The modern day music industry is inundated with hundreds of musical genres and subgenres. Therein exists an unwritten mandate that all bands must be classified under one of the many labels that have been created.
Every once in awhile, a musical act comes along with a sound that cannot be labeled. For the past decade, Atlanta’s Blackberry Smoke has transcended the genres with an act representing a mix of Southern rock, country and whatever else they feel like playing. In fact, their 2012 breakout album “The Whippoorwill” placed on the Top 20 of Billboard’s U.S. rock, U.S. country and U.S. indie charts. Front man Charlie Starr could not be happier at the wide demographic that the band attracts.
“I love it,” said Starr. “It makes me feel a whole lot better about us than if they were like, ‘Hey! Look at this band! They suck!’”
Blackberry Smoke’s latest effort is “Leave a Scar, Live: North Carolina” and its companion DVD. Starr explained that the live album adds depth to the band’s unique style in the studio. For Starr, a studio album represents an aural photograph of a band at the time of recording but he sees the live album as more of a “living, breathing thing.”
While the musicianship is on par with their studio work, Blackberry Smoke fans get to experience extended versions of some of their favorite songs. As far as preparation, Starr makes the recorded show one-of-a-kind, thanks to his creation of a daily set list.
Ultimately, “Leave a Scar, Live: North Carolina” captures the vibe created by the symbiotic relationship between band and audience.
“It seems to me when you go see a band, you have expectations,” he said. “You expect the band to sound good, of course. Then, it’s always a great thing when the band is giving the energy, and the crowd is giving the energy. It’s better than the record. It’s a more special type of experience, and I hope that people get that.”
Currently the band is preparing for the release of their follow-up to “The Whippoorwill,” which was released on Zac Brown’s Southern Ground Records. The album will be called “Holding All the Roses” and the band is planning for its release in early February on the Nashville-based Rounder Records, which has worked with artists ranging from George Throrogood & the Destroyers to Ween.
Rounder came to Blackberry Smoke at a time when Brown’s label was in limbo. Thankfully, Rounder encouraged the group to do what they have always with their sound.
“The timing was perfect,” Starr said. “Southern Ground kind of got shook up, and Zac kind of dissolved it for a while. It was a shame, because he’s our friend. It’s a shame to see a friend have something that doesn’t or didn’t work.”
Blackberry Smoke also had another request for Rounder. Since the beginning, the band has always wanted to work with legendary producer Brendan O’Brien. O’Brien’s impressive résumé includes a versatile list of legendary artists such as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, AC/DC, Rage Against the Machine and many more. At first, working with O’Brien posed to create a different situation in the studio as opposed to “The Whippoorwill,” which was produced by the band and associates such as Zac Brown, Clay Cook and Matt Mangano. At first, Starr said that they did not know what to expect, especially since they had never met O’Brien.
“We didn’t go in and overthink any of the arrangements of the songs with preproduction,” Starr said. “We just talked on the phone and we went in the studio. We did it and eight days later, we were finished.”
O’Brien recognized the versatile magic of Blackberry Smoke’s sound. Starr revealed that the band did not try evolving their sound. Blackberry Smoke maintained the musical qualities that have allowed them to collect scores of dedicated fans. However, he did admit that some of the 12 songs are heavier than “The Whippoorwill” and there are also contrasting “laid back” tracks.
“It’s a good ride,” he said. “People who enjoyed the ride of ‘The Whippoorwill’ and the way those songs flowed, these are more up and down.”
As far as playing some of the new material at BayFest, Starr explained that they will do “a song or two.” This comes from a learning experience from “The Whippoorwill.” Before it was released, the band was already planning the album’s tracks at live shows. When it was released, the fans were already familiar with the album’s songs. According to Starr, Blackberry Smoke wants “Holding All the Roses” to be more of a surprise than its predecessor.
Date: Sunday, Oct. 5, 5:45 p.m.
Stage: AT&T/Southern Ford Dealers Stage
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