Music

Black Stone Cherry: “When you inspire someone, that’s the dream”

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Featured image: Jimmy Fontaine


Black Stone Cherry return to our shores once more with a co-headline arena tour alongside The Darkness, giving many fans a reason to shake the January blues. The Kentucky quartet, who have been going since 2001 have plenty of admirers who have been won over by their: hard work ethic, grungy-metal aesthetics, blues-like soul and their Southern attitude.

Seven albums deep, they’re not arriving to this tour empty-handed with single ‘Out Of Pocket’ arriving recently and with the promise of new music to come. aAh!’s James Swindell sits down with guitarist Ben Wells to get the low down.


You’ll be hitting arenas on this tour with The Darkness and Danko Jones. What’s it like coming back to the UK again?

Anytime we get to come over is an absolute pleasure. I’m really excited for this tour as it’s the first of the year for us. It’s a great way to kick off a new year of touring with our best friends overseas and to do it on a big scale. We’ll have a new song out and it’s gonna feel good.


Tell us about your pre-existing relationship with The Darkness?

We’ve been fans of The Darkness since they came out. When they came out of the gate we saw them in Nashville, Tennessee. It’s kind of surreal that we’re doing a big tour together when you know, we’ve kind of followed them for a long time. We’ve played shows with them before in a place called Thetford Forest and Dan had a side project called Stone Guys that opened up for us on a UK tour one time. I love The Darkness; I appreciate what they do. I respect them as musicians and entertainers, and I think it’s a great ticket for anybody that wants to be well entertained.


What are some of your favorite songs from them?

The first one I heard was ‘I Believe in A Thing Called Love’ but then one of my favorites is ‘Love Is Only a Feeling off’ of the first album Permission to Land. I love that song. ‘Black Shuck’ too. They got some killer ones, they really do.


So, you’ve got seven albums out. That’s a lot of material to draw on playing every night. How do you decide what to play? Do you rehearse a set amount beforehand? Do you just throw out songs in soundcheck and see what you feel like?

Sometimes we do that. It’s hard because when you do an arena tour, you have to do the songs that you know people are going to want to hear. It’s hard to find a time to really branch out and do some obscure songs because you need to play to the room. Now if we do like a club or small theatre, we might break something down and do some blues covers or do some songs for the hardcore fans. It’s hard though: the more albums you release, the more songs you want to play live, you have to fit them all in. That’s the nightly challenge, but I think we’ve got a pretty good idea on this tour.


Returning into regular touring post-Covid, have you seen a change in the way people behave at concerts after being locked up for so long?

I think we’ve seen more excitement. I think bands and audiences are sharing it together, not that no-one ever didn’t appreciate it. But now you appreciate it even more, because you never know when it can be taken away. There’s definitely a shared energy from our point of view because they’re like, Finally, we’re back! We can also do what we love again. There is a deeper appreciation.


What was the writing process like for Out Of Pocket? Are these all fresh ideas or are there a few songs that have been taken from the back catalogues of unfinished music like the last album?

Yeah, everything on this album is brand new. Nothing has been pulled from the hat. Everything is very new, very fresh. We wrote that song on the road this past summer. And as soon as we wrote it, we just knew this could be a leadoff single. I’m really thrilled with the way it came out. And everybody seems to really love it. We’ve never played it live, but we will be in about a couple of weeks the first time over in the UK, so I’m excited about that, too. But yeah, the rest of the album is resting the album’s pretty heavy. It’s very guitar, bass, drum driven. It is. It is pretty intense. And we’re excited about it, man. Very excited.


You don’t quite have a traditional guitar solo in that song. As songwriters, do you feel conscious of past songs and not repeating yourself in changing your formula or is it a ‘if it fits, it works’ scenario?

We never want to do something for the sake of doing something. If it doesn’t serve the song or have purpose or make the song any better, then we don’t do it. This song just didn’t really call for a guitar solo. It called for the vocal and the guitar part, But I mean, there’s still plenty of guitar solos on this album. But there’s a couple parts where we had to say, does it need it? If it doesn’t need it? Don’t do it.


Steve Jewell joined the band, a new member in the fold. In the studio, how does that dynamic change after working together for so long?

It’s been smooth. We’ve known Steve for a long time, he’s from the same area. It wasn’t like finding a stranger that we had to get to know. The number one thing is that we know his heart and we know him personally, that matters more to us than musicianship. But he is an excellent musician, he’s a great songwriter and he’s a team player. He slid right in and saved the day. And it’s been fantastic ever since as he really inspired us and pushed us, and I think it’s taken this album to a whole different level.


After so many albums and so many recording processes, do you still feel that red light pressure or do you feel like you guys are a well-oiled machine?

We can be a well-oiled machine but still when you’re in the studio, you’re under a microscope. I don’t know any musician that would say that it’s a breeze because you want to get it the best you can because it lives on forever. You want it to be live sounding, but you also want it to be great sounding. Even as tight as we can be as a band, it singles out the little things. There’s that kind of anxiety that comes along with it. But then again, it’s fun because you can push each other a little bit harder for the best performances, then you get a great album that you all love.


At this point, how does it feel to have new artists coming up to you and telling your heroes? How does it feel when people tell you that you’re the reason they started playing music?

That’s the ultimate payoff. Really, that’s what we do it for. It’s awesome. It’s fun to get notarized and magazine covers and awards and stuff. But when you inspire someone, that’s the dream.


Keeping along the same lines, who are some of your favorite new artists that you’ve discovered recently?

Georgia Thunderbolts are great friends of ours. They toured with us on the last European run so you should check those guys out. Architects from the UK we’ve been really digging but my favorite band are a reggae/rock group called The Dirty Heads.


Last question, what’s your wish for the next ten years?

Hopefully we can be doing another interview talking about another album!


Black Stone Cherry played the AO Arena in Manchester on 2 February.

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James Swindell

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