In the war of jackasses and Godsends, the members of Blackberry Smoke would be considered the former. They make music that’s an homage to the old days of country music and Southern rock, especially their fifth album, “Like An Arrow.”
But this album was different. This album had no producer, at least the traditional kind.
The band members produced this one all by themselves, recording it at the Quarry Recording Studio outside of Atlanta, their home city. Although, this isn’t how they planned it originally.
“In the beginning, we didn’t say, ‘Here’s what we’re gonna do: We’re going to make a self-produced album,’” said Charlie Starr, Blackberry Smoke’s guitarist and lead vocalist. “I had written a bunch of songs when we had a month off in January. And we hadn’t really talked about where to record an album or which producer to work with or anything like that.”
The band started running through the songs and practicing them together. Soon, they realized they had to go into the studio to start recording. Starr said that from that point on, it was all a “happy accident.” They knew what they wanted, so they just made it themselves, even down to the album artwork. Drummer Brit Turner made the artwork for the record, Blackberry Smoke had recorded all 12 songs, and the album was finished.
Starr said this album is essentially 15 years in the making. They’ve been polishing up their songwriting and musical skills since 2000, and that’s why this album just feels right, natural.
“I’m just really proud of the album,” Starr says. “It feels almost like — I won’t say closure, because we’re not finished, but … it just feels like we’ve accomplished so much. All these small victories over the years, and to now have this album that we’re so proud of … I look back at everything we’ve worked toward, and when we reached the finish of this album, I just kinda felt like we arrived at it.”
To end the album, the Blackberry Smoke — Starr, Turner, guitarist Paul Jackson, keyboardist Brandon Still, and bassist Richard Turner — asked Gregg Allman, a good friend of theirs, to jump on the last song, “Free on the Wing.”
“He’s a really great guy, of course — and a legend, of course!” Starr says. “It’s a very Macon, Ga., type of song anyway; it’s got that feel … Unfortunately, we weren’t able to be there the day that he did it — we were in Spain — but we got on the telephone, and, I mean, he’s Gregg. He went in and just killed it.”
And Starr is so proud of this album that he doesn’t even care how well it does in the charts or if it never wins an award.
“It won’t matter to me if it doesn’t chart at all,” he says. “I know that it’s really good [to have two Top 10 albums], and I’m really proud of it; we love it … Don’t get me wrong: It is an honor, and it’s really great. And, really, it just tells you that the fans are buying the record, and that’s important.