INTERVIEW: CHRIS ROBERTSON, BLACK STONE CHERRY – April 2017

INTERVIEW: CHRIS ROBERTSON, BLACK STONE CHERRY – April 2017
By Shane Pinnegar

Kentucky rockers Black Stone Cherry were last in Western Australia as special guests to Steel Panther in 2016 – a double act that never sat completely right for us. In truth, for 100% ROCK, the down-home honesty of Black Stone Cherry’s rock n’ roll grind rings far more true to us now (and then) than Panther’s be-wigged hair metal shenanigans.

Singer Chris Robertson is feeling great about bringing the band’s fifth album down under for their first Australian headlining tour, which brings them to Perth on Monday, 24 April.
Chris: I’m living life, man. You doing alright?

Shane: Yep. Doing pretty well. Great to talk to you again. Where are you guys – on tour at the moment?

Chris: Yeah man, we are currently on the south side of Chicago. Not south side, my bad. I’m thinking about Jim Croce today, so I’ve got Bad, Bad Leroy Brown stuck in my head (laughs) – we are actually on the north side of Chicago and just enjoying a nice day off, hanging out and having a good old day, man.

Shane: Excellent. The response from last year’s tour with Steel Panther must have been pretty good for you guys, because you’re coming back for your own headlining tour…

Chris: Yeah man – and it’s all happening pretty quick, so it ended up working out pretty well, you know. We’re happy to be coming back, and hopefully everybody’s happy to be having us back.

Shane: Fantastic. Well, we’re looking forward to it. A lot of people thought it was a bit of a strange double-up, you and Steel Panther. Did you get along with those guys?

Chris: Oh dude, those guys are great friends of ours: we love those dudes. They’ve always been such fantastic guys, and you couldn’t ask for better dudes than them. They are awesome – absolutely awesome – and they’re great friends as well, man, so you know, you can’t complain there.

Shane: Is it competitive for you when you go out on the road with someone – do you want to blow them off stage?

Chris: Absolutely. I mean that’s kind of the name of the game. It’s all fun and games but at the end of the day we’re there to kick ass and have fun, you know what I mean? We try our absolute best to do that anytime we can.

Shane: Well, it certainly worked for us. For us, you guys were the better band on the night for sure, and we just can’t wait to see a full headlining set from you!

Chris: Man, we’re excited to be able to come back and try to deliver on that. You know, we had a lot of fun, and we’re gonna be looking forward to the opportunity to come back and bring our show the way we always do it – but at the same time, we could end up playing a totally different set than what we’re doing right now. I mean, we have been known to do that quite often, so you never know. It could literally be the exact set as we’re doing now [in America], or it could end up being something way different… you honestly never know with us.

Shane: Well it’s all about energy, isn’t it – Is it difficult to summon that energy night after night when you’ve been on the road for weeks at a time, and maybe you’re jet lagged, and all that?

Chris: It can be, but the minute the lights go down and you walk out, and there’s people who are there to hear the music. At that point, it’s just like, okay, all bets are off. Let’s go do this thing and do it the way that we’re known for doing it, you know what I mean?

Shane: Excellent. Now look, you’re a dedicated family man. It must be very difficult to be away for so long on tour.

Chris: Yeah dude. I just got a few pictures of my little boy. Him and my wife were making spaghetti together tonight. And I just want to go home right now.

Shane: Oh I bet.

Chris: But we get to go home Monday for a little bit so that’ll be nice, you know. We’re very fortunate, man, in the fact that where we live is kind of centrally located to just about everything. So we get an opportunity to go home fairly often, but, you know, we’re lucky in that regard.

Shane: Absolutely. The kids grow up so fast, don’t they? My daughter is nine going on fifteen! How do you make sure that you stay in touch with home and don’t miss what’s happening in your young kids’ lives?

Chris: [laughs] Man, thank God for FaceTime and things of that nature. They genuinely allow you to be able to stay in contact in real time. The smartphones and the technology we have today, you can always stay in touch, and that’s what’s so beautiful about it. I’m very glad that’s all a possibility, because if not, God I’d be miserable on the road sometimes.

Shane: Well, you can just imagine what those guys in the ’70s must have felt like.

Chris: Honestly, I don’t think I could have done it in the ’70s. I really think I would have struggled quite a bit to do what we do [if we were] back in the ’70s. You couldn’t get a picture, or click a button on your phone to see your family in real time, you couldn’t do that back then. I don’t know how those guys did it. I really don’t, man.

Shane: Absolutely. It was a different world, I reckon.

Chris: Oh yeah.

Shane: So look, your first album with Mascot, Kentucky, seemed to perform very well for you. Are you looking at working with them again for the next album?

Chris: Yeah man, we’ve built a great relationship with Sam and we’re excited to see where everything takes us, you know. They’ve been great to us so far and we couldn’t ask for anything better, so there’s no need to change it up at this point. That’s kind of the way I see it.

Shane: Fantastic. In producing the album yourselves, it certainly gave you a bit of freedom to be your own bosses, in a sense. I read that, for instance, In Our Dreams – you’d wanted that song on previous albums, but producers had vetoed that. It’s a killer track. Does that open the door to you digging up other, older demos and dusting them off and pretty much having the freedom to do whatever you want?

Chris: Sometimes, man, but then at the same time, sometimes we just kind of want to sit back and see what we can come up with new. We’ve always got stuff we can go back to, but for the most part, we just kind of want to be able to see what kind of fresh, new ideas come about. We could literally rely on songs we’ve written years ago and completely not even have to worry about writing a record, and that would work, but at the same time, we would also be doing an injustice to ourselves by not furthering what we do, you know?

That’s something that, you know, no band should ever do, in my opinion. I just don’t believe in that. I think you should always keep pushing forward. I know we have definitely gone back before, and visited songs from the past and they’ve ended up making the record, but that’s different. That’s not just saying, ‘well, we could do this.’

In seriousness, we’ve probably got 50 songs that nobody’s ever heard but us, that we could put out for the next five records and people would love it. But, you gotta always continue to push forward, you know what I mean?

Shane: For sure, that makes a lot of sense. Is self-producing an album a tightrope walk, in a sense, having to be careful not to get too self-indulgent?

Chris: It can be. But, luckily we’re all on the same page with everything like that, and we’ve always gone for it, you know what I mean? So, it’s kind of a fine line, but you have to walk that fine line in order to be able to continue doing this. We could definitely end up doing songs that had one verse, one chorus, and then the rest of the whole thing was just kind of a free-for-all, jam band record. That would be cool, but that would suck at the same time because that’s not what people have got to know us for.

Shane: Sure. A few years back you were doing a great cover of Adele’s Rolling In The Deep. You’ve also tackled Amy Winehouse’s Rehab live, as well as some more traditional rock numbers. How do you go about taking a song that comes from a very different genre and giving it the Black Stone Cherry treatment?

Chris: The Adele thing’s kind of funny. We were at soundcheck one day and I just started playing it, you know, singing it, cause I’m a huge Adele fan. And somebody on our crew, was like, ‘y’all ain’t got the balls to play that tonight.’ And I was like, ‘watch and see, buddy – watch and see!’ And we played it, and that’s kind of the story to that song, really, man. You know, that one is one that people have always liked.

And then, the Rehab thing was just kind of another one of those spur of the moment kind of things that we did that kind of came around, and it was just another one of those really super fun kind of songs, man, that kind of worked going into the set for a little bit. Like, right now, we’ve been doing a little bit of George Thorogood in the set. Not too much, but a little bit. Just enough to have a little fun with it. And then, we’ve also been doing a Howlin’ Wolf song called Built For Comfort. It’s been a lot of fun – we do a heavier version, you know, obviously, but it’s a lot of fun.

Shane: Excellent. Well, I’ve always thought your covers have seemed very carefully considered. You know, reverential things like, Ace of Spades after Lemmy passed, or clever adaptations like the Adele or the Winehouse song, or Edwin Starr’s War that you did on Kentucky. Are there any personal favourites that you’ve been wanting to tackle for a while now?

Chris: Man, there’s always something brewing, but as far as something that I’m just dying to do – there’s nothing really, right now. You know, I wish there was. I wish I could tell you some crazy song that I wish we could do, but there’s nothing I could think of at the moment that I’m just dying to get out there and play. Other than some of our own songs that we haven’t played in a while… but you never know, man – we could literally go and do anything at any given time.

Shane: Maybe you should research some Australian music and see if something grabs your ears there.

Chris: Right. It could happen man – you never know.

Shane: When we last spoke, we touched on the issues of addiction, depression, and your work with the You Rock Foundation. You sound really positive, really happy, today, so, are you winning the fight?

Chris: Yeah dude. I mean, it’s one of those battles that you never let go of, but as long as you’ve got good people on your side, man, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to: I’m a firm believer in that. It all gets back to just loving yourself and loving the people around you, and surrounding you with people around yourself that feel the same way.

Shane: I do know. I’ve been in that very depressed place, myself, and things are a lot, lot better today. Part of that is hearing other people’s stories, accepting there is a problem, and working through it, so, thanks for speaking up about it, man.

Chris: Dude, I love hearing that – that somebody is finding a better path, you know what I mean? That’s what it’s all about for me. Hearing that, about people doing better, whether it’s through them talking to me, or from them talking to whoever, it does not matter to me. I just want people to get better, man, you know what I mean?

Shane: Absolutely. I mean, we’re in the same place, brother, that’s for sure.

Chris: That’s what I like to hear, man. You know, dude, you just gotta find what works for you, and go for that, and it’ll be all right, you know what I mean? That’s the biggest thing. Everybody has to remember that it will be okay, you know? Shit happens, but it’s never the end of the world.

Shane: Absolutely. Great talking to you, thank you so much for your time. Can’t wait to see you in Perth.

Chris: Rock on, bro.

INTERVIEW: CHRIS ROBERTSON, BLACK STONE CHERRY – April 2017

Filed Under: Interviews

About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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