In a new interview for the current cover story in Guitar World, Bob Weir discusses his new solo album Blue Mountain and the musicians who contributed to its creation and to his upcoming tour, along with his experiences with last summer’s Fare Thee Well concerts, his ongoing work with Dead & Company and why he loves seeing younger artists take up the Grateful Dead banner to continue the band’s legacy into the future.
The piece first offers an overview of Weir’s history with the Dead and his at-times underrated status in the band, along with some input from those who have played with him, including Jerry Garcia, who called Weir “an extraordinarily original player in a world full of people who sound like each other.” Warren Haynes and John Mayer also praise Weir’s unique chord constructions, with Mayer comparing his playing to that of legendary pianist Bill Evans. “He’s a total savant,” Mayer says. “His take on guitar chords and comping is so original, it’s almost too original to be fully appreciated until you get deep down into what he’s doing.”
In the interview itself, Weir begins by talking about meeting his Blue Mountain collaborators Josh Kaufman and the Brooklyn coterie of the members of The National, along with the origin of his love of cowboy tunes while he was working with ranch hands in Wyoming when he was a teenager and why he enjoys doing non-Dead-related music like the songs on the album. “Otherwise it’s not a vacation,” he says. “If I’m going to use the same approaches and methods then I might as well do it with the guys I’m used to doing it with because we have that worked out.”
The conversation later moved to Dead & Company, which Weir says will probably play any of his Blue Mountain tunes but may be on the verge of writing their own new music. “We’re getting to the point where we know each other well enough to where we can anticipate where one another is coming from – and from that we can intuit where each is heading,” Weir says. “So new stuff is going to come out of the old material and then you’re not quoting chapter and verse from the Grateful Dead. That’s when it’s time to put the hammer down and start writing because there are new things to say.”
After talking about how the Fare Thee Well band didn’t get enough time to really become a band like Dead & Company and his new experiences of playing with John Mayer and Oteil Burbridge, who’s classic bass playing Weir says is a welcome contrast with Phil Lesh’s “iconoclast” nature (“I kind of always wondered what the music would sound like with a guy who would lay into the 1 and 3 a little more often than Phil is inclined to do and it’s gratifying to hear that.”), Weir got into the continued legacy of the Grateful Dead, which he says has a bright future in musicians like John Mayer, whom Weir says is willing and able.
“Over the course of our first tour, I became aware and then convinced that he gets what we are up to and is up to the task of carrying the torch,” Weir says. “Look, there’s gonna come a time when I’m not going to be able to be out there playing and when Bill and Mickey aren’t going to be able to do that on account of our unfortunate demises. That’s just how it is and I’d love to see this tradition carried on into the future, well beyond us. I think some great things can come of it and it doesn’t necessarily require my participation.”
Read the full story in the current issue of Guitar World.