Blackberry Smoke's Charlie Starr Talks About the Band's Acoustic Tour That's Coming to the Kent Stage on March 17

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click to enlarge Blackberry Smoke's Charlie Starr Talks About the Band's Acoustic Tour That's Coming to the Kent Stage on March 17
David McClister
Produced by Brendan O'Brien (AC/DC, Aerosmith, Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young), Blackberry Smoke’s 2015 album Holding All the Roses shows off the band’s heavier side. On it, the Southern rock band often sounds like a cross between Tom Petty and Aerosmith.

But for the current tour, the band has dialed things back.

It’ll play a special acoustic show at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 17, at the Kent Stage as part of its first-ever acoustic tour.

The tour comes in the wake of the band’s new acoustic EP, The Southern Ground Sessions, which the band released as a companion to its latest full-length album, Find a Light. The EP was recorded at Southern Ground studio in Nashville and features stripped-down versions of five album tracks as well as a rendition of Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky” featuring singer-songwriter Amanda Shires.

“The EP was sort of a happy accident,” says singer-guitarist Charlie Starr in a recent phone interview. “After we released the full-length album, Find a Light, we went to Southern Ground studios to capture some video footage. The idea was to sit in a circle in a living room jam and capture that kind of acoustic thing. No one was overthinking it. Lo and behold, it sounded fantastic. In the past, we had fans say we should make an acoustic record or play more acoustic shows. We enjoyed the acoustic shows we performed over the years, so it just made sense to do this tour.”

Here’s his take on each track on the EP.

“Run Away from It All”

“Originally, the inspiration came from before we started to make Find a Light. A good friend of mine, Keith Nelson, who was in Buckcherry, reached out to me to see if I wanted to write some songs. That was the first song we wrote. I got excited after that first song. I heard it as a Blackberry Smoke song. Before I knew it, we had written six or eight songs, and I told him that I wanted to take four or five of them and record them. He was tickled by that. That song in particular is an easy song to like if you like that kind of music. It lends itself well to the acoustic format. It has a little groove to it, and it feels good.”

“Medicate My Mind”

“That song is really a drug song. I was thinking about how we move forward with technology and culture and taboos. I was reading one day that there have been clinical tests and a push toward legalizing mushrooms as a treatment for depression and other things. That’s what that song is about. Some of those things were put on earth by God, and they have medicinal purposes.”

“Let Me Down Easy”

“It’s about the breakup and a guy who doesn’t want to break up. That’s kind of a stalker song. That’s another song I wrote with Keith [Nelson]. After we made the demo of it, he said, ‘It would be cool to have a girl sing harmony on this song.’ I agreed. At that time, I was talking to Jason Isbell, who had just released a new record. Amanda Shires sings on it. She’s a great fiddle player as well. It seemed like the obvious choice. She was gracious and came over and did a fantastic job.”

“Best Seat in the House”

“That song has a double edge meaning. It’s from the point of view of the down trodden, but it also pokes fun of us as Americans. It’s never good enough for us. It’s not good enough that we got into the show. We need the front row.”

“You Got Lucky”

“We never recorded it prior to this, but we had played it at shows. It was a stripped-down version. The recorded version is very synth heavy. It features that quirky ‘80s production, which Tom Petty was using at that time, which really worked. He never did that again. I always thought it was so beautiful as a ballad. Tom Petty’s version isn’t a ballad. If you dissect the lyrics, it’s kind of mean-spirited. It’s not a happy song. We played it a couple of times in acoustic set that way, and it felt good. Amanda [Shires] brought her fiddle in and made it even sweeter.”

“Mother Mountain”

“This is my favorite song on the record. When we were recording it, I thought of it as a harmony song. When we were in the studio, we had done a little work with the Wood Brothers. They were our label mates years ago. They’re based in Nashville now. I asked if they would sing on it, and they did. When you do something like that and go on tour, you miss that. But we do our best to try to cover their parts.”

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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