A Conversation with Black Stone Cherry Bassist Jon Lawhon

 Kentucky’s own Black Stone Cherry is about to release their 7th full-length record called The Human Condition.  This record could arguably be the best work the band has done and is sure to find its way to many year-end “best of” lists.  Bassist Jon Lawhon took some time to talk about the record, their upcoming live stream, and much more!

Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws conversation with Jon Lawhon:

On whether the Black to Blues Eps serve as inspiration or a palate cleanser – Honestly, a little bit of both. Because the blues covers that we do, I mean, while Family Tree was a little bit more lined up with that kind of stuff, you have to kind of look at the lineage of it. We did the Kentucky record, which is the first self-produced album that we did, it had a whole lot of that roots-rock stuff in it, but it still had that little bit of, like, a metal edge hard rock front. Then we did the blues ep and when we did that it really just rejuvenated our spirits. So it made perfect sense that we came after that blues ep, the first one, with the Family Tree record, super rootsy, deep into the blues-rock world, stretching our legs out and all the jam band kind of vibe and all that. And then we did Black to Blues 2. I guess the first one was kind of like a return to roots, get game face on for the next album, and the second one was kind of like a palate  cleanse. I guess it’s kinda a little bit of both on both of those. :58
On the band’s approach to recording The Human Condition I think when we did this record, we were very focused on making sure, sonically, it just annihilated anything that we had ever done before. Not to take anything away from all the past records that we’ve done. But we wanted to make sure that first and foremost and I, especially because I own the studio that we recorded it at, I wanted to make sure, the band did, my head engineer, my second engineer, we all focused on making sure that it was undeniably a monster sounding album. That was first and foremost. For the first four or five days when we first started this process, we went through three or four different drum kits and seven different ways of micing each of them, recorded 20 minutes of each, and step back and listen to all these different drum sounds that we had invented and then kind of piece it all together into what we ended up using. Once we had that set up together, then it was on into tracking drums. So we were tracking like DI sounds on guitars and bass just to get the rudimentary layout of the song together. And then we fed that back to John Fred (Young) in headphones so the three of us could stand there without having to focus on playing music. First time we’ve ever done this process like this before, ever. We weren’t worried about playing our parts or following the arrangement. All we were worried about at that point, because we’ve already laid these really strong scratch tracks down, was paying attention to John Fred. Making sure that every kick drum pattern, every symbol whip, every crash, every snare drum fit the song, not just the moment. So it was the first time we were ever able to truly top to bottom produce the entire album. 2:30
“In Love With The Pain”
On the origin of the songs – The bizarre thing to me is how perfectly all these songs fit the world that we live in right now when half of them were written 20 years ago, 16 years ago, 12 years ago, five years ago, and so on. We wrote a lot of the songs that are on this new record years ago. It’s stuff that our record label moronically looked over not for lack of better term. They just looked over it. I don’t understand why, they just did.  At this point now, though, seeing them all together, I understand perfectly why they overlooked them. The songs would not have worked for the albums that we had them written specifically for. They work perfectly together in this collection because when you listen, I feel like this is…since Folklore, Folklore read like a book. When you listen to the first track on Folklore, you could listen to that entire album until the very end, and you felt like you were going on a musical journey. That record is the closest thing to a concept album we’ve ever done. Once we did this one, we’re we kind of returned to that which I love, because it’s a non-stop journey. When you start listening, starting with “Ringing in my Head” on through for the entire thing and it’s so much cooler, though, because it does fit today so well that people can really immerse themselves in it. Because a lot of the emotions that it’s conveying or emotions that we’re all experiencing right now 5:55
On the effect of the pandemic on plans for the record – Originally it was supposed to come out, I want to say, late August, if I remember correctly, then we pushed it back, the label management wanted to put you back or whatever. But they weren’t really pushing it back necessarily due to the pandemic. They were pushing it back due to the lead time. They wanted to have extra time to work on the marketing essentials and all that stuff, so that was cool. And the band, I mean, the four of us kind of went back and forth as to what we were gonna do in regards to the way the world is and touring and everything else, because, I mean, as it stands right now, our record comes out the 30th of October. The music business as a whole is not expecting to get back to normal until about a year from now, and that’s given states and countries and all that stuff relax and allow shows to happen. It all depends on that. They say it’s dependent or contingent upon a vaccine, or faster, more efficient testing. things like that. Personally, I mean, I’m just one guy, I just feel like,  we’ve got the flu for years, and it’s more deadly than this. So, the problem with this is the incubation period is so long you don’t know how many people you could possibly infect in that time. I get that, and that’s terrible. And I hate the fact that a lost life is a lost life, and it’s awful, but you know me personally, I’m just not gonna sit at home and watch the world around me go to hell when I’ve got stuff to do, I got people to see. 11:49
“Ringing In My Head”
On the band’s political views – We try our absolute best to stay non-political. We of course all have our political views. Every person in the world does. I’ll be honest with you. As of right now, this is the first time, and I’m not gonna tell you which way or the other I won’t, but this is the first time in the band’s career that we’ve all been on the same page is as to who we feel should be voted for. First time in our career. It’s never been like I’m gonna beat you up if you like this guy and I like this, we’re not like that. Neither one of us are far left or far right. We’re all kind of like, more centralized. We’re close to that line. We’re more independent than anything. A lot of the songs that we released over the years have had political-like underlying statements and messages with military and all kinds of stuff. I mean, “Lonely Train”, our first single, that’s about war. “Long Sleeves”,  there’s another one about war. We’ve had several songs like that,  “Peace is Free” is a general message to the globe not saying that freedom is free because it’s not freedom has fought and died for, but the possibility of peace being freely given and accepted globally is not a far fetched idea, is the whole point of writing that song. If everybody would just basically shut up, mind their own business, and appreciate the other person that they’re standing next to’s opinion, then everything will be fine. Simple. It’s the same thing with the political climate that we’re living in right now with Trump and Biden. Just appreciate the other person’s viewpoint and discuss. Discuss all you want for sure you might be able to teach somebody something or you yourself might be able to learn something.14:00
On the band’s upcoming live stream – Let’s clear this first…we live in Kentucky. We’re a little backwoods here. We don’t have the world’s fastest Internet available to us. So to avoid the possibility of the live stream going down and a lot of people being upset that midstream it shut off, something like that. We went in and pre-recorded and pre-shot an hour and 20-some minute, I believe, performance. We went to SKYPAC in Bowling Green. SKYPAC stands for Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center. It’s a big, really beautiful theater. A modern theater so it’s got, like acoustical baffling and things like that all over the place. We set up very oddly. We set up in a circle instead of facing out towards where the crowd would be. We set up to where we could feed off of each other. Because without the crowd, we have had something to feed off. Right? so we faced each other and we put some really cool can lights behind us and all that kept the lighting package real simple but straightforward and rock and roll and just went in, and for the first time, I did the math the day of the show. For the first time in 242 days, Black Stone Cherry reunites to play an actual live performance. The last performance we played before that one was PBR. Professional Bull Riders, have kind of made us their flagship band. We recorded their theme song and all that for them, and they use it for their TV commercials and radio ads and all that stuff. But occasionally they’ll have us do kind of like they’re half time performance. They had us play at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington,  on February the 15th. And that was the last time the four of us stood on the stage together until last Wednesday. It did feel good, but I’ll tell you right now, the rehearsal that happened the day before that we all realized very quickly that we need to practice more. We had to get those chops back before we did that performance. 17:40
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