Kentucky rockers Black Stone Cherry have been flying high for some considerable time now, and with Screamin’ at the Sky on the horizon, they are about to add new material to an already fine catalogue of exceptional songs.
With several videos already available to support this record, vocalist Chris Robertson discusses the significance of the various narratives and what the intended messages were behind them, as well as a particularly personal song to him.
First of all, thanks so much for talking to me today, how’s things with you, sir?
Chris Robertson: “Yeah, dude, just chillin’. Today is interview day, we fly tomorrow to Nebraska to go to a show, but just hanging out man, when I finish up with you, me and my son are gonna head up to a music store. The weather’s not bad today, it’s kind of overcast and not too hot, so it’s not bad.”
That’s good to hear. I mean, thankfully, being in England, where I’m just looking out the window now, we’ve got sun, which is a rarity for us.
“I saw that in the back. It’s a rare occasion over there.”
It can be yeah, but we have had some pretty damn good weather. Anyway, I want to start off, you dropped your first track from the new album, I think in January, along with a music video, which was “Out of Pocket”. Now what made you choose this particular track to start off with and launch the new material with?
“It just felt like the right track. It said a lot of how we all felt at the time and how I think a lot of how the world was feeling in the midst of coming back from a pandemic. It just felt like the right one to lead with it felt like putting your foot down saying yeah, we’re back with new music. you know?”
Okay, cool. Now watching the video, it was like there was a clear story behind this. What drew you to this particular narrative and is there a particular aim of the story that it’s telling at all?
“The biggest thing is just overcoming that urge of the bad things inside of you to be better, you know. That’s why the end of the video the guy returns all the stuff. The whole thing is we’ve all been in desperate situations, especially over the last few years and been in situations where you had to make choices that weren’t the easiest and at the end of the day it’s about leading with your heart, and knowing what’s right and wrong and that’s kind of what the video was for me. Mike Rodway could probably go more in depth with you, he was the director that wrote the treatment and everything. But for me, that was my take from it, you know. It’s finding that balance of, even though you’re desperate, knowing the limits of desperation.”
Now, you followed up “Out of Pocket,” I believe in May, with the next video and single, which was “Nervous.” This came alongside the official announcement of the upcoming album. Now, was there any significance of the early May announcement day? Or is it just that felt like the right time to launch?
“It’s just the way records gets set up. You pick a timeframe, a quarter of the year you want to release in and then you find the month, than the week, the day, and then you kind of work backwards from there to a setup time essentially. The reason May was the announced is because he gave us X amount of months to kind of prep for the record and get people’s attention with it.”
Okay, cool. Now, this video also had a bit of a narrative behind it. Would you be able to give me an insight into this narrative at all?
“Yeah, dude. So we worked with Kyle Loftus, who we actually just worked with yesterday on a new music video, but Kyle is great, he does a great job of taking a song and internalising it and bringing that to a vision that makes sense. I think that whole video is you see a person struggling within their self for the things that are there the things that are not there and that internal struggle back and forth.
Admittedly I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression and mental health issues my entire life pretty much and I thought it was a really kind of action packed energetic way of getting that across you know? Of that mental challenge within yourself sometimes you know?”
“The whole thing is we’ve all been in desperate situations, especially over the last few years and been in situations where you had to make choices that weren’t the easiest and at the end of the day it’s about leading with your heart, and knowing what’s right and wrong…”
Now your next one was, I believe the title track from the upcoming record Screamin’ at the Sky. That was the next single, and video I believe will be coming next?
“So the video for that one is just the audio, kind of lyric video. But that one man, with today’s kind of thing, it’s just common practice to put out a few songs leading up to the record release, and Screamin’ at the Sky is the first track on the record and it kind of really sets the tone for the thing, so we wanted that one to be one of those tracks for sure. We actually debuted it at the Steelhouse Festival and Maid of Stone, it was really, really cool man. It’s a really fun song to play live as well.”
Amazing. Now, the next big drop will be, I believe, a fan-made video, is this correct?
“Yeah, man. So we actually got a revision of it today to check out and it’s super, super cool. It’s this idea that we had internally, and we asked people to send in videos of themselves, so we could kind of put this this idea and bring it to life. That comes pretty soon I think, but we’re super excited for that for people to get to get a chance to see themselves as part of the video.”
Now, was there a particular aim behind seeking input from the fans for this? Or was it just something really to give back to them?
“I think more than anything, it was just a cool way to have the people that have supported us from day one be a part of our music video, you know, and the people that support us in today’s climate as well. I mean we’ve been a band a long time and in the last video where people were a big focus of it was probably the “Things My Father Said” video, we’ve had other ones, obviously, but you know, I think this one, the new one, it’s just more of a fun kind of way, though, you know what I mean? It’s more of an uplifting kind of thing.”
Now, the next big day to look forward to after that is, I think, the 29 September, when the new record actually drops. Now, for us Brits, that’s actually quite an exciting one, because I believe you’re actually touring the UK during this period, and for me, honestly, I’m doubly excited, because you’re playing London that night, which is hopefully where I’ll be now. Yeah, honestly, I can’t wait. I haven’t seen you guys play in a long time. Now, what made you choose to play over in the UK, rather than in the USA during the actual album drop?
“It was just an idea that I brought up. I said, I wish we could go back and do a small tour and just do some of the venues we played on our first headlining tour over there, because the last tour we did, we did Wembley and arenas and stuff. We’ve done those a few times and I love those, but I just wanted to go try to do some of those old rooms again and obviously, the Astoria is long gone now, so we moved the venue in London but some of the other venues were actually venues from our first tour and it just so happened that we were able to get availabilities when the record came out.
So we’re able to go do in store signings and stuff like that for records and then we’re doing the shows, and it’s just, I don’t know, man, like, it’s, that’s kind of our place man. The UK has kind of been the place where Black Stone Cherry makes the most stance of anywhere in the world. I guess.”
That’s really cool to hear. Now, I believe another video drops on the same day. Is there any significance behind this video at all?
“I honestly don’t even remember which one it is at the moment. So I couldn’t tell you, but I know we’ve got a lot of really cool stuff in the pipeline, man and we’re super excited about this record and to get it out to the world. Yeah.”
Now you did mention you’re playing some of the smaller venues on this upcoming tour. What is it particularly that draws you towards the smaller venues over the I would say the more stadium sized venues?
“I think it’s the fact that I can point at the person in the very back of the room and they know I’m pointing at them. If you’re at the back of Wembley and I point to a specific person, they may think the person beside them is the person I’m pointing at, but when we’re in a venue, even up to like the size of, let’s say, the Manchester, which is, the Apollo there, the big theatre there, even that theatre I can point at individual people in that room.
It’s when it gets past that there’s sometimes I just wish, I don’t know, I love playing to a lot of people, there’s no greater feeling than having, you know, Wembley, full of people singing your songs back to you, but there’s just something about the connection of being able to point at somebody and them point back at you, you know, in the back of the room, I don’t know. It’s sweaty and I like that.”
That’s the best way I put it. I mean, there’s plenty of venues, like you mentioned the Astoria may that one rest in peace. It’s a train station now.
“That’s a fucking shame man.”
It really is, honestly, it’s absolutely gutting, but hey ho, we’ve still got some great venues in London’s still so it’d be great to have you play those smaller ones. Now, I wanted to ask as well, Black Stone Cherry, you’ve been, up until recently, you’ve maintained a consistent lineup in your band for over 20 years now, what’s been the secret to maintaining that? So many bands have sometimes a revolving door of members, what was your secret?
“I think just the least amount of bullshit possible. Honesty, that’s what keeps things moving forward. It’s when the honesty goes away that things get odd, you know. Look, the pandemic changed a lot of things and it changed the way people viewed what they did and all I know is we’re still here, man and from the reviews, we’re moving better than ever, and the shows are better than ever and I’m thoroughly happy man, you know.”
Amazing. Now obviously, Steve Jewell, he took up a huge responsibility in 2021, obviously, coming into a very well-established group. How’s he actually settled in? Has he brought any creative input into the fold? You know, especially on this new record?
“Oh, absolutely. Steve is a world class musician. He was in there every song doing his thing with us man, you know, grounded just like the other three of us were. The thing about Steve is my favorite reviews of him is when we did the first tour, which is when we did the Albert Hall DVD and live album. That was Steve’s first ever official tour, and the reviews from that were, we weren’t sure what to expect, but it’s almost like Steve was always there. That’s the only way to describe it and make it make sense.
Even as a person that’s been a part of this since the beginning of it, you know, since 2001, you know, when you’re able to play the songs and it feels like the person has always been there planning with you and when you’re on the bus, it feels like they’ve always been there with you. It’s just a very, very unique and it’s a one in a million luck situation that had happened the way it did. Steve was available to come hang out with us for a while and that life went the way it did for him and life went the way it did for us, and now, Black Stone Cherry is the four of us.”
“Steve is a world class musician. He was in there every song doing his thing with us man, you know, grounded just like the other three of us were. The thing about Steve is my favorite reviews of him is when we did the first tour, which is when we did the Albert Hall DVD and live album.”
Amazing, so it’s great to hear that he’s gelled that well with the band.
“Yeah, I mean, Steve’s the dude, you know.”
Now, off of Screamin’ at the Sky, have you got any personal favourites on the record something that you consider your piers de resistance. Something that really stands out that you’re particularly proud of?
“It’s hard because they’re all like your kids, and I know you’ve probably heard that before in interviews, but I mean, there is a song that stands out to me, just because the sentiment behind it. The song is called “Raindrops on a Rose”. It’s an acronym, “R.O.a.R” on the track listing, but it It’s a song about my dad and it was written before he passed. It’s about dealing with how it feels when you know your loved one has a time clock above their head, when you’ve been told that by the professionals and it’s just a song about dealing with loss before it happens, you know, and living through that.”
That’s cool. That’s really sweet actually to hear that as well. So, and I’m sorry for your loss as well. Now it has been a very busy year for you guys. What do you actually do when you actually get time to relax? What’s your downtime like? What do you like to do when you’ve actually got that opportunity to kick back and switch off?
“I like sitting on my porch man. Honestly, my God, I like being at home. I’m a homebody. I do like going out with my wife, you know, my wife and my son. Me and my wife went to a comedy show a little while back and then we all went to go see our Cincinnati Reds play some baseball. But man, I mean, for me like I just I like being at home. You know, I mean, I spent so much of my late teens, up until the pandemic really being away from home more than at home and ever since the world got shut down, and I got to see what life at home was really like, I really enjoy it man.
So, when I’m off, I like being at home. I mean, I collect Pokémon cards, kind of a nerd, you know, I collect Pokémon and some baseball cards and I play my Xbox, you know, I play MLB The Show online pretty much. Pretty much it and then my little boy like Transformers movies, you know? Rise of the Beasts is fantastic by the way.”
I’ll give that a shot then. I mean I’m a sort of a classic Generation One fan. So, the new movies and all of that sort of not been a big fan of.
“We watched the 2007 one with Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox or whatever and we didn’t care for it as much, but Rise of the Beasts was like, pretty epic.”
Well, I’ll take your recommendation, I’ll actually check that one out. But as you say, I think you know, because I’m a busy person as well, so when people say what are you gonna do? I was like, I did nothing. I did nothing and it was everything I dreamed it to be. Now, I haven’t really got any more questions, but when I do have one, I like to end interviews on a bit of a joke. So, I’ve got a joke for you. I just want to run this past you, see what you think. What do you call a bulletproof Irishmen?
“Bulletproof Irishman? I don’t know.”
You call him Rick O’Shay!
I really do try and bring a smile to something when I can. Chris, thank you so much for chatting to us today. It’s been an absolute pleasure. I hope you enjoy the rest of your day, and you haven’t got too many interviews left. Thank you very much.
“This is the last one man, good job.”
Black Stone Cherry’s new album, Screamin’ At The Sky is out now and you can pick it up along with all the latest news from the band from their Official Website.