Blackberry Smoke spent several years as an independent band, before signing with Zac Brown's label, Southern Ground, last year. But while the band admits it's a relief to finally be signed with a label that is completely supportive of their genre-bending music, they say they would still continue making music even without the support of a record company, thanks to their dedicated fan base.

"I give the fans all the credit, because they are the ways and means by which we are able to keep making a living," lead singer Charlie Starr tells The Boot. "They keep spending their hard-earned money to come see a show and buy our merchandise and our music. We wouldn't have any visibility, were it not for them, since we're not an 'American Idol' contest winner."

The Georgia-based band says the grueling schedule isn't always easy, but seeing how loyal their audience is makes it all worthwhile. "We've gone out and sweated and worked hard and drove around in a van for eight years, eating bologna," Charlie explains. "We have friends and fans that we met 12 years ago in Michigan or Wisconsin, that still come hear us play. It's like a family reunion every time. We watch them go through things in their personal lives, having kids and the drama of life. They put our legs under us when we were a baby, and they stayed there."

In fact, it's because of their fans that Blackberry Smoke has made The Whippoorwill available at their shows long before its official release date.

"Our new album isn't being released until August 14 but it's been available at our shows for a couple months now," Charlie notes. "We have a finished product, and the powers that be, at distribution and marketing and all that, they said, 'August 14, that will be the release date.' We said, 'There's no way you can expect us to hold onto this thing in our hands that these people who have been spending their hard-earned money to support us all these years, they want it and we want them to have it.' As far as the people who have never heard us, it doesn't matter to them. It can come out on August 14. They don't know about it anyway. But the people that care about it, our fans, we just weren't taking no for an answer. We were like, 'This might not make sense, but it makes perfect sense to us.'"

Fans who can't wait for the album to hit shelves can head to Blackberry Smoke's upcoming shows, which includes stops in North Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi, and buy a copy early. See their concert schedule here.

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