Listen to Warren Haynes' 'Company Man': Exclusive Premiere
"I've been writing these kinds of songs my whole life, and as far back as probably six years or something I started thinking about making this kind of record," Haynes tells Billboard about the rootsy and acoustic-flavored set, which he recorded with Railroad Earth. "I just felt like it was time for me to start recording all these songs that were different from the Mule and different from the Allman Brothers and even different from my last album (2011's Man in Motion). The oldest one is almost 30 years old ('Is It Me Or You'), some of them are brand new, and there's a lot in-between."
"Company Man," which is previewed below, actually hearkens back even further. It's a song about Haynes' father, which he wrote several years ago and then revised after "kind of interviewing him to make sure that all the facts were accurate" during a trip to New Orleans. "My dad grew up working in a grocery store for 23 years and then the company was gonna close down in the southeast," Haynes recalls. "They said they could relocate him to the West Coast or Northeast or Midwest or something, but he wasn't into it. That's not where his roots were. He didn't want to move his whole family. So he said no and started over and got a job in a factory where kids had more seniority than him. To me it's just a true Southern tale of someone who lived their life by his own standards. He has a lot of conviction, and I've always admired him for it."
Haynes' initially intended to record Ashes and Dust with Levon Helm, T Bone Wolk and Leon Russell, but scuttled those plans when Helm and Wolk died; he moved on to Man in Motion as a result. He met Railroad Earth when the group opened for the Allmans in Colorado several years ago and later collaborated with them at some of his solo shows. "It doesn't sound like their music and it doesn't sound like anything I've done in the past," says Haynes. "It just utilized the chemistry that they have together and that we have together and was a really cool process for me. I felt like it needed to be different than stuff I'd done before. There were no rehearsals; I would show the guys a song they had never heard, we would talk about what instruments might be cool, come up with arrangements, record it and when we were satisfied move on to another song they'd never heard. It was a great way to work."
Ashes and Dust also features guest appearances by Grace Potter (who duets on a version of Fleetwood Mac's "Gold Dust Woman"), Shawn Colvin and Willie Nelson's harmonica player Mickey Raphael, while former Allmans mates Oteil Burbridge and Marc Quinones join Haynes and Railroad Earth on "Spots Of Time," a song Haynes wrote with Phil Lesh that the Allmans played on stage but never recorded. Haynes says he recorded about 30 songs during the sessions and plans to put those out at some point in the future.
"My original plan was to either release a double CD or to release two CDs simultaneously," Haynes says. "Then I started thinking, 'No, let's just put out one and then continue the process.' So when I get a break I'm gonna go back in the studio and finish up whatever small details haven't been finished with the stuff we already recorded, and there's five or 10 other songs I'd like to record as well. I just want to keep this process going and another record along this line will come fairly soon, I hope."
Haynes plans to play some shows with Railroad Earth "to whatever extent our schedules can work together," and he'll put together a band of other players as well. With Gov't Mule playing just three festival dates in July and September, he's also hatching plans for that band's next album, a follow-up to 2013's Shout! "We've just been talking about it," says Haynes, who also appears on the upcoming Lynyrd Skynyrd -- One More For the Fans! live tribute album due out July 24. "We haven't started physically working on it. The only thing I know for sure is it will be completely different from Shout! We felt like Shout! was a great way to wrap up the 20th anniversary; to start the next chapter I think we should go back to the beginning and also where we've never gone before to see what happens. We've got a few things floating around but no way of knowing what it'll wind up sounding like yet."
Haynes' upcoming live appearances are listed below:
6/27 Nashville, TN, Grand Ole Opry -- Warren Haynes ft. Railroad Earth
6/28 Nashville, TN, 3rd & Lindsley -- Warren Haynes ft. Railroad Earth
7/4 Milwaukee, WI, Summerfest -- Solo, Acoustic with The Avett Brothers and Brandi Carlile
8/1 Bridgeport, CT, Gathering of the Vibes -- ft. Railroad Earth, Set 1: Warren Haynes, Set 2: Warren Haynes & The Seaside Allstars
8/3 Wilmington, NC, Greenfield Lake Amphitheater -- Warren Haynes ft. Railroad Earth
8/4 Charlotte, NC, Fillmore -- Warren Haynes ft. Railroad Earth
8/6 Cincinatti, OH, Riverbend -- Warren Haynes ft. Railroad Earth
8/7 North Tonawanda, NY, Rockin’ on the River -- Warren Haynes ft. Railroad Earth
8/8 Baldwinsville, NY, Paper Mill Island -- Warren Haynes ft. Railroad Earth
8/9 Burlington, VT, Lake Champlain Maritime Festival -- Warren Haynes ft. Railroad Earth
8/14 Scranton, PA, Peach Fest -- ft. Railroad Earth
8/15 Lowell, MA, Lowell Summer Music Series -- Warren Haynes Solo
9/10-9/13 Arrington, VA, Lockn’ Festival -- Phil Lesh & Friends with Carlos Santana, Barry Sless, Rob Barraco & John Molo