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The South Rises Again. Deb Rao's Exclusive Interview With Black Stone Cherry Vocalist, Chris Robertson

By Debby Rao, Boston Contributor
Thursday, December 21, 2006 @ 10:18 AM

"...we're the only rock band i

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There is a new surge of young bands that are returning to their musical roots, and generating quite the musical buzz in the music industry today. Kentucky is a new breeding ground for a band known as Black Stone Cherry, who is well on the verge of making a serious impact in the hard rock market today. Black Stone Cherry has a certain southern rock edge, infused with a touch of blues, metal and a classic rock vibe.

Black Stone Cherry, who hail from Edmonton, Kentucky recently released their self-titled debut album,” Black Stone Cherry" on Roadrunner Records. The young band performed a musical showcase for Roadrunner in New York, and captured the label by storm. In the South, the people are known for their hospitality, and good will. Black Stone Cherry, who consist of Chris Robertson on lead vocals, Ben Wells on guitar, Jon Lawhon on bass, and John Fred Young on drums are all about bringing the music back to the people, with a vibe that is real and honest.

It has been awhile, since a band has emerged out of the South with a cutting edge sound that is full of emotion, passion, and deep root oriented. Black Stone Cherry return to their southern rock roots sings about issues that people can identify with, and write some of the catchiest guitar licks reminiscent of the early Allman Brothers. Although the average age of the band is only 21, Black Stone Cherry have received more success than most people do in their entire lifetime. Not band for a band, which has only been together for five years. Black Stone Cherry has recently toured with Buckcherry, and is currently on tour opening for Zakk Wylde's Black Label Society.

I caught up with lead singer Chris Robertson while the band was on tour with Black Label Society.

KNAC.COM: How is the tour with BLS going?

ROBERTSON: The tour has been amazing. All the guys in Black Label Society and the crew have been really nice. They are treating us very well. The fans of the shows have been really great. I think it is a good match for a tour of bands to go across The States.

KNAC.COM: Yes, I agree. Back in the early days, Zakk Wylde had a Southern rock sound, and he is returning to his southern roots on this tour too. Black Stone Cherry is the perfect band to open for BLS, because of your sound. Do you agree?

ROBERTSON: We agree. It is a match made in heaven. With the two bands.

KNAC.COM: Tell me a little bit about your debut album on Roadrunner Records,” Black Stone Cherry." How did the deal transpire with the label? How did you attract the interest of Roadrunner?

ROBERTSON: Practicing six days a week, working our asses off. Never giving up, on matter anyone told us. That eventually got us into good management. With our management doing the same stuff with determination, and hard work, they got us to able to play a showcase in New York for Roadrunner Records. It all just kind of fell into place from there.

KNAC.COM: The song "Lonely Train" on your album deals with the military. Do you have a lot of friends in the military, and fighting in the war?

ROBERTSON: Yes, we are from is from a small town in Edmonton, Kentucky. A lot of people from our town, a lot of kids that go to school with us, graduated from school and then you would either get a job, work in a factory, go to college, or you basically go into the army. "Lonely Train" was not a political standpoint on either side of the fence. The song is a description of us feeling about all our friends having to leave home to go fight a war.

KNAC.COM: It is a very powerful song. The song "Hell Or High Water" is getting a lot of attention. Are you going to make a video to promote that song?

ROBERTSON: Actually, we shot the video right before we went home, right before the Black Label Tour. It should be coming out to TV any time now. We got the final copy of the video in about a week and a half ago. So now we are getting ready to go to TV with it.

KNAC.COM: How did your Southern rock roots influence the writing and the sound of your album?

ROBERTSON: A little bit of everything. My Dad is a musician. He plays a lot of Southern Rock. My grandfather builds acoustic guitars by hand. So he has a really big bluegrass influence. Of course country music. Everyone in the band has a diverse taste in music, which is why our sound is unique. If all four of us listened to the same exact music it would sound like the band we were listening to. But we listen o all different stuff, we kind of have our own sound. I am a huge fan of the Motown scene. I also like a lot of soul music and blues, funk everything up to heavy metal. Pretty much every genre of music there are good artists and there are bad artists. You learn from both. We really listen to everything.

KNAC.COM: When I saw you in concert, I noticed the diverse sound of band. Actually, Black Stone Cherry remind me a lot of a young Allman Brothers, with a lot of the bluesy jams that are infused into your set. Being from the South, would you say the Allman Brothers influenced you at all?

ROBERTSON: Yes, I am a huge Allman Brothers fan. They are probably honestly the best playing band of all time.

KNAC.COM: How is the music scene in Kentucky? Did you have to go to Nashville to showcase the band?

ROBERTSON: In the county we live in, we are actually the only rock and roll band in the county. A couple of counties over, there is more of a blue rock scene, and if you go further there is a little more of a rock scene. Everybody is so different back home. It is not like everybody sounds the same. We are really the only real honest Southern rock band from back home that is a bunch of kids our age. We have three guys that are 21, and one guy that is twenty-three years old. The difference between lots of the bands that are out is all they know is rock and roll. We play "Hootchie Coochie Man" by Muddy Waters every night, in our live set. Our roots are deep. We show people that every night. When we are 21 years old and play an old a blues song.

KNAC.COM: How did you get the name Black Stone Cherry?

ROBERTSON: It is kind of a thing, that we just thought it would a cool name at first. Then when you think about it, it has a lot of meaning. Because of the black, we are influenced by a lot of soul music, and that where the black artist come into play in our music. The Stone is for the rock and roll; because there is anything harder than a rock, and the cherry is a little incentive on top of everything. It is kind of like the cherry on top, with a little something extra to add in to the mix.

KNAC.COM: I recently interviewed a new band called Vains of Jenna. They are part of a new trend in music that actually reverts backs to the 80's. Now Black Stone Cherry is bringing back the Southern rock sound. It seems music fans are once again listening to lyrics and melody. They want to be entertained. Do you see a trend in music where young bands like yours are opening up the doors that were once closed in certain genres, and re-writing a new chapter in the music industry with a fresh new sound?

ROBERTSON: Yes, I would agree with that. The trouble with a lot of music today is bands don’t want to go back deep enough to the roots. For instance, you have a band that listens to Metallica, and they think that is where heavy metal started. But it is not. You have to listen to what Metallica listened to and find out whether their roots were King Diamond, or any of those bands that were big in the mid seventies like Kiss or whatever. Kiss probably listened to The Rolling Stones. The Stones go back to all of the great blues artists of the 1930's, and 1940's. That is what we did. We went back to every band that we really like, and was a big influence on us. We found what their inspiration was, and went all down the list to where you really can't find any more inspirations, that way you are drawing it from the same well, and your all time favorite bands, instead of just drawing from your favorite bands, you go to their roots and listen to them.

KNAC.COM: What kind of sound were you aiming for in the studio?

ROBERTSON: The whole thing about our band is that we write all of the songs together. We write all of the lyrics together, we write all of the music together because that is what we are. We are a band, not just one guy writing all the songs. That is not what band is. A band is four guys that write their own music, and play their own music. The production of the album was actually done by John Fred's Dad, Richard Young, at a studio back home. We had our hands in the pot, at all times because we are a band. That is what we do. We know better than anybody that our music should sound like. The two guys that produced the record are guys that we known our whole life. They know what we should sound like. We didn't want to work with any outside forces that would change or corrupt our music, in a way that we would not like. When it comes down to it, we are from Kentucky, we play music, the four guys, and the two guys that produced the record are in the same mindset that we are. If we worked with a guy from Los Angeles, it would be a huge influence on our music. Who knows that could be a great thing, but that is not something that we want to go after right now. We want to be who we are.

KNAC.COM: Black Stone Cherry has been together for five years. Over how long a time period was the album written?

ROBERTSON: Actually, one of the first ten songs that we ever wrote was "Shooting Star", which is on the album. We had a 100 to 125 songs cataloged. Obviously thirteen of those are on the record. Roadrunner has just released a EP on iTunes, and a lot of the downloading services called, Hell Or High Water, which has that song, a song that didn't make the album, called, "Big City Lights", and a song called, ”We Are The Kings” that were both recorded for the album, but we decided to put those out at a later time.

KNAC.COM: Now that the BLS tour is over, will you hit the road again soon?

ROBERTSON: We are going to be out with Hinder for the remainder of the year. We got same stuff in the works for next year. As soon as that is all confirmed, that will be on our website.

KNAC.COM: What have your favorite cities been so far that you have visited with Black Label Society? Any special memories that you would like to share with us?

ROBERTSON: Honestly with us every night has it's own special memory. Every city has it's own thing, because the people from that city have a different culture. Even though a city might be in the same State, each city has it's own unique thing because there is something different that the crowd reacts to, it is something different that we do that the crowd reacts to every night. Any city that we can play our music in front of a group of people that enjoys it is our favorite city to play in. It is not like that we have this new city that we love going to every time, because we love going to every city every time we play it.

KNAC.COM: You are returning to Kentucky soon to perform. Are you looking forward to going back to where it all began?

ROBERTSON: Yes, we are playing Louisville, Kentucky. It will be fun. We haven't played in Kentucky since we were on tour with Buckcherry back in July and August.

KNAC.COM: Buckcherry are a great bunch of guys. What was it like touring with them?

ROBERTSON: It was the same thing. They are all great guys, the crew was great. We have been very fortunate to be a new band, have a new album, and to tour with a lot of established bands. Our main thing is that we treat everyone with the same respect that we would like to be treated with. Ya know, it works. If you treat people nice, they are going to treat you nice.

KNAC.COM: Chris, Thank you so much for the time you spent with me today. Is there anything else you’d like to say about the tour and Black Stone Cherry?

ROBERTSON: Anyone who hasn't checked out the album should check it out. It is thirteen songs straight from the heart that we put out. It is definitely a change for rock and roll. We are not playing rehashed Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin; we are doing what Black Stone Cherry does. Thank you to everybody who has picked up the album. We greatly appreciate it. Hopefully we will be seeing you in a town near you soon.

Click Here to buy Black Stone Cherry from KNAC.COM.

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