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Interview: Black Stone Cherry

Kentucky’s most rocking sons, Black Stone Cherry, are making a triumphant return to Download this summer. Performing on the Main Stage before Guns N’ Roses, it’s going to be the southern gentleman’s biggest show at the festival yet.

 

The band have been busy since they last headlined the Zippo Encore Stage back in 2015, going onto release the critically-acclaimed album ‘Kentucky’ and covers EP ‘Black To Blues’. The quartet most recently headed back to Barrick Recording, in their hometown of Glasgow Kentucky, to get stuck into writing and self-producing their sixth album, ‘Family Tree’, due for release on 20th April 2018.

We caught up with guitarist Ben Wells to get the lowdown on ‘Family Tree’, his favourite memories of Download and what the band have in store for #DL2018.

‘Burnin’ was the first track you previewed from your forthcoming album, ‘Family Tree’, due for release on 20th April. Can you tell us a bit about the song?

We are excited about it. We wrote that song last summer on tour throughout America; we had the song’s chorus in our minds before we had anything else, so we wrote the song around that.

It came about really easy, we were on the bus writing it and we were listening to a lot of ZZ Top and we had the song. It was one of the first songs we started to write out of all the new stuff; we’re very excited about it.

You recorded your last album Kentucky in the same studio as your debut album at David Barrick’s Barrick Recording. How did you approach recording Family Tree?

We actually did the same thing this time around; we chose to self-produce it again and recorded it at home. What’s cool this time is we took it even a step further: not only did that we produce it ourselves, we recorded it right here in our hometown and Chris [Robertson] our singer and guitar player also mixed it.

We’re very hands on with everything we do but we’re trying more to be, not only a band, but a one-stop shop for everything else as well. It’s really cool that we have the ability to record right in our backyard and Chris has the ability to mix the songs. We’re doing everything more and more in-house and that feels really good and really special.

I think that makes us really close to this album as we had everything to do with it from top to bottom; John our bass player did all the artwork for it. It’s just really exciting, 13 brand news songs – people I think, they’re gonna love it.

Lyrically, where did get your inspiration for the album?

We don’t get serious, we’re not a serious band. There’s one ballad on the album and the ballad, it’s not just me being biased because I’m in the band, it’s probably one of my favourite ballads ever written; it’s a beautiful song called ‘My Last Breath’ and it came out phenomenal.

Other than that it’s a straight up rock n roll record. There’s songs that talk about where we’re from: being from the south, there’s party songs, there’s songs about girls, songs about just playing music

We wore our influences on our sleeves this time listening back to classic blues artists and of course ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd and even The Black Crowes. I think the world needs more fun music, in my opinion. We’re not trying to shove any agenda or any kind of propaganda down anybody’s throat – we just want to play music and let people have a good time to it.

Last year you released the Black To Blues EP, which was all cover versions. Why did you choose to do the EP?

We had some time at home and we said, “why don’t we go into the studio and record six of our favorite blues songs and we’ll put them out? It’ll be something cheap and affordable for our fans and it will keep our fans happy whilst they’re waiting for our new record to come out”.

Really, that was a great experience for us. Doing that EP and playing those old songs really influenced the writing and recording for the new record…We put it out for our fans and it becomes the number one album on the Blues Chart and we never expected that to happen we just thought it was going to be a fun cool thing; it was received very well, we were pleasantly surprised.

Which track on the EP would you say is your favourite?

We did ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’ and that’s one of my favourite songs to play live at the moment. I would say out of the other stuff on there ‘Palace Of The King’ by an artist known as Freddie King is probably one of my favourite songs, because that was a song we’d started playing together as a band way back in 2002/2003.

You’re playing Download again this June, what are your favourite memories of the festival?

The festival has a special place in our hearts just because we have done it so many times and it’s absolutely, savagely awesome.

I think my favorite memory at this point would probably be the first time we got to headline the second stage, because that was one of our first big main appearances at the festival. I remember the adrenaline that we had going from the dressing from to the stage; I couldn’t even control it there was just so much excitement, adrenaline and nerves – it was just an incredible time.

Our mascot is the Download Dog, what’s your favourite breed of dog?

I actually have two dogs, my wife and I do, and they’re two beagles. I would probably say beagles are my favourite breed of dog: we love them to death. They’re called Henry and Clark – they’re very loyal and smart.

Ben Wells, Black Stone Cherry

You’re playing before Guns N’ Roses, what’s your favourite Guns N’Roses track?

I think if you’re a fan of rock n’ roll you have to appreciate Guns N’ Roses, whether you’re a fanatic or not, you have to appreciate what that band did for rock n’ roll. I love them, I think they’re fantastic. I love ‘Night Train’ at this point in time, but of course then you hear another one and you think, “oh man! That’s a good one too”.

We’re super honoured and excited to get to play before them at Download, it’s such a huge thing, their reunion tour has been massive. I know the pressure is on for us but we’re going to get up there and do our thing, but we’re happy to be there really.

You’ll have six albums worth of material to choose from to play at Download. How are you going to decide on your set list?

Goodness! Hopefully we’ll have that figured out before we get there.  It was really hard before, but now with this new album…every one of them was written to play live so we want to do them all. It will be a hard thing to figure out what song to do, what song not to do. You want to do songs people are familiar with and you want to do songs that are new and exciting. I’m not sure how it’s going to work yet, but it’ll work I know that.

You’ve been together as a band for 17 years with no line up changes. What do you think your secret is for staying together as a band?

We are family first and a band second: we grew up together, we consider ourselves brothers, our families and everybody are close knit. We run our organisation very much like a family; we mean business when we mean business. We love each other, we don’t have any ulterior motives towards each other, there’s no egos.

I think what helped us is that we grew up from a small town and we grew up from humble beginnings; we’re just trying to keep things humble and appreciative. I think that’s what’s been the secret for us is that we don’t want to play music with anybody else. It’s just the four of us or nothing and I think that’s what’s kept us going as the same guys for so long.

Black Stone Cherry say British Things

For a second bite of Black Stone Cherry watch our video interview with Jon and John Fred from the band as the southern rockers have a bash at saying some classic British phrases.

Don’t miss Black Stone Cherry rocking out the Main Stage Download 2018. Grab your tickets now!