Greg Richling, bassist for The Wallflowers, was pretty happy when Jacob Dylan called him and decided to get The Wallflowers back together in 2011. It had been over six years since the band had recorded and Dylan's solo career had brought him some of the best accolades of his career. Thankfully, The Wallflowers did reconvene and recorded Glad All Over, a highly successful album that shows the band unafraid to head into different musical directions.
From his home in Los Angeles and in anticipation for tonight's show at the American Airlines Center opening for Eric Clapton, Richling spoke with DC9 about his time with the Wallflowers and what he does when the band isn't touring.
Were you in the Wallflowers from the beginning?
No, but I've played with them for twenty years.
Were you a part of the band when the name was changed from The Apples to The Wallflowers?
That was a little before me. I don't know if the fortunes would have been the same. I haven't given it that much thought. Who knows?
The band's latest album is Glad All Over. The album has a different feel than previous efforts. Did it feel that way when you were making it?
Yes, we took a different approach to this record. Usually, Jakob [Dylan] will bring songs in that already have the melodies, rhythms and lyrics done. This time, we went in the studio with no music written. All we had were written words on a page. We just jammed in the studio and spontaneously came up with stuff that we were excited about. A few things were fully formed like "Love in a Country" We didn't really know we were going to paint the songs. It was a lot of fun. The amazing thing is how easy and fun it was, getting in there and throwing it together on the spot.
Jakob has always talked about the influence of the Clash on his music. How great was it to play with Mick Jones?
Well, I like to say that we flew him out from England and we had an all night jam. But that wasn't the way it was done. The rest of the album was very organic. It was five guys in one room with all of our amps bleeding into each other. That's what you hear. That's the record. But when it came to the one guest, it wasn't feasible for us to have him come out. We sent him the finished tracks seeing if he wanted to add guitar and vocals to them. We sent two hoping he would choose one and he choose both of them. We were flattered that he got back to us and he really liked it. I think anybody would be excited to hear that the guitarist of the Clash was digging what you are doing.
It's impressive that the Clash continue to be so influential, even a decade since Joe Strummer passed away.
It was tough to lose him. I wish Joe Strummer would have had another twenty years making music. It definitely shows how influential his music is. New generations are being turned on to bands like that by their parents. Some of them are discovering bands by themselves. I think that is what it is all about, making a lasting musical impression. I certainly turned my son on to the Beatles, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and the Clash because I want him to know that quality.
Is the music of The Wallflowers something people will still be enjoying twenty years down the road?
Yes, I think it's hard to know where you stand in terms of the history of the whole thing. I think we have made some songs that have impacted people. It's nice when people like what you are doing. I think we are just trying to stay on the right path. Look at this tour with Eric Clapton. He has been around forever and it's exciting to be touring with someone who has been around that long. These people don't just want to keep going. They want to change and improve. They want new fans. You have to stick to your guns and hopefully, at the end of the day, it all works out.
Do you think fans of Clapton will be open to your music?
Those arenas hold about 20,000 people and there may be some that haven't paid attention to our career. There may be some people who used to listen to us or haven't listened for a while. I hope people are going to be excited about what we are doing now. With that amount of people, we are going to run the gamut.
Jakob took several years off to make a couple of solo records. Were you ever worried that he wasn't going to keep The Wallflowers going?
I think the choice to stop doing The Wallflowers was a collective thing. It felt that after 15 years of touring and recording, we needed a break. It wasn't so much of him saying he wanted a solo career and saying see you guys later. We had all came to a point of not being excited about certain aspects of the band. We needed time away from it. We knew that we would get back to it. We didn't anticipate that everyone in the band would get involved with other things and that it would take as much time to get back together. I don't even think Jakob thought that it would take as long.
You were probably the busiest of all. You've played with Joe Henry, Macy Gray and even Pearl Jam.
With Pearl Jam, that was just me writing some incidental music for their Live in Italy DVD. That's why you see a Pearl Jam credit under my name. In terms of Joe Henry, I had a good time working with him. That was around the time he recorded Trampoline and Fuse. I did SXSW with Joe for that record. I worked with him on a Tom T. Hall tribute record. I love Joe. He is a smart guy and a genius songwriter. He came to a show. I think we were opening for Chris Issak. He asked Jakob if it was OK if he called me about some work. I was proud to be part of what he was doing at the time. I never sought the extra-curricular stuff out. It just happens. It is fun to do different stuff outside of the band.
Out of all of the sons of famous songwriters, has Jakob handled it as well as anyone?
I would say so. I think he has handled it well, whatever there is to handle. I think it is safe to say that he has done a great job on his own. There are plenty of people that go into the family business and it doesn't turn out as well.
The Wallflowers open for Eric Claptondall on Tuesday, March 19, at the American Airlines Center.