FEATURE – BLACKBERRY SMOKE “Right now, I don’t think any of us have the desire to make any significant change in what we do.” CHARLIE STARR

Posted on by Oran

From strength to strength! A phrase that has never been more prominent for Blackberry Smoke. The Atlanta, five-piece are currently on their European run of dates and lead vocalist Charlie Starr, checked in with Overdrive ahead of their biggest Irish headline show on November 7th. Get it all below;

It’s early in the morning and we are greeted by an always pleasant and laid-back Charlie Starr all the way from Stockholm, Sweden.

The band are currently on their European run of dates in support of their latest studio offering, ‘Find A Light‘ their sixth studio album to date which sees the band reaching a bigger audience, playing bigger venues and taking it all in their stride!

ODFind A Light, the highly anticipated follow-up to 2016’s “Like an Arrow” has been with us now for a good 7 months since it’s release last April. The one thing that’s becoming obvious is the frequency of the albums as this was your most ‘urgent’ follow-up to any of your previous studio albums. Would it be correct to say that you have struck a ‘rich vein’ with writing, recording and are just going with the creativity flow?

CHARLIE – Yes, it has been a non-stop ride with three albums coming pretty much one after the other with very little downtime between. It wasn’t planned that way, it was just that we found ourselves with a sack full of new music and some time to record. (laughing)


ODBlackberry Smoke have had an impressive year so far with shows alongside Lynard Skynrd, Zac Brown’s Castaway shows in Mexico which I can only imagine are kind of ‘bucket list’ adventures. It seems like this year is your’s for the taking as you’ve yet to get over here to kick off your European leg of the tour?

CHARLIE – It’s been a whirlwind and a total blast for us. We just love playing new songs for people and it’s just a great feeling. The release of each of the albums and the list of shows that have been between each release has been a rollercoaster journey for us and one that we’ll never forget. This is why we do this! To record music and then travel the world and play it live for people. It’s a dream come true.

OD – Let’s talk about ‘The Southern Ground Sessions’ which is due for release next week [October 26th]. I understand that the Tom Petty classic You Got Lucky, features Amanda Shires and I wanted to ask if the recording was an impulsive decision as she was there with The Wood Brothers?

CHARLIE – Well, Amanda came in to do ‘Let Me Down Easy‘ and I had asked her to bring her fiddle this time, and then when she was here I asked her if she wanted to do a Tom Petty track, ‘You Got Lucky‘ and I didn’t know until last week, that she had done that song before with her husband on dobro, so it all worked out really well.

OD – With regards to some personal projects/ collaborations etc, do you have anything that would like to see happen in the coming years such as a full album with Keith Nelson (ex-Buckcherry) or something else perhaps?

CHARLIE – To be honest, not really. Nothing that I can think of off the top of my head right now. Those things just kind of happen in a real spontaneous way. I guess one thing that I’d really love to do is a tour with The Rolling Stones, but I don’t think that’ll ever happen. (laughing)

I don’t really have a short list for things like that but we’re all really lucky that so many magical things have happened over the years like recording with George Jones and Bob Weir (Grateful Dead) and jamming with Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) and Government Mule, so I guess we just take things as they come and try not to think about things too much.

ODBlackberry Smoke is a band that lets the natural evolution of the music grow and expand in style, while many bands stick with the same formula time after time. With reference to this, do you see any exploration into any sub-genres or particular influences going forward and if so, what would they be?

CHARLIE – Maybe so. I mean you just never really know what’s gonna happen when you start the recording process. It really comes down to the fact that we do what makes us feel comfortable and happy. Right now, I don’t think any of us have the desire to make any significant change in what we do, because we’ve never tried to stay current.

There have been times when we’ve been in the studio and we’ve been recording, like, ‘Believe You Me‘ from “Like an Arrow” and it was different. It was a kind of different sound for us, to some extent. That’s always exciting when things like this happen and we’re beyond lucky that our fans come along for the ride with us.

For example, when that song came out there were some people that didn’t like that song that’s to social media. With ‘Believe You Me‘, someone was online saying: “That sounds like Stevie Wonder!” and I’m thinking; “Well, thank you! That’s a fucking compliment!” (laughing)

But for the most part, we have fans that only want to hear the heavy stuff and others that only want to hear the country stuff and they just come together and meet in the middle.

OD – As a band that performs approximately 250 shows a year, can I ask how you have managed to orchestrate this schedule as all I hear from most bands is: ‘We just wanna play live!”, and seem to be somewhat restricted in doing so for one reason or another?

CHARLIE – Well, we have done that in the past. We have reigned it back in somewhat, as it was something that was just dame near impossible to keep up (laughing). This year will see Blackberry Smoke do approximately 200 live shows. We’ve tried to be smart about touring because it’s very easy to burn yourself out in this situation.

OD – The latest tour is underway at the moment and the dates are stacked up until February for now, are you exploring new ideas while’s on the road and if so, are there any complete ideas or is it just way too early at this stage to say?

CHARLIE – We have some new ideas floating around at the moment. I’ve got a few completed songs but to be honest it’s really hard to write on the road as it’s kind of demanding on the body and can be exhausting at times.

Once we get home, the real writing process begins. It’s just the way we work as a band as I know everyone has their own way of doing stuff. If we have some ideas on the road, we will leave them until we get back home and then we start to fine-tune things and really carve out the structure of the track.

OD – A lot of bands are itching to get out and tour like you guys are, but seem to find it difficult to clock in as many shows, for one reason or another. The number of shows that you do annually as you said this year is approximately 200. When you complete a new album and it’s time to start booking tours/shows, is it a conscious decision to do as many as you can?

CHARLIE – It’s a decision that we can make and it really has to do with supply and demand. We don’t want to tour so much that people don’t want to come and see us live anymore. I’ve seen other bands do that in the past. They just totally saturate a particular market and eventually, people will stop coming to the shows. There’s only so much money that people can spend on stuff like this.

At the same time, there are plenty of people that still want to see us play live and many that have yet to see us play live. There’s a fine line there between not enough and too much. We just try to find the middle ground.

OD – Are there any bands that are spiking an interest for you right now?

CHARLIE – Yeah, well there are always bands that are coming up on the scene. I really like Greta Van Fleet (picured below) and I know they are super hot right now but people always ask our opinion on them and personally, I think they are fantastic. They are so young, I understand that they are not even in their twenty’s yet!

Those kids are playing the music that my generation grew up with and they are playing it really well. I’m sure they have tonnes and tonnes of cute young girls that are hanging around (laughing). They are working the whole system, they’re getting the young guys, the young girls, the older crowd, the whole thing man! (laughing)

OD – The scheduled show on November 7th in Ireland see’s you move up into a bigger venue again, do you see this happening in a grand scale with each time you venture back to places to perform?

CHARLIE – Absolutely! We notice that almost where ever we go and it’s very heart-warming, to say the least!

OD – Finally, I would like to ask what would be the most important album for you personally?

CHARLIE – I love The Rolling Stones and ‘Exile on Main Street‘ (1972) is a very special LP for me, but the one that did the most damage to me when I was a young man was Guns n’ Roses, “Appetite for Destruction” (1987). That album is simply outstanding and still is to this day.

I mean, they are selling a version of that album for $1000, who else does that? Not even The Stones, man. What an album!

Blackberry Smoke will be performing in Dublin’s National Stadium on November 7th and Overdrive has five pairs to give away with copies of the album on CD and Vinyl. For your chance to win, simply click on the graphic below and do the following;


Click here to enter. Make sure to LIKE & FOLLOW Overdrive’s official Facebook page.

Oran O’Beirne

www.overdrive.ie 2018