615 Spotlight: Blackberry Smoke Unleash 'Whippoorwill' on Zac Brown's Label
615 Spotlight: Blackberry Smoke Unleash 'Whippoorwill' on Zac Brown's Label

The group known as Blackberry Smoke has gone through their share of behind-the-scenes drama. Just as they were about to head into the studio to record a new album, their label BamaJam Records, folded. But things ended up working out for the talented band -- beyond even their expectations.

Next week, the band issues "The Whippoorwill," their debut project for Zac Brown's Southern Ground Artists imprint. The band's Charlie Starr told Billboard that making the album was a great experience.

"I feel like we were positively motivated," he said. "The vision has always been there. We just needed a way to get it done."

The band's relationship with Brown goes way back, says Starr. "He's been a friend of ours for years. We first met him properly on the first Lynyrd Skynyrd Cruise that we did, which was about six or seven years ago. Then, after that, we watched them explode. When we would see them, he was always the same guy. After the label fell apart, we decided we would keep going by the seat of our pants. So, he calls and says 'Enough of this mess. Come work with me.' It was when we needed it most. It couldn't have been timed more perfectly."

"The Whippoorwill" is an amazing collection of Southern Rockers and a few epic-sounding ballads. Starr admits the album is varied musically. "It was a sprawling mix. I don't want to paint it as something that it's not, as it all has a common thread. But, we've got songs like 'Ain't Got The Blues,' 'Up The Road' and 'Leave A Scar.' It all seemed to be perfect at the time."

The first single is the bluesy "Ain't Much Left Of Me," and another highlight is the stunning vocal masterpiece "Up The Road," a song that Starr admits that "I drove my wife absolutely insane with that. We have a friend that we take care of his dogs from time to time in Atlanta, and he has a piano. So, every time we go there and house sit, I would toss that idea around on the piano. My wife would say 'Good grief' because I'm not a good piano player, and I've never written a song on it. I demoed it out, and got it on tape, and took it to Brandon, our piano player, and asked him to help me make heads or tails of it. I had pretty much had it done, and he pretty much played what I played."

Starr admits to being pleased with the album from start to finish. "I'm happy with the whole thing. When we got the finished product, I was holding it in my hands. I was so happy it was finished."

Though the album is officially released on August 14, Starr allows that a very special group of people have had a chance to get the music early -- the fans. "They got us through everything, because they kept coming out to hear us. They kept the fire burning. When we got the finished product, we said 'There is no way on God's green earth that we are not going to put this in the hands of people who have spent their money night in and night out when we're out doing shows. If we've got it, they are going to get it. I'd give them away, I don't care. I didn't want to make them wait another six months. They've been there for us, and we wanted them to have the music first."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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