Interview with John Fred Young from Black Stone Cherry: Soaring Higher And Higher

Kentucky rockers Black Stone Cherry have done very well for themselves in just 10 years. They have signed to Roadrunner Records, had their debut album reach 90 on the Billboard charts and had their follow up, Folklore And Superstition, reach number one on the U.K. rock charts. Led by vocalist Chris Robertson, the band members have all been friends since they were young, growing up together in Edmonton, KY. Their singles have done well in the U.S., reaching as high as 14 but with their new album, Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea, which is set for a May 31 release, they will look to climb even higher.

The band has embarked on a long tour, in which they will be opening up for Alter Bridge in America before heading over to Europe to play in festivals throughout the summer. You can catch them at the Best Buy Theater in NYC on Thursday, May 19. Drummer John Fred Young checked in with me from the biggest little city in the world, Reno, NV, for the conversation below.

When did you realize that you were going to leave Edmonton, KY and become professional rockers?

Well, we never really left; we still live there—all of us. We actually got a deal in 2005 with Roadrunner Records, and we’ve been touring ever since. This is going to be our third album coming out May 31—Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea—and we’ve just been rocking ever since—for 10 years. The band will actually have its 10th birthday on June 4 of this year. That is also Chris [Robertson], our singer’s birthday. He’ll be 26. So we’ve been doing it for a little bit now and we’re actually in Reno today playing with a band called Hinder.

We’re just having a real good time with it, man. We released our first album [Black Stone Cherry] in 2006 and that was on Roadrunner. Then our second album was in 2008. That was Folklore And Superstition, also released on Roadrunner. And we actually really tour a lot in Europe. We tour over in Belgium, Germany, France, all through the U.K., Wales and Scotland. We do a lot of touring over there and we’ll actually be back this summer. Then we go do Rock am Ring and Rock im Park in Germany. So we do quite a bit of touring over there and well we’re just excited to be back out, it’s been like a year and a half since we were on the road and we’re just out here doing it.

Do you feel like you’re becoming a worldwide rock star seeing as how your last album reached number one on the U.K. Rock list?

(Laughs). Well, I wouldn’t say rock stars. I mean, yeah, we’re out here playing and thanking God everyday that we get a chance to do it and we’re just very fortunate that our album has been so successful over there—the band as well. So yeah, it’s very different for us. I think it would be kind of funny to think that all of us would be in a band touring Europe but I think we’re all extremely proud of it. And we’re just ready to get out and do some more of it.

You’ve toured with bands such as Nickelback and Def Leppard, who would you say was your favorite band to tour with?

We have a lot of favorite bands. Definitely Def Leppard and Whitesnake have been two of the nicest just because they have such a long track record and it was really good to get out and play with those guys. They were extremely nice. The Nickelback guys were incredibly nice and extremely talented. We just play with a lot of bands, from Sevendust to Buckcherry, Black Label [Society], Staind, there’s been a lot of bands that we’ve had the honor of sharing the stage with. But as far as the mega, huge bands, it’s been incredible.

Have you ever worked with the headlining band Alter Bridge before?

No, we haven’t. We did one summer show with them at a festival in Illinois but we have not been on tour with them and this is pretty incredible for us. We’re pretty big fans of theirs. We’re definitely having a good time and we get back with them tomorrow. We had our first show with them yesterday and it was awesome.

What is your favorite venue to perform at?

I would say a lot of the ones in Europe and in the U.K. just because we’re going in playing 5,000 to 6,000 seat venues. It’s definitely nice to get in and have a big, long sound check and do all of that good stuff. But, you know, there’s so many beautiful venues, and there’s a lot of great ones here too in America. I think the coolest place we’ve played though has been some of the cruises like the ShipRocked cruises and VH1 cruises just because we’re out in the middle of nowhere on a boat. You have the ability to go to some beautiful places and drink some nice, cold beverages. Adult beverages (laughs).

Is performing in NYC really different than others cities?

Yeah, New York is a lot different than anywhere else because you have to pull your bus in and you have to dump your driver and you have to go to the venue and take your bus. I don’t even think they’re allowing buses in the city anymore, but it’s just a cluster because it’s such a pain in the ass to have to do all that (laughs). But the people of New York are great, the city itself, I love it; it’s one of my favorite cities. But it is hard on loading in and loading out, but New York is not the only place.

A lot of people don’t understand there are a lot of logistics that go along with it. Like today, our tour manager Joe [had] to fight off the army of meter maids because they were actually going to try and tow our bus off (laughs). A lot of these venues just don’t have efficient or adequate parking for buses. That’s the only complaint about touring—you just kind of run into places where you’re like “Oh man, we don’t have a place to park the bus.” But other than that, it’s all good.

What would you say you like doing more: playing live or recording music?

I like recording because obviously you’re honing in on the art you’ve been creating but, as far as playing live, I enjoy playing live better. Because the fact of the matter is that I’ll stay at home and become obese (laughs). It’s fun getting out there and touring, that’s where we excel. We’ve worked so hard at it; I think it pushes us to do better and to make a better show all the time. That’s something we’re very proud of—our live shows. I think we like it a lot—even better than recording. You got to have both but as far as live and recording, I think we’re definitely live guys.

Why did you choose the title Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea for your new album?

Actually, our guitar player, Ben [Wells], came up with that. That is an old English saying that I think a lot of the old sea pirates and seamen used back in the day when they would have to go repair part of the boat on the outside of the boat between the deck and water met and we were looking for something very unusual and unique and that was pretty unique. It’s also a metaphor for being between a rock and a hard place. And I think the album was for us trying to definitely make it here in America. It’s definitely a good metaphor for that.

Your latest album went from number 90 to 28 on the Billboard charts do you think this one will go even higher or do you guys not really pay attention to that kind of thing?

Oh no, we pay attention to it (laughs). You have to with this stuff. We hope it does well, though you can only hope and pray.

Do you have one band member in particular who writes the lyrics or is it a collective effort?

It’s a collective effort. Actually, all four of us write the lyrics and we all write the music. That’s kind of the way it’s been since we were kids so we’ve always done that.

What’s planned for you after this tour?

Man, honest to God, we’re not going to do anything except tour because we haven’t been on tour in so long that this is all I can think of (laughs).


Black Stone Cherry will be playing with Alter Bridge at the Best Buy Theater in NYC on Thursday, May 19. Their third album, Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea, will be released on May 31. For more info log on to