INTERVIEW: Ben Wells (BLACK STONE CHERRY)
With the recent unveiling of their sixth album 'Family Tree', Kentucky rockers Black Stone Cherry have yet again proven their knack for fusing brawling blues and twanging riffs with some sparkling moments of funk and epic grooves. But for a group who for over 17 years have consistently outdone themselves with each new release, there's a refreshing sense of permutation and artistic exploration beyond the traditional American rock formula so many bands of this persuasion tend to fall into.
Most recently firing up on the main stage at UK's mighty Download festival, the Black Stone Cherry gents have certainly had a whirlwind of a 2018 so far - but as they quickly catch their breath before the next adventure, The Soundcheck had a chat with BSC guitarist Ben Wells about family, rejuvenation and hitting their creative stride. Interview below.
TIANA SPETER: Hi Ben, thank you so much for taking the time to chat! Black Stone Cherry have been extremely busy already this year, tours galore and of course the release of your sixth album ‘Family Tree’ recently too – has there been any time to stop and actually take it all in so far?
BEN WELLS: Yes, we have been busy! But it’s all good! The shows have been great. We are currently at home now before we head to Europe. It’s nice to have time to set back and reflect!
TIANA: And on the topic of ‘Family Tree', how has the reaction been overall to the album from the band’s perspective? And has it been a blast to be able to bust out some of these tracks live on tour?
BEN: This has been the best reviewed album we’ve ever done! The fans are loving it and the songs are going over great live! We’ve actually played more new songs from this album live than any other album. They’re just fun and exciting to play!
TIANA: ‘Family Tree’ saw you guys back in the home studio and self-producing, and I believe also with reduced rehearsal time for the tracks prior to recording – did this lack of rehearsal time make the experience quicker/easier/more difficult?
BEN: It made it more natural and fun! We were really on our toes which made for a very raw and energetic sound. We wanted to keep the songs sounding fresh-so we didn’t over-rehearse.
TIANA: And I’ve read you guys mention having a divine intervention of creative spark with ‘Family Tree’ – can you tell us a bit more about that? Was it just everything falling into place fortuitously, or does it perhaps owe to the fact this isn’t your first (or sixth) rodeo?
BEN: We just hit a creative stride that took us back to the bones of what our band is. That, and doing the blues EP last year really helped rejuvenate us. We were all on the same page to just make a great southern blues rock n roll album It feels really good-this new vibe.
'BURNIN' (BLACK STONE CHERRY)
TIANA: The importance of family really rings true with BSC, both from a thematic perspective, but also in the band’s backstory. It’s quite rare for a band who’s been kicking around as long as you have to survive in its original form for so long – what’s your secret for sustaining such a sense of familial brotherhood between the four of you for a few years shy of two decades?
BEN: We have always considered ourselves friends first and a band second. We put family above all and that’s what has kept us grounded and going like we have!
TIANA: And going back in time a bit…the present day BSC owes a lot to an abandoned property and some old posters taped to the walls. But was it a quick decision on establishing the BSC sound in those early days? What ultimately led to this signature heavy take on Southern rock?
BEN: We didn’t sit down and say we wanted to sound like anything. We are influenced by so many different types of music. Ultimately we are a southern rock blues band. But we also step into funk, soul, reggae, and so much more!
TIANA: Back to the present day, you guys are currently traipsing around America on tour, and you recently shared the stage with Guns N’ Roses amongst many others at the iconic Download festival in the UK…do you still enjoy the whole festival experience? Or do you prefer playing the more intimate shows, and why (or why not)?
BEN: We do! It’s always fun just to play. The festivals are cool because it’s an opportunity to play in front of a lot of people. But, we do love our own shows as well as we have the chance to make them longer and more personal with the audience.
BLACK STONE CHERRY ONSTAGE AT UK DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL, 2018 (PHOTO BY MIKE RODWAY)
TIANA: So the first time BSC ever came out to Australia you hit the road with Steel Panther. And I’m not saying it’s a competition, but they are currently kicking around Australia….any chance you guys will be gifting us Aussies with a tour in the near future?
BEN: We hope to and we plan on it! We very much want to come back!
TIANA: And finally – as we’ve already discussed, 2018 has been a huge year in the Black Stone Cherry family…but are there any secret plans on the horizon for you guys? Anything you can reveal?
BEN: We just plan to continue touring and playing music new and old! With us you never know-we’re always up for curve balls and surprises!
BLACK STONE CHERRY'S SIXTH STUDIO ALBUM 'FAMILY TREE' IS OUT NOW - FOR MORE BLACK STONE CHERRY INFO, HEAD TO:
BY TIANA SPETER