Warren Haynes Explains How Short Attention Spans Affected Music: ’Eventually, Everything Is Just a Soundbite’

Gov’t Mule frontman and leader, Warren Haynes, reflected on the modern tendency for songs to get shorter and shorter where “everything is just a soundbite.” While speaking to Guitar World, Haynes discussed the band’s new music on the latest album “Peace… Like a River” and how their songs seem to be getting longer. Asked if they want “to have the luxury of space to be able to stretch out, musically,” he replied:

“We’ve always gravitated to longer songs and stretching out, especially live, where they tend to grow even more. Improvisation is a huge part of what we do. But also, from an arrangement standpoint, I think that is something that’s missing from most of today’s music – songs with detailed arrangements and a lot of moving parts.”

Gov't Mule - After The Storm (Visualizer)

As Warren then added, it’s something not so mainstream-friendly these days, and how they’re trying to “bring it back on our own.” He continued:

“I don’t know if you could get away with that in the mainstream world these days. We’re trying to bring it back in our own way because, I suppose, it’s a big part of what we love. A lot of the songs on this album have seven or eight different sections, as opposed to the normal two or three these days.”

The new Gov’t Mule album “Peace… Like a River” comes with a total of 12 songs and the shortest one is over 5 minutes long. And there are also a few lengthy songs on there, like “Made My Peace” that’s just over 9 minutes.

Gov't Mule - Made My Peace (Visualizer)

When asked whether they came in to record songs that were worked out in detail ahead of time or whether the arrangements evolved, Haynes said that it was about 50:50 and added:

“Sometimes I envision the songs having a lot of moving parts from the very beginning, but sometimes it just feels natural as we’re starting to work the songs up as a band. I think it’s a product of the things that influenced me, songs like [Kansas’] ‘Carry on Wayward Son’ or even [Queen’s] ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.'”

As Haynes then adds, these songs were “a challenge for the listener” but in the best possible sense of these words. However, these days, things are the exact opposite and “attention spans are really short.” He added:

“Those were real complex songs that you’d hear on the radio all the time. It was a challenge for the listener, in a good way, and I think people were up for that challenge. As long as you maintain the listener’s interest, it’s a good thing, but in today’s world, where people’s attention spans are really short, why not challenge that a little bit?” 

Gov't Mule - Peace I Need (Visualizer)

When the interviewer reminded him how “everything is constantly being dumbed down and reduced to the minimum,” Warren then reflected on the current state of music and offered:

“Yeah, and the alternative to doing what we’re doing is for songs to get shorter and shorter and simpler and simpler, to where eventually everything is just a soundbite, and I really hate that idea.”

During the chat, Haynes was also asked about whether Gov’t Mule considered doing a double album. After all, they launched a bonus EP with the deluxe version of the album which adds five more tracks to a total number of 17. He then replied:

“We always wind up releasing everything we finish. Our fans really like the deluxe versions of whatever we put out; we actually sell more of the deluxe versions than the standard versions. So in that way it kind of is actually a double album, with a shorter version available for people who don’t want all the excess.”

Gov't Mule - Made My Peace (Live)

“Our fans love as much as they can get, I think, and I’m that kind of music fan. I’d be the same way too, buying someone else’s record – if it was someone I really liked. I’d want as much of their music as possible.”

At the moment, Gov’t Mule are doing their “Dark Side of the Mule” tour where they start off with some of their songs and then launch into covers of Pink Floyd classics. This isn’t the first time that they’re doing it although, as he revealed in another recent interview, it’s going to be the last. During that same interview, he explained how they approach these songs:

“The Dark Side of the Mule, for us, is not playing the record ‘The Dark Side of the Moon,’ it’s us doing whatever Pink Floyd we want to do. But it does include a lot of ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ as well.”

Gov't Mule - Time - Dark Side Of The Mule DVD

Later on, he also added:

“We do a set of Gov’t Mule, and then, if we have time, we take a short break. If we don’t have time, we just segue right into a long set of Floyd. And it’s really fun. We don’t copy what they did, but we pay a lot of respect to it.”

Knowing that Warren is playing David Gilmour’s guitar parts, the interviewer asked him about Pink Floyd solos and how he approaches them. Haynes replied:

“That’s a challenge, to play with that much punctuation. For someone like myself, who… I’m not an over-animated player, but compared to Gilmour, possibly. But to play with that much punctuation, it takes so much restraint. I feel like I’m stuck in third gear.”

Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Pts. 1 - 5

“But that’s what he does so well. That’s why all those solos and hooks are embedded in our heads like they are because his sense of melody and his sense of space is just fantastic.”

Photo: Andreas Lawen, Fotandi (Gov’t Mule – Leverkusener Jazztage 2017-6479)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.