"We had no one looking over our shoulders this time..." - hmv.com talks to Black Stone Cherry
As they release their new album Kentucky (which you can preview and purchase on the right-hand side of the page), we called up Chris Robertson, frontman with hard rockers Black Stone Cherry to find out all about making the album, recording back in their home state, life on a brand new label and their plans to take it out live...
Where did the songs for Kentucky come together?
"We have families now so it's a lot harder now to get time to write at home. A lot of these tracks were written on the bus and a few in the rehearsal room. We recorded the whole thing in 21 days and that was 17 or 18 songs. It was really quick and it was a lot of fun. We self-produced and had no-one looking over our shoulders."
Did you ever pause and think 'This is too good to be true, something's going to go wrong...'"?
"It was more thinking 'Why the hell has it taken us so long in the past?'! We recorded close to where we're from so we got to go home every night and we recorded in the exactly the same way as we did our self-titled record. We'd get there at 11, work until 10, go home to our families, it was so easy."
Why did you decide you wanted to stay in your home state to record?
"With us having a new label, we wanted to keep things steady, we'd already recorded a couple of tracks in that studio and we knew it was a good place to go. It was the right thing to do, as was self-producing. We've been doing this for a long time and we've worked with some of the biggest producers in rock and roll. We've picked up stuff from all those guys and we knew exactly we wanted. This is the most accurate representation of our music that's ever been recorded."
How did you find self-producing? It's always more work than you think it is...
"We didn't take it too seriously. We changed a few things on the fly, but it was relaxed. We love what we do, we never want this to feel like a job, if you mess up you can always do it again. The only pressure was to make it as good as it could be, a lot of the other pressure was gone, the deadlines weren't there and we had no one looking over our shoulders this time."
When did you settle on the title of Kentucky?
We probably went through 30 titles, easily the most we've ever gone through, eventually we got the phone to our manager and we chatted for a while and he said 'Why don't you just call it Kentucky?' and we knew it had been right in front of our faces the whole time. This is us going back to our home town, every musician who played on this record is from Kentucky, we've got a guy who came in and played the organs, some guys who came in to play horns and three ladies who sing on the album. They're all from this area and it was so an obvious title."
Can you sum up the album lyrically? 'The Way Of The Future' is quite a political song, is the album in that vein?
"We've never really been a political band, but we have our opinions. The word I'd use to sum up this album is honest. It goes from 'Soul Machine', which is just a fun song to 'The Way Of The Future' which is the most strident thing we've ever done. Everything is a true story of what's happened to me and where I'm going. You get in a mindset of writing and thinking about what will work on radio, but this album is a fresh start. New label, self-produced, honest with everything we do. Being who we are has gotten us this far and we only want to be more honest in the future."
Do you all contribute to the lyrics?
"We all write everything together. Nothing is off the table. I've open about the battles I've had, whether that's with substance abuse or depression, I've always been honest, but I'm getting much better at opening up. There was always an underlying honesty in every song, but I feel like I'm getting better at finding much deeper meanings with my words."
This is your first album for new label Mascot after being with Roadrunner your whole career, why did you decide to change it up?
"It was a mutual thing. There'd be a lot of changes over there and it was time. We had a great run, but we decided it was time to part ways. We had interest from a few labels, but we liked what Mascot had done with Black Label Society and Joe Bonamassa, bands who do what we do and we thought we'd give it a shot. It was a good change, we didn't want to get in a rut and we're very happy with where we are now."
Finally, what are your plans to take the record out live?
"We're extremely excited to play the songs for people, all we know is playing live, it's what we've built our careers on, we'll be back in the UK to headline this festival called The Rambling Man Fair, we're honoured to headline. A lot of dates are being worked out, we'll be on the road a lot, we're booked through the year."