Dec 20 2017

Blackberry Smoke is Like an Arrow: Free and Flying High

By: Kimmie Tubre

Is Southern rock on a deathbed waiting for the reaper to send it off into the abyss? Well, if you’ve ever treated your ears to the funky-soulful, electric sounds of Blackberry Smoke, you’d know for sure that Southern rock is here, and it’s here to stay. 

“Southern rock is alive and well,” according to lead vocalist, songwriter, and guitarist, Charlie Starr. From the band’s blue-collar work ethic to their ongoing success, they’ve continued to prove that statement as fact. While their last two albums have topped the country music charts (both hitting number one), when it comes to classifying this band, there’s no way to put them into a one-genre box with a pretty bow on top. With placements on the UK rock and independent charts, Smoke has been able to defy the odds by exploring and incorporating a variation of sounds and styles since their humble entry onto the music scene. 

Beginning in northern Georgia, Smoke started out as a hardworking, bar-hopping band making its way around the grimy bar scene of Atlanta. Playing live sets wherever they could, the band was part of an intimate rock community during a time when rock bands in the city of Atlanta were few and far between. While unintentionally splitting themselves between country and Southern rock, it was during those nights and shows that Blackberry Smoke began to hone their talents. “We are constantly learning along the way,” Starr explained. “I’d say we’re basically self-taught musicians.” 

After coming together as a band in 2001, Smoke went on to receive loads of practice, as they would perform hundreds of shows—eventually performing up to 250 shows each year, a record that they continue to maintain even today. “We are not known for staying still in any way,” Starr added. 

Blackberry Smoke is Like an Arrow: Free and Flying High

Currently on tour headlining with Aaron Lewis, Smoke is no stranger to a tour bus. After years spent opening for major players such as ZZ Top and touring with Gov’t Mule last year, Smoke is more than prepared for the stage. Spending much of their time on the road, they try to make sure to enjoy and clock countless hours traveling for pleasure. “It’s safe to say that each of us shares an addiction to traveling,” Starr said. From Ireland to Australia, Smoke has performed in front of crowds from all walks of life. With five studio albums and one live album under their belt, the band has gone from rough-around-the-edges club-thumpers to celebratory popularity and fame. “Traveling is one of the most inspirational things you can do as an artist,” Starr said. 

Different areas of musical inspiration are responsible for the band’s occasionally fluctuating sound. “We are aware that our fans want us to create more albums like Whippoorwill, and I get that,” Starr said, referring to their 2013 album, which delivered successful records like “Ain’t Much Left of Me” and “Pretty Little Lie.” 

“As a band, we’re all likeminded in that we like to explore,” Starr said, admitting that there are times when the sound changes, though the band itself has never changed. Since the days of their debut album, titled Bad Luck Ain’t No Crime, Smoke has tried to stay true to putting out music that they could always stand behind. “From day one, we just wanted the sound of the band to continue to grow and broaden. We’re not trying to make a hip-hop record,” Starr said with a laugh. “We’re just trying to write songs that include all those different types of elements. It keeps it interesting for musicians and songwriters.”

In October of 2016, Blackberry Smoke released their sixth full-length album, Like an Arrow. “The title comes from the record on the album with the same title,” Starr explained. “The song is just about how each person chooses to live his or her life, taking the highs with the lows and simply going for it.” 

Still riding the wave of Like an Arrow, Starr casually admitted, “As of now, it’s my favorite album.” The album opens with the hard-hitting rock record, “Waiting for the Thunder.”

Starr attested to the record, stating, “It’s dynamic and big; it’s exciting. I felt like this was going to be the song that would lead off the record, because it sort of stands alone…” 

Like an Arrow includes a good mix of funk, soul, Southern rock, a dash of metal, and country classics like “Free on the Wing,” featuring late musical legend Gregg Allman. 

The album incorporates the storytelling nature of country and folk music into the heavy-hitting rhythmic sounds of rock. Like an Arrow has become the band’s second studio album to reach number one on the Billboard country chart. With the album’s success speaking for itself, Starr admitted that his picking of his favorite is a premature decision. “I call every new album we do my favorite. Like a new baby, it’s the cutest one we have—for now.”

“For now” won’t be for long, however, considering that the band is currently preparing to release their seventh full-length studio album. But, for now, the band is on tour traveling all over the country from the Big Apple to the Big Easy, where they will hit the New Orleans House of Blues stage on the 19th and the 20th of January. 

The five-piece band—consisting of Starr (lead vocals, guitar), Richard Turner (bass, vocals), Brit Turner (drums), Paul Jackson (guitar, vocals), and Brandon Still (keyboards)—is ready and known for their dynamic on-stage jam sessions, comical commentary, and playing the night away. And they have guaranteed that their two nights in New Orleans will definitely be worthwhile.  

Blackberry Smoke will be taking the stage at the House of Blues on Friday, January 19 and Saturday, January 20 at 8 p.m.; tickets start at $30. Visit LiveNation.com to purchase tickets and for more details. 

 

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