Blackberry Smoke to open for Eric ChurchWritten by Mike Bauman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Like its forefathers The Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker Band and ZZ Top, Atlanta-based quintet Blackberry Smoke contains one key ingredient: music you can feel.
“What we enjoy is music that sticks to your ribs, not just whatever might be the flavor of the moment,” Blackberry Smoke singer and guitarist Charlie Starr said.
With influences ranging from Southern rock to country and bluegrass to gospel, Blackberry Smoke will bring its soulful live show to Huntington Center on May 10 as part of its tour opening for Eric Church.
“There’s a certain quality that the Southern bands, that their music has and always will have — like The [Allman] Brothers and Skynyrd and Marshall Tucker — and it’s undeniable,” Starr said. “I mean, I’m sure there are some people who, you know, that’s not their cup of tea.
“They may be a super metalhead, but if they were to go watch The [Allman] Brothers play ‘Whipping Post,’ they wouldn’t be able to take their eyes off the stage.”
The band is rounded out by brothers Richard Turner (bass/vocals) and Brit Turner (drums), Paul Jackson (guitar/vocals) and Brandon Still (keys), who was added to the lineup in 2009, Blackberry Smoke is a group of road warriors that has shared the stage with artists like the aforementioned ZZ Top and Marshall Tucker Band on its journey, one that began when the band formed in 2000.
And on that road over the past 12 years, Blackberry Smoke has been able to make some unique friendships.
“Billy Gibbons has hung out with us so many times now, and he’s become a friend,” Starr said. “So it’s like, it’s a crazy thing to think about, I guess, now to be like, ‘Wow. When I was 13, I never would figure that I would be sitting talking about guitars with Billy Gibbons.’”
Much like its idols, Blackberry Smoke has worked tirelessly over the years to be able to have those experiences. The band self-released its debut album “Bad Luck Ain’t No Crime” in 2004, following it up with 2008 EP “New Honky Tonk Bootlegs” and its sophomore record “Little Piece Of Dixie” in 2009.
Blackberry Smoke’s touring included gigs with The Outlaws, Montgomery Gentry, Cross Canadian Ragweed and Zac Brown Band, the last of which has become good friends with Blackberry Smoke. Brown was such a fan that he inked the group to his Southern Ground Records label in 2011.
“In our case, he came to us right when we needed somebody most,” Starr said of Brown. “We were involved with an indie record label that sort of fell apart, and so we were like, ‘Well, here we are again. We’re going to have to pretty much start over.’
“He had already pretty much set up shop with Southern Ground Records and had some other Georgia artists signed to the label and making some records and whatnot, and so he came to us basically and said, ‘If you need a home, you got one here with us. We’d love to have ya.’”
With production help from Clay Cook, Matt Mangano and Zac Brown, the band recorded its latest album — titled “The Whippoorwill” — at Echo Mountain Recording Studio in Asheville, N.C. The bulk of the work took place in four-and-a-half days due to the group’s rigorous touring schedule, Starr said.
“It’s nasty and raucous at times and knocks your teeth out, and then there’s times where it sounds like we were on your back porch,” Starr said of “The Whippoorwill.” The album is available at Blackberry Smoke shows and will be officially released at the end of this summer.
“And adding Brandon on piano and organ, this is his first album with us, and he did just a fabulous job,” Starr said.
And while Blackberry Smoke is excited to give new material to its fans, the band is also looking forward to giving back by performing at the second annual Boot Ride this August, which features cast members from the FX series “Sons of Anarchy” and is put on by the Boot Campaign.
Started by five Texas women known as the “Boot Girls,” the Boot Campaign shows appreciation and raises awareness and funds for U.S. troops by encouraging citizens to purchase and wear the combat boots it sells.
“My dad was in Vietnam, and Brit and Richard’s — the bass player and drummer’s — father was a retired Air Force colonel,” Starr said. “And so that’s something that’s close to our hearts.”
On May 10, Blackberry Smoke will perform at a show that also features Brantley Gilbert and Eric Church at Huntington Center, 500 Jefferson Ave., Downtown. Tickets range from $40-$55 and can be purchased at all Ticketmaster outlets and the Huntington Center Box Office. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit huntingtoncentertoledo.com.