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Although his name is an unmistakable part of the band's moniker, Chris Robinson doesn't see himself as the leader of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. "I'm like the guy who says, ‘Hey, let’s go over here,' or 'Hey, why don't we try this?'" he explains. "But if everybody is in tune with one another and is communicating well, I don’t really have to tell anybody what to do or what to play. The kind of musical expression we’re after is something I want us all to find collectively."
As the five-piece group (which also includes guitarist Neal Casal, keyboardist Adam MacDougall, drummer George Sluppick and bassist Mark Dutton) prepares to release their third studio album, Phosphorescent Harvest, on April 29, Robinson sat down with MusicRadar to talk about how the CRB operates, his expanding role as a guitarist, how old-school prog fits in the mix and when he might reunite with his brother Rich Robinson in the Black Crowes.
The Black Crowes have been together for so long, so I imagine there’s a feeling of novelty for you with the CRB. Are you still in the honeymoon phase with these guys?
“You know, we’re all a little long in the tooth. [Laughs] It’s not that this band is a trophy wife or anything like that, though. Like anything, time dictates another circumstance to deal with. I look at it as being a blessed event. After you’ve been doing this for so long, there’s this other thing, you know? So much of it is luck. There’s so many talented people who didn’t get to have this life. It’s tough, too. It’s a hard commitment. I’m never not humble that I get to do this, that I get recognition. I mean, who falls into this at this point in their life?
“And then there’s my relationship with Neal Casal. He’s always been a great guitarist, but in these last three years he’s becoming a more renowned guitarist. His guitar playing is becoming deeper and more dynamic, more expressive. Adam MacDougall, who is an amazing keyboardist, and whom I asked to be in the Black Crowes, now he has his own voice in this band.
“We’re free to do this band the way we want. I love that. We’re doing this on our own, and we have the poetic license to already call it a victory. We’re free. We don’t have to operate with any corporate mandate or profit-margin loss – whatever the fuck that language is. [Laughs] We can say yes to what we want, no to what we want. We know our music isn’t going to be played on radio stations or TV, so why should we not be as expressive as we can? That’s why our songs are eight minutes, or when we play live they’re 20 minutes. This isn’t for the John Mayer fans. If that’s what you’re into, this is not gonna be your trip.” [Laughs]