EXCLUSIVE – BLACK STONE CHERRY INTERVIEW
An Evening With Black Stone Cherry is the must-see rock event of the year. Simon Rushworth chewed the fat with frontman Chris Robertson as the band take the UK by storm.
RUSHONROCK: As a band you love singing about the rain and you’ve brought it with you big style this month…do you actually like wet weather?
CHRIS ROBERTSON: No! But I don’t like really hot weather either. We played a gig in Kansas City earlier this year and it was 90F outside and 120F inside. While we were on stage I was like ‘this sucks’ because I ain’t the littlest fella anyway. To be in the UK when the weather is good is fantastic and Ramblin’ Man Fair was wonderful this summer. Just right. November in the UK might be just a little bit too much the other way.
RUSHONROCK: But you do have a track record of bringing the rain whatever the time of year…
CR: It’s true.The best weather we ever had at Download was when we played our ‘surprise’ show in the tent! The last time at Download it was like a flood. I’m singing Here Comes The Rain but let’s be honest it had been there for some time. I had a mouthful of water by the time I sang the first line – that’s how wet it was. But people stayed. That’s why we love coming back over to the UK time after time. It’s the very opposite of fairweather fans. When you play Download and it’s pissing down with pouring rain and you’ve got thousands and thousands of people out there singing every word it’s just wonderful. And we won’t ever stop.
RUSHONROCK: But have you ever stopped a show due to the weather?
CR: The only time is back home when there’s been lightning and people are in real danger. That goes beyond the band. Of course we’ve got electrics on the stage but I’ve been standing there with water all over my pedal board before and if the power’s still there we’ll play on. If I get shocked at least it will go down as a memorable show and we might sell a few more records!
RUSHONROCK: Is it just the UK where your rain dance pays off?
CR: Well we’ve been in Austria, Italy and Spain and it’s been really hot but generally in the UK it just doesn’t happen. Warm is about as good as it gets. Ramblin’ Man Fair was a perfect exception to the rule though. It was like Southern California without the extreme heat.
RUSHONROCK: At least you’re indoors this time and you’ve stripped things right back – what was the thinking behind the …Evening With shows?
CR: The last two tours that we’ve done in the UK have been in arenas. We love that and we will do that again but we wanted to do something special this time. At the beginning of next year it will be 10 years since we first came over to the UK and we wanted to celebrate that – and everything we’ve achieved – by putting on An Evening With Black Stone Cherry. There are two sets including an intermission and we go from there. I don’t want to give away too much to the folks who haven’t seen it yet but of course it’s going to be a good night of music. It’s just going to be us. We wanted to bring it back to some smaller venues, bring it back to that intimate level and bring it back to the time that broke us over here. It’s just going to be something really special and I don’t know if we’ll ever do it again. We did the Southern Hospitality tour a few years back but that was just four shows. It went so well that we were looking at whether we could do it all again. We said let’s just do that one more time just as something really awesome to complement the new album.
RUSHONROCK: You’re also touring on the back of new album Kentucky – does that record complement the …Evening With concept?
CR: The new record is definitely another example of going back to our roots. We recorded it at home, we produced it ourselves and we wanted to do something similar with the live show. It’s all about bringing it back to where we started – as much as we can. Of course we’re much bigger than where we started and we’re thankful for that. But we enjoyed playing the venues that we visited before we graduated to arenas. We just think it will be a lot of fun – both for us and our fans.
RUSHONROCK: Overall how good has 2016 been to Black Stone Cherry?
CR: It’s been another phenomenal year for us. How crazy was it co-headlining Ramblin’ Man Fair with Whitesnake? It wasn’t so long ago that we were opening up for Whitesnake and Def Leppard and now we’re in the same ballpark? It’s unbelievable. It’s incredible really to think about that. And now we’re going to be headlining a show at Newcastle City Hall where the Whitesnake Choir was formed all those years ago. What a journey.
RUSHONROCK: And are you still plugging away to get the same recognition back home?
CR: We’re still not a big radio band back home. We still play bars in front of 500 or 1,000 people. Maybe an average of 700 people a night but sometimes a lot less. And then we come over to the UK and play in front of 15,000 people headlining a festival? It’s crazy. But it’s as beautiful as it is mindblowing.
RUSHONROCK: How do you explain the difference between your popularity in the UK and Europe compared to back home?
CR: I can’t. If you look at the Carnival Of Madness tour that we did in the UK we headlined that with Shinedown opening up and Halestorm in the middle. In the States it’s the other way around. We’re the opening act. It’s the complete opposite. Back home we’ve never had that ‘pop’ but even in the UK the success has come off the back of playing festivals and playing live. We’ve gone out there, opened up for bigger bands and given it everything we’ve got – but we do exactly the same in America. For some reason it just doesn’t work out the same.
RUSHONROCK: One of the highlights of 2016 was seeing The Kentucky Headhunters finally hit the UK – how proud are you to have played a part in that?
CR: The Kentucky Headhunters are family. They actually are. John Fred’s dad, Richard, has always been a major influence. When we first started he said ‘oh hell it won’t last’. I suppose like a lot of dads really. But then when he saw we were serious he started helping us. It’s been so awesome to finally repay some favours and help them make their way over to the UK and Europe and get them the credit they deserve. To see them come over and play to new audiences after 34 years is an incredible feeling. It’s just unreal.
I’m a journalist specialising in sport and rock music. Can’t play either so I write about them instead.