Armed with a persuasive voice, a vivid songwriting skill and an instinctive mastery of several instruments, Jackie Greene has carved out a unique musical niche synthesizing his deep affinity for American roots styles into his own timeless, personally-charged music while also engaging in a series of collaborative musical adventures that have teamed him with several notable veterans.
In 2013, Greene joined the reunited Black Crowes as lead guitarist on their worldwide tour, and the following year released the self-titled debut album of super-group Trigger Hippy, which Greene is a member of along with Joan Osborne and Crowes drummer Steve Gorman. Greene is also a frequent member of Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh’s touring ensemble Phil Lesh & Friends, for which he has contributed lead guitar and vocals since 2007. Greene also toured as part of WRG, an acoustic trio with the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir and Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson, and he performed with Levon Helm as part of Helm’s fabled Midnight Ramble shows.
Musical passion and creative integrity have been constants in Jackie Greene’s musical life from the start. Growing up in Northern California, he taught himself to play piano and guitar during his childhood. His musical reference points shifted radically when, at the age of 14, he ran across a cache of his parents’ vintage rock, country, blues and R&B LPs in the family’s basement.
Still in his teens and inspired by his discoveries, Greene began writing songs and performing them at a local coffeehouse while recording his compositions in his makeshift garage studio and burning CDRs to sell at his gigs. He saved the money he made selling those discs to fund his debut album, the self-produced, self-released Rusty Nails. Despite being a D.I.Y. release with minimal promotion, the disc received substantial regional attention from fans and press alike.
After graduating from high school, Jackie relocated to Sacramento, where he quickly became a local favorite. His popularity led to a deal with a local independent label, which released his second album, Gone Wanderin’, in late 2002. The disc won considerable national attention, leading to a series of national tours opening for the likes of B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi, Huey Lewis, Mark Knopfler and Taj Mahal.
Greene continued to win critical acclaim and expand his fan base with 2004’s Sweet Somewhere Bound and 2006’s American Myth. In 2007, Greene began moonlighting with Phil Lesh and Friends, while continuing his own musical evolution with his own releases Giving Up the Ghost and Till the Light Comes, released in 2008 and 2010, respectively. After a five year recording hiatus to focus on touring with Phil Lesh, the Black Crowes, Trigger Hippy, and WRG, Greene’s latest album, Back to Birth, will be released in August 2015.
“The musicians that I really admire and try to emulate are the ones who have the whole package: they’re great songwriters, great singers and great instrumentalists, and they have a vibe about them that’s real,” he states, adding, “When I go to make a record, I’m not thinking about where I can fit in a bunch of guitar solos. I’m thinking, ‘What does this song feel like? What’s it saying?’ So my goal, when writing a song or making a record, is to find the core of that emotional experience and convey that.”
Although he’s already racked up a multitude of impressive musical achievements, Greene isn’t one to look back. Instead, he continues to look to the future – and looks forward to getting back on the road to bring Back to Birth’s soulful songcraft to the loyal, wildly diverse fan base that he’s built through talent, vision and hard work.
“I still plan on making a lot of different kinds of records in the future, but I can’t tell you what they’re going to sound like, because I really have no idea,” he asserts. “All I can do is write songs and make music as honestly as I can. That’s what I believe people appreciate about what I do. They trust me to be honest with them, and I’d never want to abuse that trust.”