The Chris Robinson Brotherhood performs three shows in Montana in mid-February. Chris Robinson, best known from his years in The Black Crowes, spoke about 2018, a forthcoming studio album, growing up in Atlanta and even Live Aid.
Montana Press: Was 2018 a good year for the band?
Chris Robinson: Yeah I would say so. I mean a band is like any relationship. You have stuff to go through, everyone goes through their thing as people and as a group committed to their sonic form of emotional expression. At the end of the day I think what the CRB really represents is just people who really love music. We love making it. We love being a part of something entirely more dynamic and vibrant than just a rock and roll show. And in a less esoteric way, we met some amazing people and we wrote our new record to come out this summer.
MP: The upcoming album, "Servants Of The Sun" (Silver Arrow Records), how does it compare to 2017’s "Barefoot In The Head" (Silver Arrow Records)?
CR: Musically the only protocol I had was I didn’t want any acoustic instruments on this record. Barefoot In The Head had a lot of acoustic instruments. This time all I really told anyone was I didn’t even want acoustic piano on any of the tracks. And I wanted to focus on more up-tempo numbers. With our last couple of records we made songs we knew we probably weren’t going to play live. This record every one of these songs will fall into the live repertoire.
MP: Was it difficult paring it down to what made the album and what didn’t?
CR: No. We’re a fairly tight, self-contained unit once we get into the studio. The coolest thing about making records this day and age is we don’t really have any pressures or any worries about the commercial aspects. We played over a thousand shows in the last eight years. Five nights a week, three hours a night, you start to develop a pretty keen sense of language with each other musically. There’s no, ‘Oh my god, we have to get the chorus right or it’ll never get played on the BBC!’ No one gives a shit about that.
MP: How have you evolved musically over the last two decades to where you are now?
CR: In some ways you move just because if you’re a songwriter or a musician your music should encompass your soul and what you’re putting out there should almost be a roadmap of your experience. So that of course changes. Some things will never change. My great awe of music, my respect and my humility in front of the muse that never will change. I’ve been collecting records since I was 12 years old. As a dyslexic, outsider child of the Deep South music was my citadel.
MP: What was the music scene like growing up in Atlanta?
CR: It was amazing. It was still rock and roll in the ‘80s. We got R.E.M. up the road. Everyone in our social circle got signed. Drivin N Cryin got signed first to Island and my friends Mary My Hope got signed to Beggars Banquet. The Black Crowes got signed to Def America. It was vibrant. They didn’t care about being famous, everything was just about music and art. There’s an entire group of people who didn’t go to the University of Georgia. We didn’t want to be in fraternities. We weren’t good old boys, we were Southern people but we had different dreams and different ambitions. They tended to be more sensitive or artistically driven. That’s where my early outlook about art and business and commerce was formulated.
MP: What can fans expect from these upcoming shows in Montana?
CR: It’s the good old CRB, kick off your snowshoes and dance a little while to the sounds that we put down, that’s what it is.
MP: Do you have any fond memories or anecdotes about playing in Montana or traveling through the area?
CR: Well it’s incredibly beautiful and every time we’re there we usually don’t have a night off. We’re usually there in the winter so it’s a little bit foreboding. But they’ll have to legalize all their drugs before we have any real memories to forget from there.
MP: What are the plans for the rest of the year?
CR: We have a record coming out at the end of June and then CRB is in Europe for like a full month then we come home we have a light August. Then the record’s out and we do a full CRB tour from September to Christmas.
MP: This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Black Crowes forming. Do you have much recollection of the first gig?
CR: We started as Mr. Crowe’s Garden in 1985 and my very first gig was the same day Live Aid was (July 13, 1985). So not only would no one have been there just in principle because nobody knew who these teenage kids from Atlanta were opening for some band from San Francisco in Chattanooga, Tennessee. But it was also the day of Live Aid. That’s why everyone else got to see Live Aid but us.
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood plays in Billings at The Pub Station on February 14, the Rialto in Bozeman on February 15 and in Missoula at The Top Hat on February 16.