Black Stone Cherry: 'It's not super heavy, it's not soft, it's just straight up and down feel good rock'n'roll'
- Henry Northmore
- 5 November 2018
credit: Will Ireland
Southern rockers from Kentucky have gone back to the blues on new album Family Tree
Championed by bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top and The Allman Brothers the southern rock sound has escaped its deep south origins to spread the gospel around the world. Black Stone Cherry are one of the new generation of bands paying tribute to that old school mix of country rockin'.
Formed in Kentucky and featuring John Fred Young (son of The Kentucky Headhunters's Richard Young) in the lineup BCS certainly have the credentials for an authentic take on American hard rock. Their sixth album, Family Tree, finds them looking back to their roots and embracing the blues.
Guitarist Ben Wells explains more as they prepare to tour the UK.
How did you first start playing together?
John [Fred Young, drums], Chris [Robertson, lead vocals / guitar] and Jon [Lawhon, bass] all live in a town called Edmonton, Kentucky, and it's about 15 minutes from where I live in Glasgow. They had already been playing together, jamming on blues stuff, I met them through a mutual friend in 2001 and I started to jam with them and literally the next day we were a band.
Southern rock is associated with a very distinct part of the world, why do you think it has such a global appeal?
I think it's a form of music that people can relate to, it's honest music, it's real, it speaks from the heart. Especially people who aren't from the southern United States they really want to latch onto that, much like the British invasion of America. Americans were very much influenced by that genre of music and that way of life, and I think that happened the other way round with southern rock in Europe.
How do you feel Family Tree fits in with Black Stone Cherry's discography?
Family Tree is different musically, it's more back to what we started out as a band: blues inspired guitar driven rock. I think Family Tree is a great example of what Black Stone Cherry is at its core, it's not super heavy, it's not soft, it's just straight up and down feel good rock'n'roll.
And what made you go back to the blues?
The blues has always been there. After we did the EP last year, Black to Blues, that re-lit that spark inside of us. It took us back to the music we grew up listening to and the way we wrote songs back when we started.
Was it an enjoyable album to make?
It's the second time we've self-produced, it means we can go in the studio and just relax, it was just a great vibe because we didn't take anything too seriously or want to make a commercial album, we just wanted to make an album we'd be proud of. For us the pressure was off because we knew what we wanted to make and had fun doing it and that comes through.
Cadillac Three and Monster Truck are joining you on this UK tour. Is it important to you to have a strong lineup?
We want people to see a great package, we want people to get their money's worth. Both those bands are fantastic, we chose them because they are great players and have a great vibe and that really fits into what we do.
You've supported some of the world's biggest rock bands, did you learn anything from those tours?
We learned a lot, especially from [Lynyrd] Skynryd and Def Leppard. Def Leppard were just incredible gentlemen, very polite and respectful, and at the time we were nobodies and they went out of their way to make sure we were taken care of. Same with Lynyrd Skynrd, those guys are very appreciative of new bands who have been influenced by them, they really took us under their wing. We learned a lot about respect and how to tour on that level and we try to convey that when we go out on tour as well.
You also toured with Nickelback. Why do people seem to love to hate those guys?
Because they are successful. That's what it boils down to, and a lot of people who do hate on them won't admit they're fans. I'm a fan too, we got to tour with them in 2009 and they were fantastic guys, very nice. With Nickelback people like to hate on them because they're so popular but I don't think they're too worried about it [laughs].
What can people expect from your UK tour?
Every show is going to be different, there's going o be a different setlist every single night. We're focusing in on the music and making each show special. That's what we do, get out there tour and spread the word, there's no games with us.
Black Stone Cherry tour the UK, 6—14 Dec.