Chris Robertson, lead vocalist and guitarist of the American hard rock band Black Stone Cherry joined Hush Hush Biz for an interview pre-empting their tour in Australia this upcoming June. Chris gives insight into the inspiration for the bands new fifth studio album ‘Kentucky’, how they balance family life and what the band has in stall for the future.
Your band Black Stone Cherry has obviously been together now for about 10 years now. What has been the band’s strategy for staying as a strong unit since the beginning?
“I think the biggest contributing factor to us still being together and still being band members is that we were all friends before we were ever in a band together. Music is what brought us together, and we were friends before we ever thought we had a chance of playing music together. I think that’s a big thing because today a lot of bands get record deals and then they put a band around that.”
The newest album ‘Kentucky’ has now been released on the 1st of April. What inspired the band to record the fifth studio album in your home town?
“Why not? We’ve got an incredible studio with an incredible engineer and you get to go home to your wife and kids every night. We finish recording and 25 minutes later I’m home to my wife and my son. My wife would bring my little boy over several times whilst we were recording the album, and just to see him be interested in the songs was awesome. He’s 3 years old. Seeing him having an interest in music this early is incredible. Because I didn’t get into it until I was about 13 or so.”
What was the inspiration to record this ‘back to basics/raw’ album?
“Just the fact that we had done the last 3 records with big producers, and done the songs for radios. We wanted to get back to what got us started in the first place and make a record all on our own. We got to make this record 100% by ourselves with no producers. We just went in the studio with the engineer and played our music the way we wanted to play it. Above anything else it wasn’t so much an effort to get back to what we used to be, just to go in with no reservations and no worries of what people were going to think – and that’s what we did. So far Its’ been a very positive outcome.”
How is recording this album in your hometown in David Barrack’s studio different to other studio’s you have recorded in?
“It’s just a laid back vibe. Somebody was always stopping by, or someone we went to school with was stopping by. It was an open door, friendly environment and just a lot of fun above anything else. There was no real pressure or anybody looking over you shoulder, we just went in and had fun and literally did whatever we wanted and made a record.”
In your home town, do you get stopped on the street for photos?
“Everybody knows everybody where we’re from. I mean every now and then there will be somebody who will want to take a picture. Normally not in our home town. Normally in a town or so over. But all the towns are relatively close, Ben lives in the next town which is 20 miles away. Sometimes in that town, somebody will stop us and want to take a picture. We’re just normal dudes and everybody knows that. It’s not like when Kid Rock comes to town and everyone lines up overnight.”
All the band memories are heavily family orientated, how do you balance family life and being a rockstars?
“It’s hard being away from your family. I’m thankful for technology and FaceTime. Although sometimes it makes it harder because you want to reach out and give them a hug and you can’t. We try to stick to full week blocks, so we go away for 3 or 4 full weeks then come home for a week. That’s how we try and keep balance. At the end of the day, music is what we love, but it’s also how we make our living.”
Do you think your son will be interested in becoming a musician?
“It would be awesome if he does. It’s whatever he wants. It’s something I would never force on him. This business can be very cruel at times, but it’s up to him. If he tells me he wants to be a vet, or play football or whatever, I’ll support him. My parents supported me when I told them I wanted to play music and I think that’s what a kid needs instead of being pushed to do something they have no interest in. They have to find what they’re interested in and we have to help them through that.”
The band has been getting positive reviews on platforms such as YouTube, with comments such as ‘Wow, wicked! just literally discovered these guys today! 2 songs in and like them already’. [that’s awesome] Have you guys adapted to using social media to connect with the fans?
“We have to. The world has changed even from 2006 when our band came out with our first record. I remember when I was a kid I would find out about new bands on TV or commercials. That started changing when people could find out about bands on the internet and the internet has been a huge tool and a huge way for people to interact with their fans. It’s kind of two sided really. You think back to my generation where there was a certain kind of mystery around Led Zeppelin because there wasn’t internet. There wasn’t iPhones, and 24 hours of someone online, it was this band that you had to read about in an interview in a magazine and I think we’ve lost some of the magic and some of the mystery with the internet obviously. But it’s also been able to put people in touch. You can ask your hero a question and sometimes they reply. It’s made a negative impact on the music world but also a positive impact. Bands like us who are just normal everyday people, it works well for, as we can interact with the fans online through Facebook. I’m not really into it that much, I’m usually on there posting stuff about ordering things on Amazon [laughs]. But social media is a great tool especially because radio is harder to be played on, magazines are harder to get into and TV is harder to get on. You’ll always have social media. It’s a direct line of communication between fans and the band.”
You’re touring in Australia for the first time with the new album Kentucky, and also in Brisbane on the 25th of June this year, are you excited?
“It’s going to awesome. We’ve wanted to come to Australia for a long time and it now finally gets to happen. We’re so thrilled to be given an extra opportunity 10 years in to be putting out records and to have the chance to come to a new territory. It’s absolutely amazing and we can’t wait. We’re coming in the winter, but the winter there (here) is nothing like the winter here (there) to be honest.”
Will you be doing any sightseeing in the country while you’re here?
“I don’t know. I just found out the other day that you have to fly from city to city. I would love to go see stuff. My dad told me that you have to go to the Steve Irwin crocodile hunter sanctuary which would be awesome. I would love to do that, but I don’t know if I’ll have the chance or not.”
What are the future plans for the band?
“It’s all about the new album right now. We’re touring the whole year pretty much. We’re going out and doing some shows in the States this Sunday, then we’re going out with Buck Cheery for a while, then we come to Australia and then we go back to the states and do the carnival madness. We’re booking the year out now – we definitely stay busy.”
And finally, Is there anything you’d like to finish with.
“We can’t wait to get down there and we hope everyone enjoys the new album and the shows.”
‘Kentucky’ is available for purchase through the Black Stone Cherry website or on iTunes. For more information regarding the tour, please visit their website at http://www.blackstonecherry.com/.
Interview Jacqui Coleman