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Stereoboard Talk To Black Stone Cherry's Jon Lawhon About A Fourth Studio Album (Interview)

Thursday, 12 July 2012 Written by Heather McDaid
Stereoboard Talk To Black Stone Cherry's Jon Lawhon About A Fourth Studio Album (Interview)

To say Black Stone Cherry are a band on the rise would be a serious understatement. Though supporting Alter Bridge at their arena tour at the tail-end of 2011, a high percentage in attendance were also there for them. Earlier this year, their headline return following this proved a sell out in advance - no small feat in an Academy sized tour. So, what does a band in their position do now? They head back to the studio and make an even better album than the last; quite a challenge considering the predecessor is 'Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea'.

ImageFrom the albums that proved most defining to performing at Isle of Wight alongside The Boss to this anticipated fourth album, Black Stone Cherry's bassist Jon Lawhon took some time out to chat.

"I think [Isle Of Wight] was a great festival and it was great for us to do that too," explains Jon. The band played high up on the bill which was headlined by Mr. Bruce Springsteen. "Our bus was actually parked right between Switchfoot and Christina Perry, which are both humungous artists in America, much bigger than us in America, but here we were the bigger band of the three that day. We were one of the last bands on the Big Top stage, which is like the second stage at a festival. I mean, Switchfoot opened that stage and Christina Perry played a smaller stage.

"I think it was great for us to do though because a lot of places in Europe classify us as a metal band, when we're definitely not a metal band. We are a hard rock band, but we're also a pop rock band in the same sense. We have some songs that are ballad-esque and fit that genre of music. I mean, we were all raised on Motown, Marvin Gaye, I even remember listening to Luther Van Dross when I was a kid because my mom was into stuff like that. So, having Black Stone Cherry at a pop festival - there's nothing wrong with that because we do fit in... in our own way!"

But how does a festival such as this compare to those with a straight up rock edge? "Download is an animal unto itself. It's all rock bands all day long, there's a classic rock day and so on. The diversity is definitely much larger at the Isle of Wight, but at Download there's so many people and they're so into all the bands and they're so supportive and they come out full force. It's a fantastic festival. We always love to play Download."

"Download Festival," continues Jon, touching on his favourite shows, "the very first one we did, was very memorable. We were told there was a huge crowd but we didn't really know until we walked out and there was all those people just standing there, chanting 'Black Stone Cherry'. It blew us all away.

"Aside from that, we got to play Wembley Arena with Whitesnake and Def Leppard in 2008. That night we met Jimmy Page and Richie Sambora. We went back and played Wembley with Alter Bridge as well last year, in a 90% billing situation - we were one of the main reasons a lot of those people were there. So it was kind of cool to be able to play there and know that we were a major part of that crowd. In March we did a completely in-advance sold out headline tour. Every one of those shows really stick out. We've been together now for 11 years, we've had three internationally released albums and we're in the middle of writing our fourth so when you've done this as long as we have, there are multiple situations that come to mind when you ask a question like that!"

From his stand-out shows, to stand out records and artists, he notes, "I'd say 'Abbey Road' by The Beatles. I mean from top to bottom that whole record's phenomenal. That would definitely be one of the main ones. I think that other than that, 'The Music Bank' by Alice In Chains rocks. That's another one, it really got me into heavy rock. It was like my debut, my entry to the hard rock of today and all that, so it really got me going. Bands? Oh, jeez. Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones. There's just a really, really long list of artists that are influential on me and all of our band."

Having successfully crossed over from merely a fan of music, to a touring musician, what would he advise to someone looking to venture down the same career path? "I would tell them to make sure they're listening to everything because originality is something that's very difficult to have these days. It's so easy to fall in love with a particular band or particular genre of music, you know? If you pay too close attention to something like that without broadening your horizons and paying attention to other things like Motown, R&B, jazz and blues, all that - you'll end up stereotyping yourself, pigeonholing yourself to a degree that you can only do this one thing. A lot of times, there are bands out there today who are just like a band from 1975, or just like a band from 1992, you know? Music is losing its original nature because of that.

"So, my best advice is: be original, be independent, be unique. Don't be afraid to be different from everything that's going on, because the only way you can become the biggest band in the world is to be different from all the other ones."

But, as touring can be very time consuming, is it easy to find time to listen to new music? "I mean when you start touring and you start playing in a band and all that, you kind of become jaded to a degree once you've done it for so long," Jon admits. "I think the big trick is, kind of like what I was saying before, pay attention to other genres and other styles and things like that. By doing that, it'll keep your soul young and keep you fresh on music. So, when a new rock band comes out you'll be a little bit more prone to listen to them because you listen to so much reggae or whatever else that you're not totally burnt out on rock."

Following their current run of dates, the band are set to work on the follow up to 2011's successful record 'Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea' - so what happens when the band gets home? "From there, we're going to really focus in on writing and getting everything together," he explains. "As of right now, we've just been working on some concepts, some ideas of what we want the album to be. We really want to make sure the fourth record is more 'Black Stone Cherry' than any of the other records, which might sound a little confusing, but we want to try and keep the record label, the management and the producers at bay as much as possible. It's our fourth record - it's time that we have the freedom and the creative right to be more than just the band. We need to be the everything this time around, we need to make sure that everybody knows exactly who we are, where we're from and what we do.

"[In terms of a release date], it's more a 'see how it goes' thing. We've got some one off shows here and there during the writing process, pretty much just to keep us fresh as far as the band is concerned. It's just a case of keeping us in shape because when a band takes time off to write record doesn't mean they don't have bills to pay! But, ultimately it's just all about writing and focussing on what message we want to convey on this next album. It could be a few months, which is preferred by all of us because we want to crank it out pretty quickly, or it could be six or seven. You don't know. It just depends on how quickly we come up with the kind of material that we think it needs to be."

So, will the rest of Black Stone Cherry's year be recording-heavy? "Ultimately, yeah. Once we get home in the middle of July, we'll be writing that record and playing just a few shows we have booked. We're supposed to be going to Australia in September but we don't have things confirmed yet or anything. We've got a plan and we've got offers from them, so we're trying to get it all locked down. Hopefully we'll be able to do that, hopefully a little more travelling to new places that we haven't been.

"I was talking to our booking agent the day before yesterday and suggested South America because we've never been there before either. It'd also be nice to head back to Japan, maybe hit China and so on. Nothing like months and months of touring, more just playing a certain area for a week, playing key shows that'll help open us up to that market and then when the new album comes out, we can then go there more extensively!"

Though the UK shores might not see Black Stone Cherry for a while, the prospect of their absence resulting in a whole new album (which we assume will be fantastic, because it probably will be) is a very exciting one. Hopefully it doesn't take them too long to return once it's complete.

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