The Black Crowes' Chris Robinson Looks Back And Forward With Audacy


The Black Crowes' Chris Robinson Looks Back And Forward With Audacy

The Black Crowes' Chris Robinson was a guest on Audacy Check In with Jason Bailey last week to talk about the band's forthcoming album, "Happiness Bastards", which will arrive on March 15th.

Audacy sent over the following excerpts from the chat: What he tells young artists he works with: "I'm lucky to work with a lot of young [artists] - but that's what I was telling 'em. Like, you never know. Like a few years ago, I never would've thought that Rich and I would've been, you know, back in this band and, you know, making this music and being on a, you know, just having the world of the Black Crowes look and sound and feel the way it does today, you know?"

The punk scene in Georgia in the 80s: "We were just those kids that, you know, we really weren't interested in mainstream things... There was a famous club in Atlanta called the 688 Club - I was always a year behind, like when the drinking age went to 19, I turned 18. And then, you know, subsequent, so the all-ages sort of hardcore scene, of course, it fit our disillusioned - we were just laughing [that] I'm a third generation in Atlanta, and at a certain point, we had moved to Charlotte, and when we moved back to Atlanta, [my parents had] decided to move to the suburbs instead of in the city. But it was a Petri dish of disenfranchised youth and this DIY aesthetic, and looking for something different, something more visceral, something cerebral, something that would, again, take us away from what all the other kids were doing. I think no matter what The Black Crowes have ever done, there's still a strong sense of that and our attitude and our work."

College rock revolution, going from local sound influences to a sound no one can replicate: "[The Black Crowes] looks like one thing on paper, but then when you get into it, it's something completely different... The reality is we just really embraced the roots... We grew up in a household with a lot of records...we weren't afraid of those things. And we found a way to have those influences side by side with all the other stuff.... It's funny because once we leaned into it, we found that it really worked. And, there's the other part of it that a good song is a good song. A great song is a great song... When I found my voice as a singer, it just added to what we could do with that kind of music. I think having so much Funk, R&B, Blues - that's a big part of being in Atlanta, being adjacent to all this African culture. And it just seeped into what we were interested in..... By 1991, I always remember stepping out of this trailer at this gig we did...at a baseball stadium in Rochester, New York. I had just gotten back from England, and I had my first velvet bellbottoms and these purple Chelsea boots, and people were pointing at me and laughing at us a little bit. And I was like, 'Y'all laugh all you want,' you know what I mean? Warrant came out, 'Y'all look like The Osmond Brothers. Y'all look corny, man.' Y'all can make fun of me if you want - a year later, everyone in Vogue Magazine is wearing velvet bellbottom."

Jokes about still having some Southern traits: "I'm probably the only person with self-rising cornmeal and buttermilk in his refrigerator in Laurel Canyon."

If there were talks of having the new album out before 15 years, touring in 2013 when things were "pretty frayed," their solo careers and needing individual perspective: "Meeting the love of my life after all these years and having a partner in this that could really let me see things for what they are. To be able to heal my relationship with Rich, and he would say the same thing, I think. To have the team of people we have around us. And then I personally, I think the most important thing was not doing any new music. Let's get this band back together. Let's get these people in on this, and let's hit the road.... There was no pressure really on us. There was a big pressure in 1992 after you sold six million records, and you're 24 years old, 25 years old, to keep that going... Rich and I, with all of our very public art fighting and nasty bitterness and stuff, whenever we write, and that's always been our kind of safe haven in a way. And I mean, we would fight in the studio, and we'd fight on tour, but we never really fought in the room together with guitars and notebooks - so that part was really easy. I just think that's been the whole sort of thing that was lacking in The Black Crowes for many years. It's fun to be in this band. It's fun to be in the music business, and it's rewarding to write songs with my brother. And it's very natural."

How it is reuniting with Rich in the studio and on tour: "We made this record in three weeks, and I mean, not even three weeks, I mean, two and a half weeks of work - it all just kind of falls into place. We're very instinctive that way. And very visceral in the way - Rich and I are completely different human beings, but we both like to work fast and keep the energy going in the studio. I don't want to think too much. I want to feel."

When they decided to do their solo projects: "[The Black Crowes] went off into all these other things - I think that my solo career would've been an offshoot of where my interests and ideas were going within The Black Crowes. But the difference is, now Rich and I are very much on the same [page] - we want a very uptempo rock and roll record, big guitar riffs, the vocal style that I would be known for... the idea has to be in place, and then you breathe life into that idea, and then, wow, there you are. So we were very focused on this material. And again, having a producer for the first time, we were really like, okay, if we're gonna have a producer like this, let's [not] get in our own way at all...I don't think we ever were in a situation where things were so harmonious in that way [before]."

If the new album is a reflection of the past or the start of something new: "Of course, it has something to do with the past because it's a body of work - we're songwriters, we're working artists, we're musicians, and we've been doing this, like you said, through the 80s, 90s - the world changes quite a bit in 40 years, whether you like it or not. I think we're focused on this, and this is what we're excited about...When Rich and I are together, or when Rich and I can work things out, and when we have a great team around us, and people care about us...we're just more checked in with how we're feeling and respect for one another and our experiences - we have a dual aspect to it because we're family, but we also have this band that we dreamed up one day back in the 80s. The responsibility lies for Rich and [me] to be brothers and be there for each other. And we know when that is working, then the band is better. Everything is better in our lives. And you're not alone... There's something about your partnership, the dynamic of that, and when it's good and when it's something as special, you should tend to that.."

If he still had Rich's number in his phone during the years they weren't speaking to each other: "We didn't use the numbers, but he had my number. We lost our dad 11 years ago, but our mom is still in Nashville. We still have to take care of some familiar things, but no, we didn't use that number. We didn't speak, and that was a shame."

The first gig they ever did at the Nucleus Club in Chattanooga on the same day as Live Aid: "We made $50. The guy paid us in a check, which I knew [from] day one [that] we shouldn't take a check. The check bounced, and it was wondrous. I have such vivid memories of just the crackle of the PA with the first soundcheck we did - something about that electricity in that stupid little black room wherever we were in Chattanooga. There were eight people there, and five of them drove up with us."

The first time he heard The Black Crowes on the radio

The sound of their new album: "We want to squeeze every little bit of Rock N' Roll juice out of that thing before it's all over...I think that's where we are today. I think that sort of paves the road to whatever happens in the future for us."

If pure Rock N' Roll is too far gone: "There's a lot of guitar-driven rock and roll stuff, and these shows are packed. Our shows are packed. It's hard to say Rock N' Roll is dead when it's still such a big industry and it's still important in people's lives. Is it different? Is it take the same place? Is it a youth thing? Well, I'm not a youth anymore either - I think there's a lot of components within it, but [you know] not everything is streaming...I guess it would take some sort of phenomenon or something for people in the media to look at it different. But, you know, we live in a world where there's no music on TV anymore. We live in a country where the concert business is bigger than it's ever been, but you don't really see any live music on TV."

Parents introducing their favorite music to their children: "My 14-year-old proudly wears her New York Dolls t-shirt to school. I'm like, happy about that."

Stream an edited version of the interview below or check out the full thing here.

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