Blackberry Smoke are on the crest of a wave, and guitarist Paul Jackson took some time out to talk to us at Download before heading off onto the Main Stage.
Download Festival then… here we are, what does it mean to you?
Ah, it’s one on my bucket list, I can tell you that! It’s just incredible to be here. Dude, it’s insane, I mean I first heard of it as Donington and Monsters of Rock. So since I was a kid I always wanted to play here, and I cant believe I am standing here right now. I’m trippin’ out!
Is it known about that much then, over in the States>
Oh yeah! Especially with all the harder music, and rock and roll in general. A lot of people know it.
We seem to be seeing such a revival in “classic rock” with bands like yourselves, why do you think that is?
I honestly have no idea! (laughing) We never really thought about that. I mean I think just listening to older records, whether it be on CD or vinyl, people just connect with it. Whether it’s our kind of vibe I don’t know. People are just taking a liking to it all again! And I’m glad! I mean, we never assumed we’d be bringing this back to people’s ears, but they like it!
How do you find the UK audiences compared to audiences elsewhere?
Man, I’ll tell you what, we’ve said it a like million times, the people over here… they listen, they know. I mean say I’m up there and I’m playing, and I miss a little bit (laughing)… they know! They know exactly where it is! It’s the same good vibe and partying and stuff like that, but over here they just seem to pay alot more attention to it.
What about yourself, who was it that made you pick up the guitar?
Well, to be honest with you, I saw Mötley Crüe as my first concert in ’85, and Nikki Sixx… I just wanted to be a musician immediately, you know, after that first concert. I mean, my biological father was a guitar player, my grandfather was, and I just picked a guitar up a week after I saw that show and just went after it. I’ve been doing it ever since (laughing).
Has it been everything you ever dreamed of, have you got the best job in the world?
I do, I do! I get to hang around with a good bunch of cats, you know good guys, everything is so cool.
Do you have to pinch yourself, or do you get star struck?
Yeah, I do sometimes (laughing). Well, you know, we hung out with Slash before, and ZZ Top, we’re going back out on the road with them mid Summer, and just having those three dudes know your name, you know; “Hey Paul”, it just freaks me out! But it’s really cool man.
Do you ever feel intimidated, you know, with the likes of Slash…
You know, no, because, like Slash, I just know he could run circles around me, so I dont even worry about it (laughing)
So, lets talk about Holding All The Roses
Did you feel any pressure after the succcess of Whippoorwill
We didn’t. We just went in and recorded that record, in say a total of ten days to be safe. You know, we just went in and did it. I had a blast doing this record too, it was so much fun. We all sat in a room together, played the tracks and BOOM. Charlie did some of the vocals there, and kept a couple of the scratch vocals he liked, so he kept those. Then he and I went out to L.A. with Brendan O’Brien. Brendan produced it. And we went out there and laid the vocals and the harmony vocals… a few guitar parts here and there, and it was done!
Do you thinks that’s what works, with it being rawer, more organic…
Oh, yeah, definitely, I think you’re right about that…
I’m not sure I comprehend these bands that take years and years to do an album… does that kill it?
Dude, I believe so. For me, I just don’t understand how someone who goes in to make a record, and takes six, seven months… a year or so. It blows my mind. I mean they may not have the tunes when they go in, and they write when they are in there to get away from everybody. But for us, Charlie already pretty much has the songs written you know, and we just put our own salt and pepper on them, and just knock ’em out.
With it all coming from Charlie, does he have to pitch it to you, or does it come out from a jam?
No, we jam on it on stage, or in rehearsals sometimes, and then he’ll take it home, and he’ll finish it. Or he’ll jut write it completely new. I’ll look in my email when I’m home, which is very rare, and there’ll be a new song, and I’m like, “I love that”. He has a certain chair at his house that he sits down and chills in and works things out…
So he’s got the writing chair…
Yeah (laughing), he’s got it. But it’s always fun to get songs from him, you know …
Has he ever done something, that you just go … “nah”, or would you guys not tell him (laughing) ?
No (laughing), you know what, we all kind of think alike, and if we are jamming on something and someone will go “nah”, and we’ll all be like, “yeah, you’re right”. Something may not be working. But I just love his writing.
What about Brendan, how much input did he have?
Oh man, he’s a guitar player, he’s an all round musician. I thought I’d be intimidated with him, but it’s comforting in knowing that a guy like him, he plays, and he’s a bad ass. It’s awesome to know that he’s there all the time and he’s got your back. He never told us what to play, he just let us go. Amp-wise, we used a bunch of his amps, because he has the best amps ever(laughing)…
You try and take some away with you?
(laughing) I really did try! He’s like “that’s not going anywhere, it’s staying with me!”, “Uhhh, no, you don’t need it”(laughing)…
Brilliant! So what’s next for Blackberry Smoke, you’re saying you’re off back out with ZZ Top?
Yeah, we go back home, do a few dates, then go out with ZZ Top, and we come back here from October. Mid October, to mid November, then we go back home again, do a few sporadic dates, and then we can finally… hopefully… relax a little in December!
Is it hard coming off tour?
Going home? It’s kind of like being on tour, at my house! I can tell you that… I mean kids, cats, dogs, I don’t get to rest. I sleep on the bus! But it’s nice to be home with the family, you know “Daddy needs a break”. I’ll just stick a video game on and leave them stuck to the TV (laughing)
Are the kids guitarists… are they going to be musicians?
My oldest son has already picked up the guitar, and he loves it. He’s 11, and Charlie’s son, he’s picked up the guitar and he’s 18, and he’s pretty good. He play’s a lot of metal…
So they’re not just ripping off your stuff
No, no, Christian, that’s Charlie’s son, he’s a good shredder man, he’s awesome.
Cool, well I’ll leave that there.
Cool man, really appreciate it.
Been an absolute pleasure, and I’m really looking forard to your set
Thanks man, been great, and me too.
Photo Credit Justine Trickett/Download 2015