Black Crowes Reject 'Album Cycle Thinking' as New Tour Revs Up
"We're fortunate that we can go out and play shows and don't have to have, 'Here's our new song...' as a reason to do it"
The Black Crowes are hopeful that its just-started Lay Down With Number 13 world tour will result in the group's first album of new material since 2009.
"I'd be amazed if it didn't," drummer and Crowes co-founder Steve Gorman tells Billboard. "There's always riffs and ideas and melodies around. Chris and Rich (Robinson) are always throwing ideas around; I'm sure there are some they'll say, 'That works better for my own thing' and there are things that they both have that I know they go, 'That's better for the Black Crowes.' " But, Gorman adds, the group deliberately keeps from assigning a firm timeline for developing a new album.
"We always wanted to be a band that was not dependent on album cycle thinking," he explains. "We're fortunate that we can go out and play shows and don't have to have, 'Here's our new song...' as a reason to do it. Now the idea is 'Let's get some shows up,' and if there are new songs and new ideas that everyone wants to bring to the table, we'll just do that like we always do, on the road. I'd be very surprised if we talked at the end of this tour and I didn't say, 'Yeah, we worked up a bunch of new tunes, and there's some really cool stuff...' "
The Crowes last set of new material, "Before the Frost...Until the Freeze," came out in 2009, followed by the acoustic live set "Croweology" in 2010. The group preceded the tour -- which kicked off March 24 in the U.K. and touched down in North America on April 2 in Port Chester, N.Y. -- with "Wiser For the Time," a 26-song live set vinyl and digital live album featuring both acoustic and electric songs from the Crowes' five-night New York City stand during the fall of 2010. "We thought this was a pretty fair representation of a time the band was, in my opinion, as together and cohesive and as strong as it's ever been," Gorman says. "I thought that tour in 2010 was really, really something special, and I think you can hear it here."
The new tour, meanwhile, introduces a new Crowe -- Jackie Greene, who steps in after Luther Dickinson bowed out, amicably, to pursue his other musical interests. Gorman acknowledges that "it always sucks when someone leaves the band," but the Crowes' familiarity with Greene has made for a welcome arrival in the ranks. "We're all thrilled about it," Gorman says. "Jackie's a fantastic addition, not only as a guitarist but he's a tremendous singer and a tremendous organ player as well. I think he can have an opportunity to do a lot of things within the Black Crowes, so we're really excited about it."
The Crowes plan to be on the road well into the year, including performances at the Beale Street Music Festival on May 5 in Memphis, the Hangout Beach, Music and Arts Festival on My 18 in Alabama, a European run in June and early July that includes a date with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on June 22 in the Netherlands, and a U.S. summer run with Tedeschi Trucks Bandback that begins July 19 in Nashville. On August 18 the band will play at the Allman Brothers Band's Peach Music Festival in Scranton, Pa. The group members will likely return to their other endeavors after that, but Gorman says that the breaks are no longer as dramatic as the Crowes' vitriolic hiatus between 2002-2005.
"The Black Crowes doesn't have to be everyone's full-time thing for it to be as good as it can possibly be," explains, Gorman, who's pursuing syndication deals for the sports radio talk show he launched in Nashville. "In fact, it's almost like we get to a point where it's like, 'Hey, this thing's so good we need to take a break,' because I think we learned form the past that usually around the band from the moment where it's really, really great is when everything really kind of falls apart. And I think going away and playing with other people for two years is the best thing for the Black Crowes; it only makes the band that much better when we do come back to it."