JPG: Because your latest album, Peace…Like a River is connected to the past including the COVID times, how did you deal with the break? I could see you diving deep into your record collection for a while or did you immediately start writing material for the next album?

WH: A little of both. When it sunk in that were all going to be stuck at home for a while I immediately dove into writing — listening to a lot of music as well — but writing more than I have in ages. And that was kind of my saving grace.

JPG: So, was it a difficult adjustment or because you quickly dove into writing you were able to keep your mind busy?

WH: It was difficult in the beginning. Everyone was facing that same challenge. But once I realized that writing is going to be my way of dealing with it, I was able to use that as a way of focusing and utilizing my attention and making the best of a bad situation.

JPG: Did the experience of the break change you in some way?

WH: It changed everybody; a lot of reflecting, a lot of self-examination, a lot of having to let go and surrender to reality and not try to fight to maintain what used to be but confront what’s coming.

JPG: Do you feel because of being off the road proved to be fruitful for you as a songwriter do you see taking time off again as a voluntary thing in the future where rather than Gov’t Mule doing 80, 90 dates a year, you’re going to tour less and just hit places in the summertime because before that you’ll be writing during the winter and spring?

WH: I definitely feel like it was nice, on the positive side, to have more time with family and more time to write but I’ve always felt like the slowing down process will kind of happen automatically when the time comes. Right now, we feel good about being on the road again, which is great.

I feel good about continuing a pretty rigid work schedule. It’s Impossible to predict how similar it will be to past work schedules but I’m really enjoying touring again and just doing what I do, in general. Most of us realize that we can’t take it for granted.

We’re lucky to do what we love for a living and that’s a rare thing, and we have to treat that with the respect that it deserves. That includes writing and being home and all the things that are dear to my heart. Just take it a year at a time.

JPG: Since you mentioned slowing down, at one point you were playing with Gov’t Mule, Allman Brothers Band, dates with Phil Lesh, dates with The Dead plus solo shows and guest appearances. Did it all become too much? Did it start to become a blur or do you miss that much activity?

WH: Oh, I think at the time all of that was going on it was such a fertile time for me. There was so many wonderful opportunities, and in some cases, it would seem a little daunting on paper. I remember one year when there was so many things happening and I wasn’t sure that I could pull it all off. And I remember my wife saying, “Do you want to look back in the future and say, ‘Well, I had this opportunity but I chose not to do it,’” because we’re talking about really great musical situations and opportunities that existed in the past that are hard to turn down.

JPG: I’d rather be stressed out that I’m too busy than stressed that I don’t have work.

WH: Yeah, I hear you. Make hay when the sun’s shining, right?

JPG: Yes. As far as touring, in 2023 you’re promoting Peace…Like a River and last year’s Heavy Load Blues, too. This fall, you’ll be on your third leg of touring that included the Dark Side performances as well as Outlaw Music Festival appearances. That’s the traveling fest with Willie Nelson as the headliner. What have you learned from him over the years as far as dealing with music or the music business or even dealing with life and people?

WH: Willie is a great example to any artist and any musician. The fact that he’s still out there doing it at 90 and having fun and being inspired and inspiring other people—myself included—is miraculous. I’ve known Willie since 1981. I’ve been a fan most of my entire life. He’s a national treasure, and it’s always a blast to be able to be part of that scene. I think more artists and musicians and bands should take a cue from that and music lovers, and people, in general, could learn a lot from the example he’s been. It’s an extremely positive message, a very open-minded, compassionate message as well.

JPG: Speaking of national treasures, you worked with Dolly Parton on a track on her new album.

WH: That was a fantastic opportunity. I’m really honored to be working with her. When you add in all the wonderful people that are part of that project it’s just a huge honor.

JPG: You just got off a tour and you’ll be starting another leg in mid-September. Like many artists, touring is your bread and butter in order to make a living, but at the same time you still have that desire to create and put out new material. What has it been like now that you don’t have to rely on terrestrial radio stations to play a track off the new album with satellite radio, the internet, podcasts and streaming?

WH: We get a lot of airplay on satellite radio and streaming and those things. We also have, which is our site where you can purchase high quality recordings of every show that we’ve done since 2004. That works for us because we do a different show every night. It wouldn’t work for a band or an artist who plays the same set list every night. It’s been a good business opportunity for us and a way of sharing the music, which is really what it’s all about.

The music business has changed drastically over the past 20 years, but it’s forced a lot of people to become touring artists or touring bands whereas that’s what we’ve always done. So, in some ways, it’s not as different for us as it is for some people.

JPG: I’m glad that you’ve found a way to make things work for you but having listened to you for years it still makes me angry not to hear your music on an AOR station or a Classic Rock station because it fits so well next to the five millionth time the same Beatles or Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin tune is played.

WH: We fall between the cracks a little bit. We’re not Classic Rock in the way that we weren’t around when most of those songs were created, but our music stands up just fine alongside most of that music. There’s not really a genuine outlet for what we’re doing. We get some play on the Americana and Triple A [radio] and stuff like that but, all in all, we’re more of a rock band and there’s not a huge straight up rock market these days in the same way that a lot of other genres get represented.

JPG: Speaking of markets, you’re going to play Europe and Canada this fall. That’s really great because it’s hit-and-miss with American acts playing those territories. You’ve been cultivating that audience for years, is it a matter of the opportunity comes up every so often to go there so you take it?

WH: We’ve definitely had to work hard to cultivate the European Market. Our audiences over there have grown and grown and grown, which is great.

It’s odd that they don’t have a jamband scene over there so Gov’t Mule was looked at like a rock and roll band over there. Now, we’ve been able to carve out our own audience and build up a following that understands the jamband part of what we do, but it’s taken a while. That scene, in general, doesn’t really exist over there, and so in some ways it worked out for us better than some of the jambands because they look at us as a rock and roll band. I’m hoping the jamband scene will flourish over there a little bit more than it has in the past but I’m not sure what the future holds for that.

JPG: It’s nice that you’re bringing the music around the world.

WH: We’ve been working hard to develop that following for quite a while now, and it’s paying off. I think this is going to be without question the best European tour we’ve ever done. The fans are very appreciative and respectful and very knowledgeable of everything we’ve done and everything I’ve done. It’s gratifying to have the face-to-face experience; the fact that our music has made an impact over there.

JPG: On the subject of playing outside the United States, Island Exodus in Jamaica has been announced. It will be your 14th event. Wow, that’s a lot. What does it mean to you?

WH: It’s an opportunity to bring a bunch of hardcore Mule fans together in one location and play a different show every night. It’s very relaxed, and every year it gets better and better and every year we get more comfortable with every aspect of the event.

JPG: Island Exodus 14 takes place in January. Speaking of next year, do you have any news about what’s happening with you or Mule beyond those dates?

WH: Well, we’ll be going into early next year, sometime, and then it probably will be time to take a break. I’m working on some new material. So, it’s a little premature to say what the latter part of next year is going to bring but I think by the time we get on the other side of Island Exodus we’ll have been going for quite a while and it’d be nice to step back and reassess a little bit.

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