It’s been roughly two-and-a-half years since Grateful Dead alumni Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann teamed up with John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti to form Dead & Company. Since then, the band has played dozens of shows across the United States, garnering a large following that has made them the most popular of the numerous Grateful Dead spin-off acts that have carried the torch since Jerry Garcia passed away in 1995. With so much momentum behind them, many Dead & Company fans have begun to wonder what else might be in store for the increasingly cohesive band.
One question that is often asked is whether or not the group has plans to record any new original music of its own. It’s an interesting prospect for a band that more or less exclusively performs music that was written between 52 and 22 years ago (with the exception of a few choice covers that are even older), but it’s not one that they’ve talked much about publicly. So when Mickey Hart got on the phone with Live For Live Music to discuss his upcoming performances at the American Museum of Natural History, we had to ask him if Dead & Company have any plans to hit the studio:
Sam D’Arcangelo: Speaking of touring acts, you’ve been on the road with Dead & Company for the past few years. Do you guys have any plans to record new music of your own?
Mickey Hart: No. Not really. We’ve talked about it, but we’re a performance band. We like performance. The Grateful Dead was the same way. It’s hard in the studio. We never made great records, really great records. There were a couple that were magnificent in their moment, as period pieces, but the magic always happened live. It was a chore in the studio. There are great studio musicians, and I appreciate that very much, but we’re not that. And it’s ok.
So I don’t know, we might wind up in the studio, but it’s so much fun playing live. I’d be hard-pressed to go into the studio, to be honest with you. I’m in a studio almost every day myself, but a band is different. It’s a different chemistry when everyone gets together in the studio as a band as opposed to individuals, where you can determine your own thing totally. When you’re in a band, there’s a lot of opinions, and that’s what gets in the way sometimes. If it works, it’s amazing. But if it doesn’t, it’s a very difficult experience.
As you can see, Dead & Company don’t have any plans to go to the studio, and Mickey Hart doesn’t seem particularly interested in the idea either. This is a bit different from the position that Weir and Mayer took when they were confronted with similar questions in 2016, so perhaps some things have changed in the past two years. An excerpt from the pair’s April 7, 2016 interview with Billboard reads:
“I’m open to any of it,” guitarist Weir told Billboard during a conference call with reporters. “I think it’s fertile ground. I think only just now have we sort of gotten up to speed. It’s a left foot/right foot kind of deal; We have a lot of ground to cover before we get to that place, but I think we’re getting there. We don’t have any immediate plans, but I know it’s in the back of everybody’s head.”
Mayer added that the group members prefer to let the idea of new music come organically rather than trying to force that situation. “If it can state its case for the reason it needs to exist, then I would absolutely be up to doing it,” he explained. “It would have to come out of the earth. It can’t be planted from above the soil. There’s no reason it couldn’t be; I would actually be very interested to see what the band could do as composers and as improvisers — composing through improvisation, I think, is really interesting. But I’m open to anything this band could or wanted to do, as long as it answered that constant question, ‘Well, why?’ And if it has a strong answer, I’d love to do it.”
While Hart’s recent statement may be disappointing for some fans, it should be noted that he didn’t rule out the possibility of new original music making its way into the live arena. Considering Dead & Company’s improvisational nature and the ambitious “Drums” > “Space” segments that have found their way into the band’s repertoire, one could argue that every show has new music to offer.