big game every night and then you have to have your shit together.
On the business side, it's showbiz. No business, no show. You have to have a certain amount of savvy on the business side, as I'm sure you do with anybody that you talk to, whether it's professional surfers or rock climbers, or anybody doing anything to any degree of notoriety, they're talented at what they do, but they also have their shit together, they show up. That's a huge part of it.
Shelby: Did you see Bohemian Rhapsody?
Garrett: Yes.
Shelby: I think a lot of people know. I can only imagine what it would be like to be a rock star in front of screaming fans. It seems like the most ultimate thrill. I think that movie painted a really good picture of what the songwriting process could be like. What is it like to be a musician or an artist, and just having fans love what you make?
Garrett: Well, it's the best thing in the world, especially, it's the best thing in the world when you know you're on point and you know, you've done the work and honed your craft and have it together. Then you go out and you make these people happy, and you give them this great joy and this great release and you have it at the same time with them. It's like this big love fest and it just clicks. Those are the best nights when everybody gets wrapped up in this euphoric sensation which music can bring to the community.
Shelby: It's going to happen at tonight because San Diego is a huge G Love fan town.
Garrett: Yes, man. It's going to happen tonight. Unless – I mean, it’s gonna happen tonight.
Shelby: It's going to happen at night.
Garrett: There's nights where like I said every night when I wake up from a nap, I'm saying, "When I wake up in the morning, I want the best show of my life tonight." I said that every day. That's my intention. Most of the time, you get a chance and then you get a chance the next day to beat it. That's where my head's at. Of course, every night is different. You're going to take your lumps, and you're going to have off nights like anybody has off days, but all in all, you just plow through it, and you give yourself to it.
Shelby: With a career spanning over 20 years, you might think Garrett would be a little jaded or negative, but he's one of the most positive musicians I've talked to. At the end of our interview, I got a private little harmonica riff from him and then I even got to attend a small VIP set. Being a successful musician means working hard but it doesn't mean you have to have a life full of craziness. You can have balance and a life filled with the things and people you love just like Garrett's done. I know it's taken a lot of work for him to do. Thank you so much to Garrett for coming on the show, giving me some of your time on the tour and for the private riff and music set that kept me pretty much grinning from ear to ear all day and all week.
Also, thank you for your hot sauce. It's really hot and really good. To your management team Michael and Chris into the Belly Up in Solana Beach, one of my favorite music venues ever, thank you for hosting us. To you listening, I really hope you enjoyed this show. Wild Ideas Worth Living is produced by Anny Fassler and Chelsea Davis and supported by REI, a brand that helps us go on pretty much any outdoor adventure, my little heart desires and hopefully yours as well. Tune in week after next for my interview with the past guest that I just had to have back on. She talks about why sucking at something can be so great, and why it's okay to be average.
Yes, I said that. Tune in to see why. If you have a minute, please rate us and review us on Apple Podcast, iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. I love reading your reviews, I love that this show is making a small difference in the world, and inspiring many of you to do more of what you love and hopefully to be kinder to yourselves and others. I also love it when you tell your friends or 10 friends or 20 friends or heck 30 friends, the more the better. I really just want this show to grow and I want people to listen, and I want you to enjoy it. Regardless, wherever you're listening, remember, some of the best adventures often happen when you follow your wildest ideas.
Garrett: Yes, okay. [laughs]
[playing harmonica]
Shelby: That was epic.
[00:47:16] [END OF AUDIO]

Here’s the Wild Idea

I loved listening to G. Love and Special Sauce play music in college. I still do. I enjoy frontman Garrett Dutton’s laid back vibe, the way he uses unexpected combinations from different musical genres like blues, R&B, surf, and jazz in his songs. I especially love that after 20 years of playing music, he keeps releasing new albums and touring all over the world. He’s obviously doing something right.

Garrett is serious about his craft. He started playing music at age eight. Before every show, he works with a vocal coach, says a mantra he wrote, and has a process for writing songs and performing in front of an audience that’s motivating for any creative wanting to make a living doing what they love. Despite how successful his career in music has been, he’s incredibly humble, and he’s not afraid to talk about the times he’s failed and had to grow.

Aside from being a master at his craft, Garrett’s a passionate ocean lover and a father of two boys. Inspiration for songs often comes while he’s in the water or with his kids surfing. He has a positive attitude about life, and always wants to stay open to the world, especially to adventures and experiences that could become songs. He balances busy life on the road with spending time with his family and in the outdoors with grace and style. Most of all, he aims to spread love and help make the world a better place through his songs.

Last month, I met Garrett on his tour bus before his concert in San Diego. In addition to talking to me about his long career in music, we talked about how others can make a living following their passion, and he shared some tunes at the end.

Presented by REI

Listen to this Episode if

  • You are a G. Love and Special Sauce fan.
  • You are an artistic or creative person.
  • You are an outdoor lover or musician who’s looking to improve.
  • You want to hear from an amazing musician.

Key Takeaways

  • 3:45 – What musical genres Garrett takes inspiration from.
  • 11:25 – How Garrett weaves love into everything he does.
  • 14:00 – Garrett’s mantra before every show.
  • 19:45 – How Garrett fell in love with surfing.
  • 22:50 – How surfing influences his music.
  • 31:00 – Garrett’s songwriting process.
  • 35:20 – Garrett makes sure to get outside with his kids.
  • 39:50 – How Garrett deals with failure.
  • 43:20 – What it’s like being a famous musician with fans who love your work.

Connect with Garrett

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