How the Black Crowes ‘reignited the fire’


The Black Crowes have spent 2022 returning to what first helped launch their careers.

They recently released 1972, a six-track EP featuring covers of songs released during this pivotal year in music. Chris Robinson called it a “love letter” to the music they grew up with. Then there was the extension of their Shake your Money Maker Tour, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Black Crowes’ 1990 debut album. A new series of summer shows are set to launch on June 9.

They stopped and started thanks to the ongoing pandemic, but revisiting Shake your Money Maker performing in front of a live audience for the past two years has been a cathartic experience in many ways.

“It reignited the fire I had for rock ‘n’ roll,” Chris told UCR recently, noting that he and his brother and bandmate Rich Robinson have had their share of ups and downs like most bands. rock. It hasn’t always been easy. “But none of that could ever outweigh the love and the magic of music and being able to have the opportunity to get on stage and make people happy. … Especially with Rich and I being on the same length wave, being in a place where we can communicate – being in a place where we, not to sound too cliché, but have an eye on the prize. That makes it even more enjoyable, you know?”

Rich says he is “able to focus on Shake your Money Makerto be able to present the way we wanted to present – it was just a really cool thing.”

The Black Crowes experienced a dramatic split in 2014 over alleged differences over ownership percentages of the group. There seemed to be little hope of reconciliation. “I don’t have a brother anymore,” Rich said in 2018, noting that he hadn’t spoken to Chris in several years. “And I think that’s what it is.”

Except it wasn’t. The Robinsons announced in late 2019 that they had resolved their differences and planned to hit the road again soon. Drummer Steve Gorman recently sued for unpaid royalties and was not included in this reunion. (Neither of the Robinson brothers has commented on the suit.) So it was, in essence, a throwback to where the Black Crowes started as teenagers in Atlanta: only two of them produced music. in studio.

Watch the Black Crowes perform “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”

Fans might assume the situation was a bit tricky, even tense. Rich says that wasn’t the case when they started working on 1972. They were even joined once again by Sven Pipien, the Crowes’ recurring bassist since 1997. “It’s only natural,” Rich says. “I kind of have this thing where time doesn’t necessarily pass. It’s just like, ‘Oh, there you are.'”

That sense of ease also translates into the new original music the Robinsons are now writing. They live on opposite coasts and are not often in the same writing room, but they are always able to exchange ideas. Rich often comes up with a riff or melody; Chris then considers it lyrically.

“Rich will play me something, and it’ll spin the wheels,” Chris says, “it might be the smallest thing about something he’s playing that would dictate, you know, different shades of melancholy – or anger, or sensuality, or whatever.”

The brothers credit at least some of their creative fluency to having a reliable team working around them. “When you’re just starting out, you’re lucky to have someone who believes in you, regardless of their motivation,” says Chris. “It’s hard to understand what altruism is as a young person, and I think now we understand. … We need people around us who really make us better and nurture us. We don’t need pampering and shit. We’ve been doing this for a long time, but people who understand the dynamics, understand the differences, understand what drives us.”

One such person is another early Black Crowes figure: George Drakoulias signed the group to Def American in 1989 and served as a producer on Shake your Money Maker. As Chris and Rich were writing material for the album, Drakoulias was constantly telling them, “Very good – keep going.” They are currently working with Drakoulias on new music and have tentative plans to return to the studio early next year.

All of this underscores how the Black Crowes are getting back to what they do best: making music together, in the studio and on stage.

“No matter what Rich and I have been through, even times when we couldn’t stand each other and didn’t want to be on stage – the funniest part was when it was time to make a record or when we were working on songs, I don’t really remember Rich and I arguing too much or getting out of shape,” Chris says. “Of course, like anything else, we probably had our moments in the studio, but in the studio. ‘together, you know, is the start of this whole idea: let’s be in a band.”

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