Interview: Blackberry Smoke’s ‘Like an Arrow’ Is a ‘Happy Accident’
As with their past projects, Blackberry Smoke's fifth studio album, Like an Arrow, harkens back to the golden age of country-rock and Southern rock. Unlike the band's previous records, however, Like an Arrow does not have an outside producer; rather, the five-piece group self-produced the project, recorded at the Quarry Recording Studio just outside of their native Atlanta -- though it wasn't a conscious decision.
"In the beginning, we didn't say, 'Here's what we're gonna do: We're going to make a self-produced album,'" Blackberry Smoke's guitarist and lead vocalist, Charlie Starr, tells The Boot. "I had written a bunch of songs when we had a month off in January. And we hadn't really talked about where to record an album or which producer to work with or anything like that."
But the band started learning and rehearsing those new songs, and it just felt natural to hit the studio. From there, Starr says that it was all a "happy accident." They weren't sure who they wanted to produce their next project, but they knew what they wanted to accomplish with each song, so they started producing it themselves, pulling from over a decade of experience to craft the tunes. Drummer Brit Turner designed the album artwork, and suddenly BBS had 12 songs that sounded just how they wanted them to sound ... and the album was done.
Starr stresses that Like an Arrow truly has been 15 years in the making. Since 2000, Blackberry Smoke -- Starr, Turner, guitarist Paul Jackson, keyboardist Brandon Still and bassist Richard Turner -- have worked hard to hone their songwriting and musical crafts, and that's led to an album that feels so natural, they almost forgot all the hard work that came before it ... almost, but not quite.
"I'm just really proud of the album," Starr says. "It feels almost like -- I won't say closure, because we're not finished, but ... it just feels like we've accomplished so much. All these small victories over the years, and to now have this album that we're so proud of ... I look back at everything we've worked toward, and when we reached the finish of this album, I just kinda felt like we arrived at it."
Closing out the 12-track Like an Arrow is "Free on the Wing," which features Gregg Allman. The BBS guys have become friendly with the iconic artist over the years and decided to reach out to him and ask him to add his voice to the track.
"He's a really great guy, of course -- and a legend, of course!" Starr says. "It's a very Macon, Ga., type of song anyway; it's got that feel ... Unfortunately, we weren't able to be there the day that he did it -- we were in Spain -- but we got on the telephone, and, I mean, he's Gregg. He went in and just killed it."
Blackberry Smoke's two previous albums, 2012's The Whippoorwill and 2015's Holding All the Roses, landed in the Top 10 (No. 8) and debuted at No. 1, respectively, on the country charts, but they're not too concerned with repeating those performances. According to Starr, it's the album as a product that he and his bandmates will be proud of, not its commercial success.
"It won't matter to me if it doesn't chart at all," he admits. "I know that it's really good [to have two Top 10 albums], and I'm really proud of it; we love it ...
"Don't get me wrong: It is an honor, and it's really great. And, really, it just tells you that the fans are buying the record, and that's important," Starr adds. "At the end of the day, we want as many people as possible to love the music."
Like an Arrow is out now and available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon and the band's website. Blackberry Smoke have a number of tour dates on their calendar through April of 2017; details on those shows are available on the band's website as well.
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