Chris Robinson on Black Crowes Breakup: ‘It’s Way More Complicated Than Rich’s Public Outburst’
‘It’s unfortunate that on the 25th anniversary, whether the band is working or not, that it’s not about the songs and the good times people had at those concerts.’
With the Black Crowes permanently nested, frontman Chris Robinson says his Chris Robinson Brotherhood band “is my future, you know what I mean? That’s really the only way I can put it. I think it’s been leading this way for a while that the CRB is really where we all want to be and really where we want to put our collective focus. We want to see where that continues.”
The CRB — which also includes the Crowes’ latest keyboardist, Adam MacDougall — is currently on the road and has a full touring schedule for 2015, including a trip to Australia for Bluesfest in Tygarah. The band is also planning a spring release for the second volume of its Betty’s Blend live album series. But Robinson tells Billboard he has “a heavy heart” about both the end of the Crowes 25 years after the group’s first album, Shake Your Money Maker, and the acrimonious way it came apart.
On Jan. 15, guitarist Rich Robinson, issued a public statement announcing the Crowes’ breakup, explicitly calling out his older brother for demanding a greater ownership stake in the band and for wanting to make drummer Steve Gorman, the Crowes’ third remaining founding member, into a salaried employee. Chris Robinson counters that “it’s way more complicated than Rich’s public outburst” but declines to elaborate.
“I’m going to keep my personal, private family business personal and private,” he says, “and I’ll focus on all the other things that are important. The ideas, I think, are more important than the drama. I have too much stuff going on that’s progressive and positive to dig through sordid family history and stuff. I don’t think that’s interesting at all — maybe in a tabloid kind of culture we live in, but I’ve never been part of that. I’ve never dealt with my personal, private life in a public forum, so I’m not going to drag myself though the mire now.
“The Black Crowes is so much time and it’s so complicated, and then you mix family and whatever that is into it. … To me it’s just sad and it’s disappointing and it’s unfortunate that on the 25th anniversary, whether the band is working or not, that it’s not about the songs and the good times people had at those concerts.”
Robinson says the CRB will continue to perform some Crowes material “that I’ve written and brought to the band,” as well as the Crowes’ hit version of Otis Redding‘s “Hard to Handle.” But he adds that “the CRB definitely has an identity of its own” and will focus on its own material primarily.” “I haven’t asked any Black Crowes fans to come to a CRB show to sing ‘She Talks to Angels’ to them, you know what I mean?” Robinson notes.
More new CRB music will be coming to follow last year’s Phosphorescent Harvest — but in time, Robinson says. After adding new drummer Tony Leone he says the group “kind of took a step back. We’re not going to get into the studio for a conventional studio record until next year.” Nevertheless, the group has added some new cover songs to its repertoire, and he and guitarist Neal Casal have some originals ready — one called “Roane County Banjo” — that will likely be played in concert during the year. “That gives us the impetus to work harder on getting the ideas in and getting the arrangements and the composition ready to go and [record] them,” Robinson says.
Meanwhile, May will see the release of Betty’s Blend Volume 2: The Best From the West, a double vinyl set recorded by longtime Grateful Dead taper Betty Cantor-Jackson from shows in California, Colorado and other locales. It follows the 2013 set Betty’s S.F. Blends Volume 1 from a five-night stand the previous December at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.