Black Stone Cherry entered in to the southern rock scene with their debut self-titled album back in 2007. Since then they have been rising to fame due to their intensely emotional songs and explosive live shows, touring with bands such as Whitesnake and Nickelback. We catch up with Ben Wells, the guitarist of Black Stone Cherry, to talk about their experiences and some influences when making their new album ‘Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea’.
“We’re humbled by the fact that one of our songs has helped somebody”
S] Your new album, ‘Between The Devil & the Deep Blue Sea’ is the first album which you haven’t recorded in the South, instead choosing to record it in Los Angeles with famed producer Howard Benson. What were your reasons behind this change, and how do you feel working in this new surrounding has influenced the album and the band as a whole?
B] “We just wanted to go somewhere else and try something new. We did the other two albums close to home, we just thought it was time to switch things up a little bit and try a different atmosphere and it worked out very well. Just the four of us went up to California and recorded the album. We had a lot of fun and Howard was a great producer and, he really helped us make an excellent album.”
S] Many of your songs have an element of storytelling within them, where do you get the ideas for these stories? Are they based on real-life elements or are they created by the band?
B] “Most of ‘em are real life elements, personal experiences and what-not, that we try and write about. Sometimes we just take things that maybe the general population of the world are dealing with and, we try and write about them so everyone can relate and take something away from the song other than just liking the music. Sometimes we can stretch things a little bit and make ‘em up from nowhere, and that’s fun too. But, I think mainly we just want to connect with people and relay a positive message no matter what style of a song it is.”
S] Many of your fans relate very strongly to your songs, as they portray different emotional states in such an intense way. How does it feel to know that you are affecting so many people across the world so deeply with your music?
B] “It feels like a reward, we’ve been fortunate enough to learn a couple of things and be in some cool magazines; meet some cool people, but the ultimate thing that we’re humbled by is the fact that one of our songs has helped somebody and, you know, that’s one of the main reasons for writing music and taking your time to make sure the lyrics are good so people listen to what you have to say. I think when somebody comes up to us and says that ‘this song helped me do this’ or ‘got me through this’ or ‘inspired me to do this’; that inspires us to keep writing more great songs.”
S] The southern rock scene is huge, with many big names being classified within the genre, including Black Stone Cherry. What inspired you to write this kind of music and did you set out to write it? If so, who were your major influences when you were starting out?
B] “We didn’t set out to sound a certain way, I mean obviously we were influenced by lots of southern bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Almond Brothers. There are so many great groups out there, alongside different country bands and artists as well. We didn’t really sit down and say we wanted to sound like anybody, we just took all of our influences and came up with our own sound. Being from a small area there wasn’t really a music scene for us to be a part of so we just took what we liked and developed our own style.”
S] Were there any new influences in-particular that have helped shape your ideas and inspired you to create your new album?
B] “We just wanted to write excellent songs and that was the main goal, to write fun material that wasn’t too serious but something everyone could listen to at a party or while they are in a certain mood. We’re always inspired by our fans and the surroundings we ourselves are in. I think mainly we just wanted to focus on what songs were going to sound good live and what songs were really going to speak to people.”
S] Black Stone Cherry currently have several gigs lined up in the UK, including Download Festival, and your fans here in the UK are crying out for more, are you planning on doing a full-scale UK tour in the near future?
B] “We will be back later in the year on a tour, we can’t announce when it is yet but it’s going to be a good way to come back to the UK after almost two years and we’re excited about it. I think they’re going to announce the tour at Download Festival.”
S] What has been your most memorable stage performance to-date?
B] “Probably the Download Festival I would say, mainly because there’s so many people there. We played there twice, I mean the second time there were people with flags in the audience that had our logo on and our names, people singing the songs so loud, you know, that’s just very humbling and inspiring. I think, we always think about that festival, and we try and video tape as much as we can and always have that with us, we never want to lose those moments. That’s why we’re looking forward to doing it again so much.”
S] You’ve previously toured with Def Leppard and Whitesnake in 2008, what was it like to be on tour with such highly successful bands, and did they offer you any insightful advice?
B] “It was great, both bands were extremely nice. We learned a lot just about how to be cool, you know, both those bands have been so successful and they were some of the nicest guys we’ve ever toured with, I think that says a lot about them. They were so polite to us and they’d go out of their way to make sure we were taken care of. That’s something that we always try and do no matter who we play with, it’s just being polite and courteous. We really learned a lot.”
S] Was it hard to be on tour with the bands considering your reputation as a strictly non-alcohol kind of band?
B] “No, not at all! They were pretty chilled as well, you know, I think all three bands were just there mainly for the music. And that was the cool thing about it, you know, they are older guys and they’re still doing it and it’s inspiring to us to see that still love the music that they play.”
S] What is your favourite song to play live? Do you feel any of your songs in particular receive a great reception when played?
B] “That’s a hard question because there’s a lot of songs that on different nights, you leave and you go ‘wow that was pretty incredible’. Honestly, the new singles are always fun to play live, people are excited to hear new stuff and it’s a fresh song and everyone’s singing along to it. So right now its probably the new songs. We try and make a set-list where each song is fun, and there is never a dip in energy at all.”
S] You’ve toured with many hugely popular bands, but if you had the choice to construct your dream tour, who would you want to join you on it and what venues would you most like to play?
B] “We’d be doing stadiums with Aerosmith and for me personally it’d be, I’d throw Elvis in there, the original Lynyrd Skynyrd line-up and obviously Black Stone Cherry.”
S] Finally, do you have anything you’d like to say to your fans?
B] “We can’t say enough about how much we appreciate their support over here, you know, with the interest in the new album and what we have to say and do with the band. And that alone is pretty incredible and, you know, when we’re writing music we always think about what our fans across the ocean will think because their opinion means a lot to us. We’re very thankful to have ‘em.”
For more information visit the official Black Stone Cherry website.