Payin' Dues: Jackie Greene

Jackie Greene may have been missing from solo action over the past five years, but he’s still been busy playing lead guitar with a reunited Black Crowes and, until recently, helming Trigger Hippy, an acoustic group with Joan Osborne, Steve Gorman, Nick Govrik and Guthrie Trapp. It’s as a frontman, though, that he performs best: Back To Birth was recorded at Portland’s Supernatural Sound with producer Steve Berlin. “You’d have seen about 30 guitars lying around and me screwing with the piano for hours,” he says.

**Back To Birth – a concept album?
**It became very clear early on that the songs we chose for the album had a theme running through them, there are a lot of references to the idea of a cyclical existence, that nothing really comes to an end, that perhaps there’s no such thing. On the surface they are all just songs, but the subtext is what it’s all about.

Music is more important than rocket science.

You and producer Steve Berlin have real chemistry.
We’ve known each other for over a decade so it’s an easy fit to get back into. There’s no awkward “getting to know you” phase. We can dive right in and be productive. This was helpful given the limited time frame we had.

What was it like being a part of the reunited Black Crowes?
It was a lot of fun to be in a loud and proud rock’n’roll band, especially one as storied as the Crowes. It’s something I always wanted to do. I had such a great time playing with Rich [Robinson], who is an incredibly unique guitar player. I learned a lot from him.

You were involved in Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble.
I was fortunate enough to spend a good deal of time up there at the Rambles. And I always had such an amazing time. Levon was the funkiest, stickiest drummer I’ve ever played with. Nobody has a pocket like that guy had and he was such a down- to-earth, genuine guy, too. His sphere of influence was absolutely huge. We all miss him so much.

What motivates you to make music?
There are always more songs to be written. Sometimes it can be very discouraging, but it’s really just about trying to achieve some level of joy in your life. It’s not brain surgery or rocket science. It’s far more important than either of those things. It’s a basic element of human happiness that I think everyone should strive for in some way. Making music happens to be my way.

Back To Birth is out now via Yep Roc.