The Black Crowes founder Chris Robinson formed his latest incarnation “The Chris Robinson Brotherhood" in 2011. Since then, the group has 5 albums to its credit, including the well-received self-produced "Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel." Robinson said the band wasn’t looking to forgo an outside producer for the July 2016 release so much as band members felt they had a grip on the sound they were looking for.
“We had more time to kind of breath and see where our collective, creative conscience could conjure up in an occult sort of focus” laughed Robinson. “You get a bunch of people up on the side of the mountain on a rainy January and everyone focuses and boom, you have this music.”
Rural northern California was the setting for the session. Robinson said being away from studios in big cities where they’ve previously recorded did alter the music that came from the month long recording process.
“If you’re anywhere near a conscience waking mind trying to be in the moment or recognize what that is, intrinsically it will all be changed” said Robinson. “And on a cellular level, it’s been three years since we’ve been in the studio. We’re very lucky to be even be in studios these days doing what we do. We made our other records in Los Angeles at the super famous Sunset Sound with amazing people and gear. This time we had a chance to be in northern California in a 'castle with a view.'”
When CRB released “Anyway You Love,” they decided to NOT to target iTunes and Spotify, with the exception of the single “California Hymn.” Robinson noted that the money made by top level executives at the streaming services doesn’t usually trickle down to artists.
“Pay everyone fairly and everyone would be completely happy. I’m not going to get bent out of shape about it. It is what it is. Pull your camera out and film something at a Broadway show and they’ll throw you out. Pull your camera out at a movie theater and they’ll throw you out. But you can film music. It’s just so funny how about the culture of music and how cheap it is for everyone” said Robinson.
He used Pliny the Elder brand craft beer that’s part of the movement near his home in Marin County, California as an example. He said the way that brand is marketed and sold is a lesson in how the music business could create new revenue streams.
“People just line up at the Whole Foods when it comes out every few weeks. One person can only have two bottles and it’s more expensive than other beers. And you see people walking out of there like they’re so happy to have it. I think we have to do that with our band. We’re old guys, we like songs with melody and guitars and poetry and weird stuff. That’s hardly the hippest coolest thing. I’m in used record stores all over the country, there are tons of weird people like us” said Robinson, suggesting keeping music off of streaming services could create more excitement for new music.
In the 1990’s, the Black Crowes were regulars on rock radio formats across the country, and a couple early songs, specifically “Hard to Handle” and “She Talks to Angels” landed on the Top-40 charts. Robinson said then as now with the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, he never felt the pressure to write songs tailored to radio formats.
“I was just naïve and just weird enough to think you make good records sometimes you’ll have a hit, sometimes you won’t” chuckled Robinson. “That didn’t stop Neil Young, it didn’t stop Bob Dylan. The Grateful Dead didn’t have a hit for 30 years.”
Robinson considers himself from a “certain time” where that attitude was normal among musicians.
“I think we lucked into that as kids because it was all about energy and rock and roll, and those were good songs” said Robinson. “It was also really different when all that superficial metal music was going on that we had was something more roots inspired.”
“If You Live Here You Would Be Home by Now” is another CRB album ready to drop in November. Robinson said those were recorded at the same session that produced “Anyway You Love.”
“This is basically an EP” said Robinson. “It’s like the companion CD. These are songs that we made a decision to put on ‘Anyway’ … the first release. We didn’t want to do a double album at the time. We wanted to focus on a few things. We love this new record just as much.”
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood plays the Castle Theater in downtown Bloomington tonight.
Doors open at 7:00 p.m. Showtime is 8:00 p.m.