Although his band’s eponymous name might imply a strong-handed leader, Chris Robinson insists the Chris Robinson Brotherhood is a free place where everyone is on the same page.
“I never told anyone what to play on these albums. It’s the culture of the band and it’s working,” Robinson said in an interview with Charleston Scene.
He describes the resulting music from the collaborative situation as more expansive.
“We take a lot of time crafting the songs,” he said. “The aim is to make something soulful and beautiful with a transcendental vibe and harmony at the forefront. The total focus is on the music.”
With this sharing attitude, Robinson stayed out of the production of the band’s two recently released albums, “Big Moon Ritual” and “The Magic Door.”
“I asked myself what my place is there and how do I add to the conversation,” he said.
Robinson feels the biggest insight from producing other musician’s music — four albums over the past four years — was for him not to put that hat on this time.
“I knew the material was strong going into the sessions. I didn’t want to make those decisions,” Robinson said.
Robinson stressed the benefits of previous success: “Freedom is the true watermark of success, and I’m blessed and humbled with what the Black Crowes accomplished.”
The singer emphasized there is no pressure now for commercial success.
“We’re not going to make four-minute songs to try to gain radio play nor sit with record executives telling us what will sell,” Robinson said. “You have to know who you are and what you’re doing, and it is just as important to know who you don’t want to be as much as who you do want to be.”
Likewise, Robinson states a lack of desire to please critics.
“They listen two times, form an opinion and move on to the next one. We have to live with the songs forever,” he said.
Admitting the music CRB (as the band’s name is written on its albums) makes is not very commercial, Robinson said he sees today’s radio as a dispenser of bubble gum, but, “There are music connoisseurs, too.”
The first album contains no song shorter than seven minutes, with the second release including a song lasting an Allman Brothers-like 14 minutes.
Robinson laments much of the music today as “Press the record button and everyone is in (the key of) G.”
“We don’t live in those constraints, though we have to be more creative than before,” Robinson said.
Given the liberty of being on its own record label and avoidance of corporate involvement, the band takes a decidedly blue-collar approach while touring. Robinson relates that the band loads its own gear and shuns other niceties.
CRB’s shows are three hours with two sets and an hour and a half of sound check.
“It takes a lot of elbow grease, and every day is a new page. We love it,” Robinson said.
The Chris Robinson Brotherhood is not his first venture from the Black Crowes. New Earth Mud released albums in 2002 and 2004.
“I was very lucky to have friends and talent in the group, but we were working in the old format, the system of the Black Crowes. There were strong songs and moments, but it doesn’t sound complete,” Robinson said. “CRB is a band and we’re on the road and loving it. Everyone is building this.”
The group will be playing at The Pour House for three nights, and sets will differ greatly, including some cover songs.
The band plays an eclectic mix from The Grateful Dead to The Everly Brothers, Willy Dixon to Fats Domino and many others.
“We don’t rock, we swing, and lots of tunes fit,” Robinson laughed. “Our stance on covers is can we bring something to the table no matter the genre or origin of the song? We really have to be there and find our own take on the song.”
Although it has released two albums within the past five months, the band has started playing four new songs and has six others ready.
As with the two recent albums, CRB is playing new songs live before recording them.
“It’s like we have a shiny new toy. We’re ready to play them live now, and we plan on going back into the studio in January,” Robinson said.
Robinson describes the band as built for multiple nights.
“Each night will be a unique freaky night. Even when we play the same song, it is different each time. We want an intimate connection with our audience on a nightly basis,” he said.