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INTERVIEW: Ben Wells of Black Stone Cherry

Photo Cred: Mike Rodway

Cincy, are you ready to rock?

Black Stone Cherry releases their seventh studio album, The Human Condition, today on Mascot Records. A 4-piece hard rock band from just over the river in Edmonton, Kentucky, Black Stone Cherry’s raspy yet soulful vocals, strong guitar riffs, and hard hitting rhythmic drums make for the perfect blend to prove rock n roll is very much alive.

After prepping for their album release, they’re ready to hit the road (safely and responsibly) and are making a stop right here in Cincinnati on November 6th at Riverfront Live.

Ben Wells (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), took some time to to talk about the album, their upcoming socially distanced shows, and how quarantine life has been…

So, you’re releasing your new album The Human Condition a week from today!. I’m really excited because it's a really strong, hard hitting album through and through. How are you feeling gearing up for the release?
 Thank you. We’re so excited. It just feels good to have something to be excited about musically this year, you know? With the way the rest of the year went with all of our tour dates unfortunately being cancelled or postponed, we chose to still put the album out this year because we knew our fans would want it and we needed it just as bad as they did. Something to look forward to. We’re so excited.

The opening song is quite the attention getter and also really speaks to the current climate however this is a song you’ve had in your back pocket for a while. When you went to revisit it were you like WOW, the timing could not be any better?
 Oh totally. It was almost, it was really eerie. We wrote that song in 2017 and you know, it wasn’t read for that album, our last album, Family Tree. We came back to it for this one and we had to rework the music to get it up to speed to where we wanted it but looking at the lyrics, it’s like wow this is so much more prevalent this year. It’s almost like it was meant to be that the song wasn’t released in 2018. It probably would’ve been looked over but now people will pay more attention to it. I love when stuff like that happens. It’s very eerie it worked out that way.

Bouncing off of that - In a previous interview, Chris once said you guys always consider a record to be a snapshot of the band's life” and listening to more songs on the record like The Chain, it seems VERY relevant. Would you say this new record is a reflection of the bands experiences working through the pandemic and everything else going on in the world right now?
 I mean a little bit. Most of the songs were written before the pandemic. We recorded it right at the start of the pandemic in the first March. We put a lot of that emotion and, whatever we were all feeling, we put that into the recording. process. We kind of looked at each other like, well we don’t know what the rest of the year is going to look like, but now we have an album to show for it. I wouldn’t say the record is totally revolving around what’s going on right now because we definitely didn’t want to do that. We believe this is just temporary and we didn’t want to make an album that would remind us of any of it.

So, you had majority of the record done before pandemic really hit?
 Yeah, we finished recording at the end of March. Right at the beginning but before all the major shutdowns started happening.

So one song on the album took me by surprise, but in the best way. You guys cover. ELO’s Don’t Bring Me Down. What made you want to cover this one for the album?
 Well, we love Jeff Lynn and ELO. We always listen to them on the bus or hanging out. We were looking for a song for a cover. It was originally going to be a bonus track. We were looking at different ones and we listened to that one and were like, yeah of course - this is already so perfect. We didn’t want to change a lot of it. We just recorded it in a way that we would’ve written it - a little heavier. It’s just a cool song. It’s one of those songs that everybody has heard whether they know it or not and not a lot of people have covered it. We did it then once it was done and got mixed and mastered, and we were like man this is just too cool to make a bonus track so we chose to put it on the album.

In your behind the scenes video, it really showed how well you all mesh together and push each other to be the best you know you can be. With so many things at a halt and really nowhere to go, do you think you all were able to come together more than ever or were there times where you clashed a bit and needed some space?
 No, I mean we’re so used to being together all the time that it’s odd NOT being together. But when we tour, we tour a lot and we try to divide it up -Tour schedule mixed with home schedule, because we don’t want anyone to get burnt out. The 4 of us and even our crew are so close that we respect everybody's different personalities and boundaries. So, it's really a blessing that we have the tight knit group that we do because it allows us to go out and tour like we do and be together as much. Some bands can’t take it. They just want to play a show and not look at each other. I’m very thankful that’s not us.

Outside of working on the album, what have you enjoyed doing during this down time?
 Really, we’ve just been hanging out and adjusting to life at home. My wife and I have a non-profit organization called the Henry and Clark Foundation named after our two beagles that helps out animals and children that may be in less fortunate situations or foster care. So, we like doing events with that and we also started a clothing line this Summer! Something I’ve been wanting to do for a minute but being on tour I couldn't really devote much time to it. So, when I saw this year was going to be pretty chill as far as touring I was like look I’m going to use this as a silver lining and take advantage of another passion of mine. It’s called Surf Monster. My wife and I, we love tropical stuff and the beach. It’s a clothing line inspired by that. We have a lot of fun with that and it’s kept me creative and inspired.

So, you’ve already launched Surf Monster?
 We did. ---/ We launched it in August with our Summer line and we just came out with our Fall line a couple weeks ago. We’re having a good time with it. It’s really fun putting together ideas and working with great illustrators. It’s just another thing I wanted to do and i’m glad we got it off and running.

Who are some artists you’ve been jamming to recently?
 I listen to a lot of Bob Marley. My biggest inspiration is Elvis. So, my ipod goes from Elvis to Aerosmith to Bob Marley to Jimmy Buffett. But we’re really good friends with the band Sevendust and they just put out an album today and I’ve been jamming on that. I mean, I listen to so much different stuff it’s really random but the freshest thing would be the Sevendust album.

You have a show tonight right? How are you feeling?
 Yes, we do. It’s in our hometown and it’s our first one back since February.

Very excited. Very anxious. Not playing for as long as we have, you kind of have to shake the dust off a little bit. Also, tonight being in our hometown, we’ve got a lot of friends and family coming out - so it’s going to be a great time. It just feels good to have a show to look forward to.

So, you’re about to hit the road and you’ll be playing here in Cincinnati on November 7th. What are your emotions heading into a tour after months of no live music?
 Even a couple shows back is going to feel great. I’m really happy there are venues and promoters that are figuring out ways to bring live music responsibly to the public.

It’s great because we can’t just stop forever. We have to get out there and play. At this point, we will take what we can get. You know it’s really cool to see these social distanced concerts happen.

I’m curious to go to the show with the new social distancing policies in place but I think it’ll be worth it.
 I think people want it. People need entertainment so bad right now. I think they’ll sacrifice a little bit of what they’re used to go out and do something.

What’s something you missed about tour that maybe you would’ve never expected to miss?
 I guess just being in different towns every day is fun. But the main thing we have missed has been the camaraderie between the band and crew riding on the bus and doing all that. It’s something we love and enjoy and we really miss that.

At the November show, your album will officially be out - can we expect to hear a lot of the new album?Yes, we do plan on playing some new songs for sure. We’ll debut a couple songs at our show tonight and we’ll probably do 2-3, maybe more when we’re in Cincinnati because by that time the album will be out. Very excited to be adding it to the set list.

If someone only has time to listen to one song on the album, which song would you tell them to listen to?
 Ah, great question but that’s hard. I guess one of the most positive messages is Keep on Keepin’ On. That’s why we put it as the last track. I think it’s a great message to get out there. Yeah, I would probably go with that one.

Win a Pair of Tickets to Black Stone Cherry