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Mule'll Be Missed: Local Favorites Jim the Mule Perform the Band’s Farewell Show, February 1 at the Redstone Room PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Written by Mike Schulz   
Thursday, 23 January 2014 06:00

Jim the MuleAfter nearly 14 years of music-making – many of them spent headlining concerts and outdoor festivals, and opening for the likes of the BoDeans and the Little River Band – the Quad Cities-based alt-country band Jim the Mule is taking a long, perhaps permanent, break. And on February 1, guitarists Tom Swanson and Sean Ryan, bassist Jason Gilliland, and percussionist Marty Reyhons will perform Jim the Mule’s farewell show at Davenport’s Redstone Room, an event featuring guest musicians and a retrospective celebration of Jim the Mule’s most popular originals and covers.

Swanson, who co-founded Jim the Mule with Gilliland in 2000 (and is a former River Cities’ Reader employee), recently shared some thoughts about the band’s history and journey, and where on Earth the mule itself might have gone.


On the decision to retire

We’ve always been kind of “weekend warriors.” We’ve done a couple small, regional tours, but we’ve never gone out there and done it full-time. But even on the level that we do it, people are always really surprised to see how much work and time goes into it. I mean, even just going out and playing a show, with traveling, can easily be a 12-hour day. And people don’t see that, you know? They come out and see you play and they’re like, “Wow, this must be great!” And it is great. But it’s a ton of work, too.

So even though we’ve had this current lineup for four or five years now, and everything’s been great, it was just kind of time to hang it up. Three of the four of us have kids, and you know, they get to be a certain age where you figure you have to allocate your time accordingly. And there were no hard feelings or anything. It was absolutely amicable.


On favorite songs

Of course, the newer stuff is always your favorite until you move on to the next thing. And it’s kind of a shame that we’re calling it a day now, because I think we’ve been writing well. But probably one of the more popular ones over the years has been “Common Antecedents,” and a newer one off the last EP, “Merilene,” seems really popular every time we play it. And there’s a Replacements song called “Can’t Hardly Wait” – I never get tired of playing that one.


On fellow musicians

Working with Band of Heathens was a great experience. As far as a more regional band, although they’ve toured all over the place, Backyard Tire Fire was always great to play with. The St. Louis-area band the Bottle Rockets are cool guys and had some fun stories to share. And one band that we were on a bill with in the last six months or so was Miles Nielsen & the Rusted Hearts, who, I think, are doing great things. A shout-out to those guys. They’re excellent.

It’s always fun when you come across touring musicians that are just open to hang out and chat. I mean, every once in a while you’ll come across a band that doesn’t really want to have anything to do with a support act or anyone else on the bill, but most of ’em are pretty nice guys.


Jim the MuleOn concert memories

Without naming names, we had a two-night gig down the road a little ways, and it was one of those situations where they wanted us to play covers all night. We were like, “You know, we play some original music, too ... .” But we played the first night and then stayed and hung out the next day. And then we played the second night, and after a couple sets, they were like, “You know, you guys can just ... wrap it up.” I want to say that’s the only time we were ever asked to leave a gig.

You know, you stumble into those things every once in a while. Gigs where the crowd is expecting covers all night, or you find yourself on bills where the genres are way off from what you play ... . But that happens. And it’s kind of a running cliché, but I swear to God, at every gig we’ve ever played, somebody yells out, “‘Free Bird’!


On the future

Sean Ryan and I have actually talked a little bit about continuing on, but he stays pretty busy with the Dawn, and he’s in a Phish tribute band and stuff. And I’ve done a couple little solo things over the years. Just a few months ago, I did an opener for Dan Hubbard & the Humadors down at Rozz-Tox. Just soloed, which I hadn’t done in a long time. But you kind of have to pick your battles when you’re married and you’ve got a family and stuff. I’m sure something will come together.


On what he’ll miss

Probably my favorite thing about going out and playing is just meeting new people – people who appreciate what you’re doing. And when you find those real live-music fans, they’ll connect you with other people, and you kind of build a network. So that’s probably what I enjoy the most, and will miss the most.

Music is about interaction. Live music anyway. That’s what it’s all about. So you get out and you talk to people and hear their stories, and all of a sudden you’ve got a friend in another state, or a couple hours away, that you didn’t know before.


On the whereabouts of Jim the Mule’s mule

We had this little model of a mule. Somebody brought it to us, I think, at a show – they found it at a garage sale or something – and we kind of adopted it and carried it with us for a while. And then, of course, one of its legs broke off, and it had to be fixed up ... . But I don’t know what happened to that mule, to be honest.

We have had some things stolen at gigs over the years. One year, we actually had a bass drum stolen, believe it or not. They took the biggest thing on the stage. We were loading out, and it was busy, and everyone was coming out of the bar ... . And of course, you try to stay by your gear, and by the vehicles especially, but I dunno ... . Somehow, somebody walked off with a bass drum. God, our drummer wasn’t very happy about that one. So who knows? Maybe someone ran off with that little figurine animal. Maybe it’s with the drum.


Jim the Mule’s farewell show takes place at Davenport’s Redstone Room (129 Main Street) on Saturday, February 1. The 8 p.m. concert features opening sets by Them Som’Bitches and the Multiple Cat, and more information and tickets are available by calling (563)326-1333 or visiting

For more information on Jim the Mule, visit

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