"It's a lot about the systems in place in the world," Robinson explains. "The systems that have been in place as it pertains to creation of any kind. Music or books or fine arts or anything down the line have been flooded with greed and with bankers that get involve and tell artists how they can sell more if they write this way. And then basically you're just an entertainer; you let these pseudo-cynical people write these songs about jeans and Chevys and beer and whatever the hell people write about. That system being in place is constantly at odds with natural creativity. People see they can make a little bit of money, you make them a lot of money they start inserting themselves more because they want you to keep making them money. It's always been that way, but it seems more fervent than ever now."
High Water I and the Mapgie Salute, meanwhile, represent Robinson's bend towards that more organic kind of creativity. He formed the group -- which also includes keyboardist Matt Slocum and drummer Joe Magistro -- during 2016 and put it on the road last year, playing 77 shows of mostly Black Crowes favorites. An album was part of the plan from the start, according to Robinson, and the group, trimmed to a sextet for the recording, was prolific enough to record 29 songs, the rest of which will be featured on High Water II during early 2019. "We got together in Nashville in January and threw it all out there -- 'Look, let's leaving nothing off the table. If it works, great. If it doesn't, we'll put it to the side,' and that's how we did it," Robinson says. "It was kind of an experiment, and it flowed incredibly well. We wound up doing 29 songs in 21 days, two full records' worth of stuff. We're all still excited about that."
And Robinson makes no apologies if there are some sonic similarities to the Black Crowes throughout High Water I. "I write the way I write, and that's how I've always done it -- otherwise it would be insincere," he says. Musically we covered a lot of ground in the Black Crowes, but it was Chris (Robinson) and my songwriting that drove the whole thing. With (the Magpie Salute), Marc Ford wrote his own songs. John wrote his own songs. There's songs Marc wrote with John and there's a lot of songs I wrote with John. There's a familiarity to it, but there's a freshness to it, so it sounds old and new at the same time."
With High Water I out Aug. 10, the Magpie Salute is already on the road, with dates through September on its own as well as with Blackberry Smoke and as part of Gov't Mule's Dark Side of the Mule dates in August -- and more to come. The Black Crowes, meanwhile, remains nested, and Robinson says he and his brother remain distant and unlikely to overcome their differences.
"It would be cool if we could," Robinson says, "but when you're in a toxic relationship and you give it a shot, and if it's not working it's not working. And if every time you get together with people it's negative, and bad, maybe it's not working together anymore. Seeing it for what it is is kind of cool, too, to say, 'Whoa, that's not working for me. I love you, I respect you, but maybe let's give it some space.' That's kind of the best approach."
Listen to "For The Wind" below.