Black Stone Cherry Interview;
Black Stone Cherry are getting ready to release their upcoming new album titled Screamin' at The Sky on September 29. They have already released three singles, “Out of Pocket” “Nervous” and the recently released rocker, “Screaming At The Sky.”
We recently had a Zoom chat with Ben Wells, the rhythm and lead guitarist for the band. We discussed the new record, touring and playing in Cleveland,
Greg Drugan: Hey Ben, congratulations on the new record. I got an early download of it and I think it’s your best one yet, it really does rocks.
Ben Wells: Thank you man, I appreciate that. We’re proud of every record, but this one especially because we had a lot to say coming out of some strange years since the last release. We’re really stoked about this one.
GD: How long did it take you to record the album?
BW: We did this record in two parts because of our touring schedule last year. We went in June of last summer and did about a week’s worth of recording. We rented out our local theater, the Plaza Theater in Glasgow, Kentucky and recorded all the drums and guitars in there. We recorded six or seven songs in there and then back out on tour. Then we came back right after the new year and did another seven songs then went back on tour. It actually was kinda cool because it gave us an opportunity to live with the first half of the album for awhile and then we could kinda go “let’s go back and fix that” when we go back in. Normally when you get out of the studio, it is what it is, it’s all done. You don’t have time to think, “we should have done that.” It was cool to listen to the songs for a few months and if we wanted to fix anything or change it, we could.
GD: Very good. So all four of you guys were in the studio together?
BW: Yes, it was the four of us and the engineer whose name is Jordan Westfall who tours with us and who’s our bass tech and monitor engineer. He engineered the record and he also mixed it. He’s one of those wizard, tech savvy dudes who knows all about that kind of stuff. We’re real lucky to have him on our side.
GD: I really like the single, “Screaming At The Sky.” I feel that it’s about getting things off your chest, even if you have to just “scream at the sky” instead of keeping it all in. Is that kinda the gist of it?
BW: Yeah, that’s kinda the idea of the song. The whole album is about just letting go of things that maybe you’ve been dealing with. “Screaming At The Sky” is what that’s all about. I think we picture ourself like being around a bon fire and people throw things in the fire and it’s gone. It’s about getting things out of your system and it’s the overall theme of some of the songs on this album. We wanted to kick off the album with this song because we thought it was the perfect way to start the record
GD: Absolutely! You have released three singles from the new album so far. It used to be you got one single, then the album was released. Do you like that the fans get more of a taste of the music before the album comes out?
BW: I think it took us a while for us to get used to that at first. Even with our first album, you put out the single, then the album comes out. Now, everyone is so starved for content and people absorb things so much faster now. It’s just the way the world is and you always have to keep people entertained and keep yourself relevant. We try to limit how much we do put out because we don’t want to put out the whole album before it’s released. You want to save the element of surprise . We’ve put out three (singles) “Out Of Pocket” at the top this year because we were doing a big UK tour and we wanted to have a new song out. The first official single, world wide was “Nervous.” And “Screaming At The Sky” was like a bonus track. It helps garner excitement and it helps streams and it gets people talking. At the end of the day, that’s what we want.
GD: I also just saw that you recently released a cover of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” I really like your version, you rocked it up. What made you guys decide to cover that one?
BW: We were overseas last summer, we were doing a premiere for a live DVD that came out and we were staying at the Hard Rock Cafe in London. Chris went out to smoke a cigarette and John Fred was in the lobby and The Hard Rock is always playing classic rock songs over their system. Tina Turner’s version of that song came on and John Fred happened to hear it and he thought Chris would be great singing it, I bet we could do a cool version of it. So we recorded it last summer with no real intention of putting it out. We loved the version that we did and we knew it would be a bonus track on the record or a special edition. But with the unfortunate passing of her, we talked to our management and said, maybe we could put this out as a tribute and donate our portion of the proceeds to charity. So that’s the reason we did that, other wise it was going to be a bonus track. Since she passed away, we thought that could be our tip of the hat to Tina Turner. We wanted it to be known that it was recorded last year, we didn’t jump into the studio real quick to take advantage of her unfortunate death.
GD: I believe I read that the proceeds are going to domestic abuse, is that right?
BW: Yes, that’s correct. That was our way of giving back. We weren’t trying to capitalize on anything.
GD: I saw that you are also releasing a box set of the new album. What are some of the things that are included in the new box?
BW: I think there’s going to be some signed photos. I have to get to that and then send it off to the next guy. I don’t know what’s all in it. Maybe a patch and some other cool stuff. We try to make it worth people’s while. We don’t want to jack it up and we want to make it worth someone investing in. There’s going to be some cool stuff and we’re putting out different colored vinyls.
GD: On the new record it seems that the drums are up in the mix on the new album, not overpowering but you can really hear John Fred Young’s playing. Was that a conscious decision?
BW: I think that’s the way Jordan mixes it. He’s been the first guy to pump up the guitars and the drums and the bass and put it all right in your face. John Fred is a very in your face drummer. I think the mix of these songs helps the energy.
GD: Do you have a favorite track on the new record? Besides the title track, I really like “Roar.”
BW: One of my favorites is “Screaming At The Sky.” I just love that song. Then, “Here’s to the Hopeless.” The last track on the album, “You Can Have It All” just has a great message and there’s a track called “Smile World” that I love, it’s just a fun song that balances out the album. It’s about not taking yourself too seriously, just lighten up and smile a little bit.
GD: I like that song too, I almost picked that one. Are you guys going to be out on the road the rest of the year supporting the record?
BW: We go back overseas in September then we got dates lined up in October through the end of November into December maybe. We definitely will be out on the road supporting it as much as we can.
GD: I finally got the chance to see you guys live this year at Sonic Temple in Columbus. You guys killed it! You had a huge crowd surge in front of the stage when you came out. What is it like playing in the afternoon as opposed to going on later at night?
BW: They both have their pros and cons. The good thing about playing in the afternoon is, your done and you get to enjoy the rest of the evening. You get to watch a bunch of band and you get to hang out. You don’t have to sit around and wait to play. Sometimes the anxiety can kinda build up throughout the day. The reward is you get to play last and you get to play in front of all the people that are there. At the end of the day, we’re just happy to play. They both have their pros and cons. Sometimes I prefer playing early, knocking it out and getting it done and then hanging out. It is rewarding playing at night, maybe it’s not as hot and you got all the people that have been waiting for you.
GD: Did you get to check out any bands when you were at Sonic Temple?
BW: Yeah, we saw I Prevail and we saw some Queens of the Stoneage. Yeah, it was great, it was a good time!!
GD: Is there any chance of you guys coming to Cleveland when you are out on the road?
BW: Hopefully so. We try to get up there as much as we can. We haven’t done a headlining show in Cleveland in a while. We usually go to Cincinnati or Columbus or Dayton. Hopefully we can make it up to Cleveland and see you guys. I’m sure we’ll get there on this album cycle.
GD: Well, we’re looking forward to it. I know a lot of my readers love Black Stone Cherry and we’d love to have you come up here. I’m going to get the word out about this album, like I said, I think it’s the best one that you’ve put out thus far. I wish you all the success on the road and success on this new record.
BW: Thank you very much man. I really appreciate that.
GD: Safe travels, man! You take care.
BW: Thank you! You too!
Be sure to check out Black Stone Cherry's Screamin' At The Sky when it is realeased on September 29.
Here is the Zoom call with Ben.