With 18 years of experience up their sleeves, 6 studio album releases and an average of 250 shows a year, Blackberry Smoke is showing no signs of slowing down. They’ve had a fair share of accolades as well – Rolling Stone once labeled them responsible for the revival of Southern Rock – and shared the stage with artists like Gov’t Mule, ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, the quintet most recently released their 6th studio album, Find A Light, in April, which hints at a wide range of influences while still remaining true to their brand of Southern Rock.
We catch up with Charlie Starr, lead vocalist and guitarist of the band and talk traveling as a band, favorite artist collaborations and vintage gear.
Tell us about your most recent album, Find A Light.
Find A Light is our 6th studio album. We produced it ourselves and recorded it in a couple of studios in Atlanta. I really feel that it’s some of our best work. The process was so enjoyable. Everyone seemed to be at the top of their game. Everything just fell into place.
How has the band developed since the release of your first album in 2004?
I’d say that we’ve learned to slow down and let things breathe, ya know. We’ve always been a band that focuses more on the song than the bells and whistles or gimmicks, but I think we’ve grown more and more dedicated to recording cohesive collections of songs than ever before.
You travel extensively together. When you average over 250 shows a year, what are the things that make a life on the road feel like home?
I know it sounds corny, but being around one another is the key. We still get along really well and laugh at the same goofy sh*t. You can’t be a grown-up on the road. I generally go into writing mode when I have some extended time off the road. When writing a group of songs, variety is very important.
Do you have any essential travel items that you couldn’t live without?
I’m pretty easy to please. A good coffee maker, some books and plenty of music.
If your tour bus could talk, I’m sure it would tell a thousand stories. Can you tell us one of your favorites?
You wouldn’t believe what kind of mess a birthday cake, 2 cans of Pringles (completely crumbled), a broken (full) bottle of bourbon and some pine straw (???) can make in the front lounge of a tour bus.
You’ve collaborated with a ton of different artists through the years… what is it that you like the most about collaborating?
We’ve been listening to each other play for almost 20 years, so when someone else gets involved and adds another musical personality and/or perspective it can be really exciting. We’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with some of our favorites… George Jones, Gregg Allman, Bob Weir, Billy Gibbons, Robert Randolph… Each one of them brought their unique voice or musical style to the song or songs. It really is an incredible thing to experience.
How has your gear changed through the years? And how has this impacted how you play, or your sound? Do you have any favorite guitars or amps?
I personally love vintage guitars and amps. Each one of those can bring something new to the stew. It’s nearly impossible for me to pick a favorite, but this week it might be a 1953 Gibson Les Paul and a 1962 Fender Princeton.
What is it you like about your MONO Products?
I trust the MONO Dual case with guitars that old because of the sturdy way in which they are constructed. Rugged yet sleek on the outside, soft and plush on the inside.
Do you have any upcoming shows you are looking forward to this year?
Well, we have a 2 night stand at Irving Plaza in NYC, a 6 week European tour, our annual Homecoming show at the Tabernacle in Atlanta…tons of stuff.
How do you balance satisfying fans with the hits and keeping it fresh for you guys?
We play a different show every night. With 6 albums worth of material it’s very enjoyable to shake it up all the time. My favorite song to play probably changes every night…