2016 Black Stone Cherry interview with Chris Robertson
There is no place like home for Black Stone Cherry, and that is why the band chose to return to its roots for its fifth studio album, Kentucky. Not only did they name the album after their home state, they returned to the same basic studio (though it’s moved a bit) where they recorded their debut self-titled album 10 years ago. Now, 15 years since the band formed and a decade past that first record, the members have grown confident enough to self-produce Kentucky. Vocalist and guitarist Chris Robertson recently sat down with Metalholic to talk about the new record, the recent deaths of so many musical heroes, his thoughts on that state of the nation, and building Lego houses with his son.
Robertson formed Black Stone Cherry in 2001 with guitarist Ben Wells, bassist Jon Lawhon, and drummer John Fred Young. The quartet’s familial brotherhood and deep-rooted friendship accounts for the band’s static line-up which has survived 15 years of highs and lows, including a near break up in recent years as a result of Robertson’s struggles with depression. The guys weathered the hard times and remain as committed as ever to their God, their music, and their families.
Metalholic caught up with Robertson on a rare, quiet day at home with family:
“I’m watching my wife put together a Scooby Doo Lego lighthouse that has almost 450 pieces, for my son. I’ve built so many Lego houses since Christmas that I’m slightly professional at it now.” (laughs)
Being home is the best reward for the hard work Black Stone Cherry put in over the last two years. They toured relentlessly on their fourth album, Magic Mountain, which included sold out arena shows in Europe and the U.K., headlining the second stage at Download Festival (their sixth appearance), signing to a new record label, and releasing their first live DVD/CD set, Thank You: Livin’ Live. The latter was recorded not in Birmingham, Alabama, but before a sold out arena crowd in Birmingham, U.K.. The band has become so popular in Europe that when they return later this year they will be headlining the Carnival of Madness Tour with Shinedown and Halestorm opening for them.
With Kentucky, Black Stone Cherry reached out to the original engineer, David Barrick, from their first record. As Robertson shares, it made sense to return to the beginning at this point in their career, even recording in the same studio…sort of:
“The studio’s in a new building now, but it’s all the same equipment,” offered Chris. “with a few new mics. But it’s the same engineer and all the same equipment. But what’s cool about it is the location it’s at now is where he had his first studio that wasn’t a mobile studio. It was an old music store called Backstage Music where a lot of us got our first guitars.”
After using a different acclaimed producer on each of the band’s first four records Black Stone Cherry made the decision to produce Kentucky themselves. Robertson talked about the band’s decision to do so:
“If you look at it, we’ve worked with some of the greatest producers in rock and roll. They’ve all got these amazing track records and we all just took everything we learned from them and thought ‘You know, we’ve learned a lot of valuable information, and if anybody knows what are fans are gonna want, it’s gonna be us.’ We just decided, we’ve been doing this now for 15 years. We’ve been putting albums out for the last 10. We felt pretty confident in the fact that we could produce a record that we would all feel strongly about and be extremely proud of, and that’s what we did.”
Robertson opened up about the first song released from Kentucky, “The Way of the Future”, and his thoughts quickly became solemn as he shared his feelings about what he sees happening in the world:
“Man that song, it came together while were in Europe. Ben had that intro guitar riff with the fuzz and everything on it. So I kind of sat there on the bus and put all this music down and the lyrics kind of just started happening. You know, looking at the state of the world right now with the political correctness that has to be in the world. All the debates that are going on, and everything that’s just wrong with the world. That song is kind of like a call to rise, just to get back to living for the greater good of you and your neighbor. You know what I mean? Like where did we go wrong to the fact of everybody has to be against everybody, everybody has to be in a social class or everybody has to be described by their ethnicity? It’s ridiculous. When did people become labels instead of being people? I just don’t understand how everybody needs to be labeled now, and you have to be defined by your religion or you have to be defined by how much money you make, or the color of your skin.”
Chris talked in depth on this topic as well as gun ownership, humanity, freedom, and the decriminalization of marijuana. He also chats about why the band chose to cover Edwin Starr’s. “War” for the new record. Check out the full interview below along with a listen to the tracks “The Way of the Future” and “In Our Dreams”.
Black Stone Cherry will release Kentucky through Mascot Label Group on April 1.