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Charlie Starr on Blackberry Smoke’s Legacy and the Essence of Southern Rock

Universal Appeal of Southern Rock

Despite their deep Southern roots, Blackberry Smoke has always managed to connect with listeners on a universal level. Their songs, a mix of observation and personal experience, explore timeless themes that resonate widely. From relatable characters and emotions to gripping stories about life’s facets like divorce, bar altercations, the challenges of life on the road, love, heartbreak, and parenthood, their music draws from country, gospel, and bluegrass, blended with the rock and metal sounds that influenced the band members’ youth.

Timeless Themes in Music

Reflecting on the enduring nature of these themes, Charlie Starr muses, “That story never truly ends. There will always be love songs, reflections on home, tales of relationships, blues, and the eternal search for companionship. It’s a cycle that repeats through generations.”

A Personal and Poignant Album

In Atlanta, the band’s creative force, Charlie Starr, exudes a sense of someone who has moved past their wildest days, though the memories remain vivid. With a warm demeanor, adorned with chunky silver jewelry, and surrounded by electric guitars and a small crucifix on the walls, he reflects on their latest endeavor, their eighth studio album, Be Right Here. This album, produced amid drummer Brit Turner’s battle with brain cancer, brought a newfound urgency and poignancy to their music-making process.

Recording in Authentic Settings

The recording sessions at Dave Cobb’s studio in Savannah, Georgia, provided a sense of escapism and rural charm that resonated with Blackberry Smoke’s musical essence. Tracks like the boot-stomping single “Hammer And The Nail” and the outlaw vibe of “Whatchu Know Good,” co-written with Brent Cobb, capture the band’s signature Southern sound. Transitioning between the rustic ambiance of Savannah and the expansive RCA Studio A in Nashville, the band embraced a live recording approach, creating a raw and authentic sound under Cobb’s guidance.

Creating a Cohesive Musical Tapestry

The album’s culmination at West End Sound in Atlanta resulted in a cohesive musical tapestry that embodies the band’s Southern heritage. This organic and unfiltered approach marked a departure from their previous album, Find a Light, with a more intimate and genuine feel. As the band navigated through recording and production, the shadow of Brit Turner’s illness loomed large, infusing the process with a profound sense of appreciation for their craft and camaraderie.

Embracing Collaboration and Evolution

Reflecting on their musical journey and evolution, Charlie Starr acknowledges the band’s expanding lineup and collaborative spirit. Welcoming new members and collaborators into the Blackberry Smoke family, including backing vocalists the Black Bettys, has enriched their sound and live performances. This inclusive ethos defines the band’s character, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and musical camaraderie.

Capturing Personal Experiences in Music

With a deep-rooted appreciation for collaboration and a keen sense of musical camaraderie, Starr embraces his role as a frontman while cherishing the collective spirit that fuels Blackberry Smoke’s creative process. The album, Be Right Here, encapsulates a blend of contrasting emotions and experiences, from joy to heartbreak, underscored by their signature fusion of country, hard rock, and gospel influences. Tracks like “Azalea” delve into themes of parenthood and self-discovery, resonating with Starr’s personal experiences, while the closing track, “Barefoot Angel,” stands as a heartfelt tribute to his wife, Christine, reflecting on love, growth, and the passage of time.

A Beacon of Authenticity

As the band continues to evolve and connect with audiences worldwide, their enduring bond and shared history serve as a testament to their resilience and genuine camaraderie. Through their music and collective journey, Blackberry Smoke remains a beacon of authenticity and musical craftsmanship, embodying the essence of Southern rock with a universal appeal.