Los Angeles (CNN) — “Just slip out the back, Jack. Make a new plan, Stan. Don’t need to be coy, Roy. Just listen to me.”
G. Love is strumming his guitar, stomping his foot and clearly having a good time belting out the lyrics to “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”
“This is my 11th record, and I’ve never released cover songs on any recording,” confides the Boston-based singer-songwriter.
The 1975 Paul Simon tune is just one of several new renditions of some old favorites peppered through G. Love’s — aka Garrett Dutton’s — new album, “Fixin’ to Die.” There’s also a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” and a couple of time-honored blues tunes, including the title track by the late Mississippi bluesman Bukka White.
The disc was produced by Scott and Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers, so not surprisingly, even the pop and rock tracks are given a back porch makeunder. The record is more reminiscent of G. Love’s early work than his more recent hip-hop-inflected CDs.
“I had the good fortune of going to see the Avett Brothers’ live show in Boston at the House of Blues, and I was really just blown away,” G. Love recalls. “I got to meet them afterwards. They’re great guys. A lot of people might not see too much of a correlation between what they do and what I do, but I think that we share a lot of common influences in the roots of American music.”
Although the album’s cover tunes are causing a stir, G. Love’s original cuts are what give the record heart. “There’s songs about my grandma when she passed away, and there’s a song about my dog when she passed away, and songs about family times — like when my son was born. And then there’s songs about my fiancee that I was writing for her just before we got engaged.”
His fiancee, model Sarah Rabby Frigo, “is from Mississippi,” he explains. “She likes to make all that gumbo and stuff like that. We’ve always had this idea for a cooking show, because my family’s a real food family. My mom was a cooking school teacher, and my Uncle Danny was top chef at a really top restaurant in Washington, D.C. My sister works importing burgundies to New York City in the wine industry.”
G. Love even shot a pilot awhile back. “We’ve always wanted to make a music-cooking show called ‘The Nice Order Show.’ Or call it ‘Hot Cookin’,’ the name of one of my songs. It would be about all my travels, and eating and music. So if you know anybody that’s looking, you just let me know.”
CNN spoke with G. Love at Brushfire Records in Los Angeles, while the aroma of tacos grilling for a party wafted from the driveway through the studio door.
CNN: You really wanted to do something different for this album, “Fixin’ to Die.”
G. Love: We had spent the last year kind of doing writing sessions around the country with different musicians and producers. We had been chasing after continuing my hip-hop sound, and really trying to get a hit. We sent the demos to the label and to my management, and finally had this big conference call, and they basically said, “Um, we don’t think that we have the record. We think what you should do is a get-back-to-your-roots record, and make a country blues record.”
CNN: Sounds like that was a tough call.
G. Love: I called my road manager and I said, “Yo, Mike. I’m not coming down for soundcheck. And I just put up my computer, and I demo’d out about 25 songs — the earliest ones I’d written in high school, and the latest ones I’d written this past summer. But they were all in that kind of blues vein.
CNN: You worked with the Avett Brothers on this.
G. Love: I think there was a lot of mutual respect there. When we were making the record, we would have a lot of serious moments. But then, we had equally as many good times, and laughs and just cutting up. It was really a great nine days we spent making this record. We knew from the get-go that it was going to be a really special recording session — everything from the studio, which was an old converted church with stained glass windows, to working with Scott and Seth Avett and doing this timeless music.
CNN: Do you usually find the studio process a challenge?
G. Love: Making a record can get real tense. It’s something that everyone’s so passionate about, and everybody’s got strong ideas. And then on top of that, musicians are musicians for a good reason, because they couldn’t fit in with the rest of society. So a lot of times, musicians can be tough people to be around.
CNN: Let’s talk about “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” the old Paul Simon tune. What made you decide to cover it?
G. Love: My manager had been trying to get me to play “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” for years, and I was always real hesitant about it. I finally got around to learning the song, and then I was starting to have a lot of fun with it. We tried to do something a little different with it.
CNN: Do you know if Paul Simon has heard it?
G. Love: I don’t, but I hope that when he hears it, he enjoys it. Can you imagine if he heard it and liked it, and we got to do it on stage? I mean, that would be such an honor, you know.
CNN: What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?
G. Love: I guess the biggest guilty pleasure for me on stage is I like to do my own version of Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice.”
CNN: Snoop Dogg lives locally. We should give him a call.
G. Love: I’ve gotten to meet Snoop a couple of times, and he’s a great guy.
CNN: Did you go in the back of the bus and have a little smoke?
G. Love: Well, I can’t say, but I really looked up to Snoop Dogg. He’s such an iconic figure in American hip-hop culture, and he’s a real character. His personality and persona is almost bigger than his music. But a lot of the other cover tunes we do are a lot more blues oriented. We do a lot of Robert Johnson, and we do a lot of Jimmy Reed. I even do some Elvis tunes.
CNN: What’s your favorite Elvis tune?
G. Love: I always do “That’s All Right, Mama.” That’s always one that I’ve had in my repertoire. We do Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. When I was growing up and I was in high school, there would be house parties in Philadelphia. And there would always be a room in it that was a jam session, and that was where you could find me. I never really could understand why people like to sit around and drink and talk. I like to sit around and drink and play. And I like to be the guy playing the music.