Black Stone Cherry are getting set to return to the UK this November for their most intimate theatre tour in recent times.
Black Stone Cherry released their latest record Kentucky back in April and the band have been touring the world relentlessly in support of their latest offering. After headlining both the Carnival of Madness tour and Ramblin Man Fair earlier this year the band are about to embark upon an extensive UK theatre tour titled “An Evening With Black Stone Cherry”.
National Rock Review recently caught up with the band’s lead guitarist Ben Wells whilst at home in Kentucky to talk about the band’s forthcoming tour, their latest album and their plans for 2017.
NRR: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us here at National Rock Review, we really appreciate it.
Ben: No problem.
NRR: You are currently out on the road across the U.S at the moment and I was just wondering how have the shows been going so far?
Ben: Really good actually, we just got home from a little run, we got home yesterday morning. It was really good, it was actually the last run we do before we head over to the UK. It was really good for us to play some shows, I don’t want to say warm up, but kind of get in the tour mode before we start the big tour.
NRR: Obviously like you just said there, you are going to be coming back to the UK later this month starting at St David’s Hall in Cardiff on the 19th Nov. The tour is being billed as “An Evening with Black Stone Cherry“. I was just wondering if you could tell us a little bit about the format of the show and what your fans can expect this time around, I hear you are going to be playing two sets is that right?
Ben: Yeah, it’s honestly something we’ve never done before and I don’t honestly know 100% what to expect just because we have never done a tour like this. We’ve been very fortunate to play some pretty incredible shows across the UK, especially over the last couple of years where we’ve headlined arenas twice in two years. So for us, it was a way to come back and tour in a way that I think our fans want and will appreciate.
In a way, we are kind of bringing this tour to the people whereas when you do those big rooms you are kind of at the people’s mercy to make sure they get filled up. This way we are kind of taking a step back and going into intimate theatres and kind of taking it back to where it started and doing two sets.
In a sense, we are kind of opening up for ourselves because we want to be able to play longer. So we are doing songs that we’ve never done before, some songs we are doing different versions of and like I said I think it’s something that our fans are gonna really respect and appreciate. I know that we are super excited about it, it’s gonna feel good to switch it up a bit.
NRR: I was just watching your Facebook live post at the weekend, you were in Wisconsin and you were saying how cold it was out there. I hope you are ready for the UK in winter, you better bring a coat.
Ben: You know we’ve come to expect this cold weather all the time in the UK, even in the summer time we expect cold weather, we will dress appropriately. Usually every time we come over there we always make sure we bring enough jackets and stuff like that, so it’s all good, we are ready for it.
NRR: In recent times you have played some intimate charity gigs, you played at The Borderline in London and The Cathouse in Glasgow and then at the same time you’ve been headlining festivals and arenas like Ramblin Man Fair and I know this time you’ve got Planet Rockstock coming up. What gives you the biggest buzz or makes you more nervous, playing those big shows or playing the smaller intimate shows?
Ben: There’s definitely nerves that go into each and every show, whether its small or big. I think with the big shows there’s an anxiety because more can go wrong because it’s more of a production and there are more people involved, but when you play the small shows because you are right there up in front of the people.
You know for us, well me personally, no matter which shows we do big or small, I get the butterflies every time. I love that feeling it’s just a feeling of anxiety and a rush, it’s just that you cannot replace that and I’m so thankful that I still get that feeling.
NRR: I’ve seen you play many times over the years going right back to when you first came to the UK. On stage you are one of the most energetic guitarists I’ve ever seen perform live.
Ben: Thank you.
NRR: I was just wondering where do you find the energy every night to go out and give 150% show after show, and do you ever think tonight I just want to sit back and take it easy. It has got to be hard to go out and give that much energy every night, particularly on a long tour?
Ben: You know I think for me, I just want to be able to deliver a great performance … the people deserve it. I couldn’t get up there and be still if you paid me to, it’s just the way I am. It’s just the way I react to the music, I love it and I get to jump around and act crazy. When I do that I think the fans they feed off that and I feed off their energy, so it’s very much a mutual thing. Like I said its just the way I react to the music and I love it. If I don’t come off stage feeling exhausted every night, I don’t feel like I’ve done my job.
NRR: Who was the first band that you ever saw play live and how did that first live experience affect you as a musician?
Ben: The first real concert I can really remember going to as far as a big band was Aerosmith and they are my favourite band of all time. That changed me because it influenced me in a way that it made me want to get into music.
Elvis is my biggest inspiration of all time, but obviously, I never got to see Elvis. Seeing Aerosmith did something to me, it sparked the flame and I wanted to be a part of it, I wanted to be part of live music and entertaining and travelling and I still remember that concert like it was yesterday. It was in Nashville, Tennessee, it was just something I will never forget you know.
NRR: What’s your favourite song to perform live and why?
Ben: It’s kind of hard I mean, everyone is different because the people react differently. I love playing “The Rambler” because it gets a different reaction from say a song like “Lonely Train” would get. But there’s something that “Lonely Train” gets because the energy of that song is what people love and it’s heavy. But then you do a song like “The Rambler” or “Peace is Free”, “Things My Father Said” and then you get all these people singing along with you or it’s just dead quiet in the room, that is something that is irreplaceable.
I don’t know what my current favourite song to play live is, I know on this upcoming tour we are going to do some songs live that we haven’t done before and that will be exciting, I’m really looking forward to that.
NRR: Now that the Kentucky Headhunters have got over their fear of flying, could you ever see The Kentucky Headhunters and Black Stone Cherry joining forces together in the UK for a tour?
Ben: We would absolutely love that, we’ve tried to make that happen in the past but for whatever reason, it wasn’t able to, but that’s definitely something that’s on the radar so to speak. I don’t know when it could happen or anything like that, but they went down a storm at the Ramblin Man Fair, they did great, they got a lot of new fans and I think people want to see that too. I think our fans will appreciate it because they know the family connection and they appreciate just good music beyond that, hopefully, one day we can make that happen.
NRR: Your latest record Kentucky was recorded outside of the confines of a record label, and that gave you a lot more artistic freedom on the record. I was just wondering how did it feel to have that level freedom in the creative process and did it allow you to try to do anything differently that you maybe didn’t get the opportunity to do on previous records?
Ben: You know for us we’ve always been very hands on in the studio regardless of if we’re producing or not. This time around I think we just kind of took a step back and said we know what kind of album we want to make, we know what we need to sound like, so we just decided to do it and it was incredible.
People have asked us was there an extra amount of pressure, and I guess maybe in a way there was, but not too much because I think we were just too busy having fun and just being alive. I don’t remember any time in the studio being worried or nervous about the result, because we went into it so confidently knowing that this is something that our fans are going to appreciate and this is what they want for us, and we were able to call our own shots and for that matter it was awesome. We are all smart guys and we all know what we want to sound like and it just made sense for us to do it on our own.
NRR: Obviously, the band are all proud of their Kentucky roots and the album title speaks for itself. I believe you also recorded the album in your hometown with the same engineer who recorded your debut album. What do you miss the most about being away from Kentucky when you are out on the road?
Ben: Obviously family and you miss your loved ones and everything like that. I would say the town we are from is a small town and its slow paced, and I think that’s something too that you don’t get everywhere. Sometimes travelling to nice big cities is fun but there’s a certain element of just the laid-backness that Kentucky has to offer. I love travelling to different places and seeing the world but I wouldn’t trade any of it for Kentucky.
NRR: If you could play one iconic guitar solo in history which would it be?
Ben: Probably the solo to “Stairway to Heaven” just off the top of my head, that or “Sweet Emotion” are two of my favourite guitar solos, just off the top of my head. I could probably go on forever but those two stand out at the moment.
NRR: Is there one album in your record collection that you couldn’t live without?
Ben: Elvis Presley’s “Gospel” album, I love Gospel music and obviously I love Elvis and when he sings Gospel there’s just no better. That album hits the spot every time I listen to it I guess so that one would always be with me.
NRR: What else do you have in store for the rest of this year and into 2017, what’s on the cards for Black Stone Cherry?
Ben: Well for the rest of this year, of course, we will be in the UK on that tour until the first part of December and then we will come home for Christmas. In January we come back to Europe and we do a European headline tour starting in France and ending in Hungary and that will go January through until the 1st February. After that, we might do some U.S. touring and then we are going back to Australia. So it’s going to be some more touring, but I also probably foresee us starting to work on some new music maybe in the Summer of next year.
NRR: That all sounds great and thanks once again for speaking to us today, we really appreciate it. We can’t wait to see you guys at Newcastle City Hall on 27th November.
Ben: Awesome, thank you guys so much we are very excited about it.
Tickets for the forthcoming “An Evening With Black Stone Cherry” UK tour are on sale now via Live Nation.
Black Stone Cherry UK Tour Dates:
Sat 19th Nov – CARDIFF St Davidâ€™s Hall
Mon 21st Nov – PORTSMOUTH Guildhall
Tue 22nd Nov – WOLVERHAMPTON Civic Hall
Thu 24th Nov – MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
Fri 25th Nov – GLASGOW Royal Concert Hall
Sun 27th Nov – NEWCASTLE City Hall
Mon 28th Nov – SHEFFIELD City Hall
Wed 30th Nov – BRIGHTON Dome
Thu 1st Dec – NOTTINGHAM Royal Concert Hall
Fri 2nd Dec – BRISTOL Colston Hall
Sun 4th Dec – TRECCO Planet Rockstock
Mon 5th Dec – LONDON O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Tue 6th Dec – LONDON O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Thu 8th Dec – NORWICH UEA
Black Stone Cherry
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