If you like your music with plenty of swagger and dripping with Southern American twang, then the five piece rock outfit that is Blackberry Smoke will please you on all levels! The Dublin Academy will be the setting for the bands very first Irish show and it’s shaping up to be one hell of a party! Charlie Starr has all the news below.
OD – How did you all meet?
Charlie – We met in Atlanta, Georgia in a couple of late night bars after playing shows / rehearsals. We used to hang out and pick up chicks and kick back and act like crazy people. We were all in different bands back then and just sort of wound up together. Myself, Brit and Richard, we actually played in a band with another singer previous to Blackberry Smoke and this guy was a kind of singer / songwriter and we were his band. We recorded an album with him and then it all fell apart but the three of us liked playing together, we were the nuclease of that band. So, that guy was not real happy with us writing, as he just wanted to be the chief song writer. So, after we fired him from his own band, I took over as songwriter / vocalist, we hooked up with my old friend Paul Jackson and we became Blackberry Smoke pretty quickly.
OD – Where did the name Blackberry Smoke come from and did you have any other names in the bag that you were gonna use?
Charlie – We were sharing a rehearsal space with the Black Crows at this time in Atlanta and we had been kicking around some names. Naming a band can be so difficult, as we needed to get something that everybody liked and a name that wasn’t already taken or not stupid. Cris Robinson (Black Crows vocalist) get’s in the mix and started spitting out some names over lots of beers and various substances and after some really funny names he eventually said ” I got it, how about The Blackberry Smoke” we quite laughing then and thought that it was actually a really good name and from there we just took out the t-h-e and became Blackberry Smoke.
OD – The most recent studio album “The Whippoorwill” was recorded back in 2012 with Zack Brown’s “Southern Ground” label and was picked up by Earache in 2013, can you talk a little about how this came about?
Charlie – I think is was something that happened really quick. We were playing a gig in Irving Plaza in New York and a guy that works for Earache came along and really loved the show. He asked us if we had any distribution in Europe and we said no. At this point we had been over to Europe three times, doing a sort of “meat and potatoes’ in a van Punk Rock style tour. We had just been shipping the product ourselves to the European fans and when he heard, that he told us that he really wanted Earache to work with us, as they were digging what we had been doing up to that point. They have a genuine love for the music and at first I was thinking, “wow this is a real Metal label” and felt that we might be kind of like the odd ones out, but then I saw that they had already signed Rival Sons, I was happy, as they are a great Rock n’ Roll band.
OD – Where did the name “The Whippoorwill” album come from, as I heard that your Grandmother taught you the sound of the bird as well as many others and this is where you got the name from, is this true?
Charlie – Yea, well that’s just a small detail of that song, she was such a great and wonderful person. She used to teach me about a whole bunch of things when I was going up and the different bird sounds was one of them. That song sort of became the center piece to the whole album when we were making it. It came out so beautifully and is just so intrinsically Southern to me. It kind of made sense and when we started to put together the artwork and things like that, the feeling was just like, “this album is putting itself together”.
OD – Leave a scar – Live in North Carolina, was released earlier this year and you guys have been touring for what seems like forever how do you find the time to write new songs?
Charlie – Inspiration is everywhere! Actually, touring is perfect for a songwriter. Even the most mundane days can be a perfect environment filled with inspiration. I used to find it hard to find the personal time to write, but in the last few years I have had to change that, as I realised that I was not going to have that amount of time at home to write. I find that it really works for me, as I can now write on the road and at home. I need inspiration to write and I find that people that just write songs for the sake of writing songs do it without any inspiration and that’s probably where shitty songs come from! (laughs)
OD – Since it’s been two years since the release of the album, I have read that you already have the next album recorded with Brendan O’Brien and is in the mixing stages is this true and if so can you talk a little about that?
Charlie – The new album is now complete and ready to go! It’s in the packaging stage right now. We finished the music pretty quickly. We finished recording “The Whippoorwill” in about five days and in this case, it was kind of the same thing. It actually is taking longer to mix than it is to record. Right now, it’s just been mastered and we are ready to send it out. At this point the designers are playing catch up and it’s like “of shit, we better get a move on” (laughs). This was our first time working with a legendary producer such as Brendan O’Brien, so we went into the studio totally prepared. In the past we had recorded in a pretty relaxed atmosphere and had a bit laid back approach to things. It was kind of like a bunch of kids at the helm.
This time around, we went in with a really clear vision and I got to tell you, we were waiting for Brendan to tear us a new one, as we had heard rumors about his methods. I can say that he didn’t tear us a new one and in fact he really is very passionate about music and making records. All said and done, it really turned out exactly the way that I personally thought it would which is sonically huge. The songs that I figured he would like the best, he did.
OD – Do you have a name for the new album that’s on the way?
Charlie – The title for the new album is going to be “Holding all the Roses”. This is a single off the record and just stuck as a good title. The more I focused on the sheer Hard Rocking on the record, the more that the title seemed to work. However the jury is still out on this title and I can say that we are about 95% at the prospect of this as a working title.
OD – When can we see the new album out?
Charlie – All parties involved with the new album are looking at early February!
OD – You have toured with some of the most iconic and legendary bands out there including ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd to name a few! Do you have any fond/funny memories that come to mind from those tours?
Charlie – Yea, Billy Gibbons went to dinner with us when we were out on the road with ZZ Top! At that point we rode around in a small old van and trailer and we were just so stoked doing our half hour opening the show. Billy and Dusty would pretty much hang around all day in catering and they were just very accessible. We used to hang out and talk about guitars, Blues music and travelling, all those cool things. So, one day we had a day off in Portland, Main and Billy asked us “what’s good to do here?” and he suggested that we all go to dinner together!
At this point I was like “do you mean us and ZZ Top, or just you guys or what?” and he then said “what hotel are you guys staying in?” and so I told him what place we were staying in and he goes “well I’m in the hotel across the street and I’ll meet you in your hotel lobby at 8pm” and at 8pm, sure as shit, there’s Billy Gibbons waiting for us in the hotel lobby on his own. At this point we all jumped in our van and went to this restaurant. We were looking at each other and were so self conscious about the state of our van and figured we should have all made an effort to clean up! (laughs) We had such a blast that night.
Billy is just totally down to earth and would be like “hey stop off at this garage, I want to get some gum or a candy bar” and people’s jaw’s drop when he walks in. He’s is such an icon and a really nice guy.
OD – Speaking of Lynyrd Skynyrd how did the opportunity for the RSD spit come about?
Charlie – That was all Brent’s idea. We were talking about doing something special for Record Store Day and Brent was remembering out loud with us and some of the guys from management, when back in the day there was the Punk Rock 7″splits and we all thought that was such a cool idea, as there is a real sense of camaraderie with the bands and you also get two bands on one record which is really cool. It was just a really cool thing to do and the idea to get Lynyard Skynyrd to be on board was so cool. The only down side to this release was that the designer’s who created the covered made a typo of the location of the Skynyrd show.
OD – This will be the debut show in Ireland (October 15th) have any of the band ever been to Ireland or have any family connections here?
Charlie – I think we have some kind of connection or Irish blood in the band but I’m pretty sure that none of us have ever visited. Now, I’m not sure if that’s right as I’m just speaking for myself. I’m very excited about coming over, as it seems very enchanting. I went through a very heavy Pogues phase and would like to visit some of the bars that Shane McGowan likes to drink in.
OD – Finally, what can we expect from the debut Blackberry Smoke Irish show and do you have a message for any of the Irish fans that are looking forward to the show?
Charlie – I just hope that everybody can come out and enjoy the show. Our set list changes every-night which makes it fresh and good fun to play. I have no idea what we will be playing on the Irish date but you can bet your ass that we will be having one hell of a party.
Words – Oran O’Beirne