Interview with Black Stone Cherry frontman Chris Robertson

- Sep 18, 2006 at 02:11PM
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While Kentucky might mostly be known for its derbies and fried chicken, it’s also quite a breeding ground for new music and new bands such as the group known as Black Stone Cherry. The band just released its debut album a few months ago and since its release, the band has been selling tons of records and opening shows for huge bands such as Staind and Three Days Grace. The album’s first single "Lonely Train" has become a mainstream radio rock hit with another single coming in the near future, not bad for a few guys from the south that are all barely twenty years old. Luckily, we were able to catch up with the band’s lead singer Chris Robertson while on tour in the U.S. Here’s how it went....

Black Stone Cherry has been together as a band now just a little over five years, but how did the band originally come together?
Chris: Me and John and John Fred had been playing a little bit, you know just playing some blues and stuff like that and Ben came to practice with us through a friend of ours David Grimsley who’s actually our guitar tech now. And Ben came down with him and we asked him do you know how to play? And he was like “yeah I’m playing.” So you know, we got him to play a song or two with us, you know some stuff that everyone knew and the next day he came down and we were like “dude you gotta be in our band.” And pretty much since day one it’s been us four guys doing what we love, it’s not a big drawn out story, it’s just one of those fate things I guess, it happened because it was suppose to.

Where did you come up with the name Black Stone Cherry? Is there any deeper meaning behind it?
Chris: Actually man, we got the name from a cigar box. It was Black Stone Cigars with a cherry flavour so we decided to divide into three words instead of two. And after realizing what the name was, we found it did have some meaning, because our band is really influenced by soul and blues so I guess the black part of it would be that and then of course the hard rock for stoned and the cherry is just a little something on top for the girls. I mean, it’s one of those things that just happened and made total sense after the fact.

Your debut self-titled album was just released a couple of months ago. How do you personally feel about the record and are you pleased so far with the fan reaction to the disc?
Chris: We’re overwhelmed how everything has gone, you know, “Lonely Train” has done great for us and we’re getting ready to drop another single in the next month or so and we’re really happy to be out here on the road and happy that the record is selling well for us. And everything we’ve hoped for man, it’s been that and more so far to this day. Currently we’re on tour with Staind right now and we’re playing with them and tonight we’re doing a show with Three Days Grace here in New York and I mean everything’s been great. We’re lucky man because we play with a lot of diverse band that sound nothing like us but somehow we’re able to go over with their crowd so it’s wonderful man.

The band hails from Edmonton, Kentucky, a small town with not a whole lot going on in it.
Chris: No man, I mean it’s pretty much in Edmonton, when you’re in school, you play sports or you play music and that’s pretty much it. We decided to play music man and you know, now a lot more kids have started playing music back home and wanting to do this thing and it’s great whenever you see this happen because kids say “hey you know, Black Stone Cherry is out doing it, we can too.” It’s shedding a light on the town as far as something other than sports goes.

Because you’re from such a remote area, was it difficult getting people to notice and embrace your music?
Chris: Man, we played for about three years just locally and we got some good shows, we opened for Grand Funk Railroad in their home town and it was great man, but mainly we played locally around the area. And then we got on the Easy Riders Black Rodeo Tour, we got to play some of those. And then we got to play with Shinedown in Kentucky and they put a call into their management and it all spawned from there. In De Goot picked us up about seven months after that I think and then we signed our record deal with Roadrunner last August.

While most bands wait years for their big break, success is coming relatively early to Black Stone Cherry as none of the members are older than 23. How does it feel to be having so much success so early in your career?
Chris: Man you know, we take every day as it comes, we say a prayer right before we go on stage, thank god for the opportunity that we got and really take every day as it comes man. We don’t get caught up in anything, we just work our asses off to make it that much more.

Another remarkable thing about your band is that despite the members being so young, the musicianship is excellent. At what age did you guys start playing music?
Chris: John Fred has been playing drums since he was thirteen, so that’s about eight years. Ben’s been playing guitar about eight and a half years and John actually started playing bass, he played guitar for about three years and then started playing bass six months before our band got together. I got a guitar on my thirteenth birthday so I’ve been playing about eight years as well. But the band all got together; we started playing together as an official band June 4th, 2001 which was my sixteenth birthday. So the band has actually been playing together for five years now, we celebrated our five year anniversary in Fort Lawton Beach.

Your songs all deal with a variety of issues, but one of the most interesting songs on your debut record is “Lonely Train,” a song about how war affects families left behind by soldiers who have to go off and fight. Where did the inspiration come from in writing this song? Is this something you’ve had to experience yourself?
Chris: Well man like I said, when you’re in school around home, there’s not a whole lot to do besides playing sports or now play music, but with us the way we did it, after school finishes, people either go to college, go to work in a factory or you go off to the military, whether it be army, marines or whatever. And a lot of our friends who we went to high school with like, a guy that we all went to high school with and who I coached little league football with for three years man, he had to go overseas and he came home in a wooden box with a flag draped over him. And that song man was just pretty much about our feelings on our friends who had to go off to war whether they came back or not. It wasn’t a political standpoint on either side of the fence, more or less our feelings toward the whole thing about our friends having to leave. And families that have a husband, a dad, a mom, anyone who has to leave, it’s just hard to deal with, we wanted to write a song that maybe would help people deal with the subject a little bit.

Your debut album was actually recorded at home in Kentucky. Do you think the sound or vibe of the record might have been different had it been recorded elsewhere such as in a big city?
Chris: I’m sure it would have man, but the thing with us is, the studio we recorded the record at is where we’ve recorded every demo we’ve ever done. I mean everything that was ever sent to Indegoot or anybody, we recorded it there when we were demoing songs for our record before we picked which ones we wanted. And you know, the engineer David Berry has been the guy that engineered everything we’ve ever done and Richard Young of the Kentucky Headhunters is John Fred’s dad and he’s been the producer of everything we’ve ever done. So to do the record there, they completely understood the band and what we were going for with our debut album and how to portray ourselves. And you know, a lot of times man, bands will have to go work with a producer and the band will sound completely different than they did before they went to work with the producer. We just felt you know, we got to where we were with our sound so make it a little better but not change it so that’s why we did it at home.

Instead of going with a big named producer to produce the record, you guys had drummer John Fred Young’s father produce the album. How did this come about and did you ever consider going with a big name producer for the record?
Chris: You know, it (going with a big producer) was thought of man, but not much at all. You know, Richard’s been there with us since day one, he’s been in the practice house, just coming in and listening and then he would leave and let us do our thing. And he’s a great guy, he understands everything that we’re about, and I mean, he’s an amazing song writer as well, you know all his stuff with the Headhunters so you know it was never really a question, other than him and David producing the record.

Do you think you’ll go with John Fred’s father again on future releases?
Chris: We would love to man. We would love to keep doing them the way we’re doing them.

So far everything seems to be going great for you guys. What do you have planned for the rest of the year and 2007?
Chris: Man, well the rest of the year, like I said, we’re getting ready to drop another single in the next month I think. After that, um, we’re currently on tour with Staind until October the eight and then we go home for like a week. And then we go out with Black Label Society for the rest of the year and there’s some stuff in the works for 2007 that I’m not allowed to say right now but as soon as we can we’ll let you know.
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