April 12, 2012 11:23:17 AM
With a tour a schedule that keeps them on the road for most of the year, Blackberry Smoke barely have time to write and record a new record. But when they were signed to Zac Brown's Southern Ground Record in 2011, the band knew they would have to make time for the record.
"Our new record is called 'The Whippoorwill,' singer-guitarist Charlie Starr said in a recent phone interview. "I wrote a song about my grandmother called 'The Whippoorwill' and we thought it would be a good name for the album. We recorded it in Asheville, NC at Echo Mountain. It is produced by us, Clay Cook, Matt Mangano and Zac Brown. We tracked 14 songs in four-and-a-half days and then we went out to record the show at the Georgia Theater for the DVD. When you have to get it done, you have to get it done."
Although recording is part of the process, Starr said the band loves performing the songs live. And as long as there is variety in what is played and when its played, life on the road go on forever.
"Our tour really never stops," Starr said. "We go home for a few days and then we go right back out -- we have to pay the bills. Basically, we've been touring since we formed in 2002. We would record a few new songs and that would become our album. We spent a little more time on this new record. We don't play the same set every night and that helps to keep it fresh. We've opened for a lot of bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top -- we've been an opening band for quite a while. We love all of our songs so it's hard to pick and choose what we are going to play every night. There are some songs that just go together."
The band's live performance was captured on a DVD entitled "Live at The Georgia Theater" Recorded August 5, 2011, the DVD captures the band in front of a sold-out crowd and features appearances by Brown and Cook. It also features one of the icons of Southern rock -- Jimmie Hall of Wet Willie.
"We met (Jimmie Hall) a few years ago at a cancer benefit," said Starr. "Steve Cropper was there, too -- it was amazing. (Jimmy) was very gracious to appear on our DVD. We love Wet Willie. Someone gave me a DVD of "Don Kirschner's Rock Concert Saturday in Macon" and it blew me away. I would have hated to have been The Allman Brothers Band or The Marshall Tucker Band that night -- no one could follow Jimmy Hall and Wet Willie. I still tell everyone they have to watch that concert."
Starr said the band has opened for numerous acts over the years including Montgomery Gentry, The Outlaws, Marshall Tucker Band and Cross Canadian Ragweed.
"We've opened for a lot of bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top -- we've been an opening band for quite a while," he said. "We met (Lynyrd Skynrd bassist) Ean Evans when we were touring with Skynrd. Ean was a good friend of ours. We came to Columbus to play the benefit show before he died -- it was amazing to get to see him on stage one more time. He was a great dude. We are still friends with his wife, Eva, and his kids.
With musical styles ranging from rock to country to bluegrass, Blackberry Smoke have labeled many in many different genres. But Starr said as long as people are listening to their music, he doesn't care how they are perceived.
"I think people nowadays are more open minded than ever before when it comes to country and rock music," Starr said. "I'm not that open minded when it comes to country-pop. I love real country music -- Jamey Johnson, Dwight Yokam. We look at it like this: whatever people want to call us or whatever box people want to put us in, that's up to them. The Southern rock bands we love -- The Allman Brothers, The Marshall Tucker Band -- they mixed so many styles. I love the jazz influences of the Allman Brothers.
Our favorite rock bands -- The Stones, Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead -- could play a country song at the drop of a hat. They looked at country and bluegrass as the white man's blues.
Blackberry Smoke will be performing with Brantley Gilbert and Eric Church tonight as part of Church's "Blood Sweat and Beers Tour" at the BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo.
How to Go:
The Blood, Sweat and Beers Tour starring Eric Church,
with Brantley Gilbert and Blackberry Smoke
Tonight: 7:30 p.m.
BancorpSouth Arena, Tupelo
bcsarena.com or (662) 841-6528
Jeff Clark is a reporter for The Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @thejeffclark or on Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/thejeffclark/
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