The bitter fall and joyous rise of The Black Crowes

(Image credit: Josh Cheuse/Press)

Chris Robinson can’t tell you the worst fight he’s ever had with his brother, Rich. Not because he doesn’t want to, more because there have been so many worst ones. 

There was the time the pair had to be pulled apart after getting into it on their tour bus before a show by their band, The Black Crowes, at Red Rocks Amphitheater. That was a big one, Chris says. It erupted after Rich knocked over a Fairport Convention box set his brother had bought, spilling CDs on the floor. 

Then there was the time before another show when Chris, drunken and drug-fuelled, went for Rich with a broken bottle. That one was over a setlist. A set-list. Or the time when the Crowes were on tour in the US with Oasis, and the Robinsons got into a bust-up so voluble and violent that the Gallagher brothers – hardly a paragon of filial harmony themselves – backed away from the dressing room door, muttering: “We’re bad, but we’re not that bad.” 

Nobody can recall what sparked them off. It’s maybe for the best. 

“We’d argue over anything. Which restaurant to go to. How to get to the restaurant,” Chris Robinson says today. “Horrible, stupid shit.” 

The weird thing is that it wasn’t a fight that finally did for the Black Crowes. It was something way less explosive: a slowly building snowball of rancour, depression, desperation and the kind of psychological warfare that only takes place between siblings.

The Black Crowes officially announced their split in 2015, although the band had effectively been over for a couple of years before that. The brothers embarked on separate careers well away from each other, but distance did nothing to dampen the animosity; each of them took turns to lob barbs at the other, their messed-up family contortions playing out in the public. 

They’d been here before, but this time the message was clear: the greatest American rock’n’roll band of the modern era was finally done. There was no coming back from this one. Except there’s no ‘finally’ any more, and for once that’s not a bad thing. 

Chris and Rich announced in November 2019 that they were reuniting the Black Crowes for a 2020 tour on which they would be playing debut album Shake Your Money Maker in its entirety. 

We’ll get to the ‘why’s and ‘how’s in due course, along with everything else that comes with it: the internecine bickering, the rivers of venom that have streamed between them, the accusations of back-stabbing and money grabbing. More importantly, we’ll get to how two warring brothers have finally reached a place of peace with each other. Because that’s really what this is all about. 

“Holy shit, there’s more going on here for me than getting a successful band back together,” says Chris. “This is so much more than just a tour. This is about me and my brother.”

The resurrection of The Black Crowes was the worst-kept secret in rock’n’roll. Former friends and associates of the brothers had revealed halfway through 2019 that a comeback was on the cards. Posters appeared in major cities featuring an amusing update of the band’s original iconography – a pair of cartoon crows – now battered and bruised like the brothers themselves. The image was as apt as it was knowing. 

The two men who built, broke up and are now remaking the band they founded in Atlanta, Georgia in 1984 couldn’t be more different from each other. Which is the story of the Black Crowes in a nutshell. 

“If Rich likes something clean, I like it being filthy,” says Chris, at home near San Francisco. “When Rich likes something organised, I’m into complete chaos.”

There’s more going on here for me than getting a successful band back together. This is about me and my brother

Chris Robinson

The singer, 53 and grizzled, describes himself as “the dyslexic, Sagittarian lead singer”. Sagittarians are restless creatures, always looking for change, rarely focusing on the moment. And that’s what it’s like talking to him. He’s voluble and revealing and warm, but off on his own path. He often finishes a sentence with a laugh but not always a point. That doesn’t mean he holds anything back – a trait that has caused more than one problem inside and outside the band over the years. 

If Chris is a pumping knee in human form, then Rich is as steady as a gunslinger’s hand. Three years younger than his brother, he’s the one who spent 30-plus years as the Crowes’ rock-solid core while his brother lived out his boho outlaw fantasies. 

“I’m more inward, there’s a pragmatism and a methodology to the way that I build things,” says Rich. He’s in Nashville, where he lives with his family, close to the brothers’ elderly mother. “Chris is outward, very romantic. He has this rose-coloured view of what things should be. There’s a way that he does his things.” 

That combustible dynamic worked for the Crowes for years. Until it didn’t.

The night Chris and Rich Robinson played together in public for the first time was on July 13, 1985. Mr Crowe’s Garden was what they called themselves back then, after children’s book Johnny Crowe’s Garden. Rich was 16 at the time and had been playing guitar for a couple of years at most. “A kid,” he says. 

Chris was 18, cocksure and full of self-righteous swagger even then. He’d applied for jobs in all the local record shops and been knocked back by them all. “None of them would hire me,” he says. “They said: ‘Dude, you’d yell at people for buying The Fixx.’” 

Music was in the genes. Stan Robinson, the family patriarch, notched up a No.83 Billboard hit in 1959 with rock’n’roll foot-tapper Boom-A-Dip-Dip. Later, Stan dismissed his eldest son’s dreams of being a rock’n’roll singer. “You can’t carry a tune from the well to the house in a bucket,” he’d told Chris. Stan passed away in 2013. 

“I love the guy dearly, I miss him all the time,” Chris says now. “But if he had been supportive, where would the traction to reach something that’s hard to obtain come from?” (Stan did come round to things when Chris played him The Black Crowes debut album, Shake Your Money Maker. “He liked it. He was proud.”) 

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Back to 1985: Mr Crowe‘s Garden owed more to the Byrds-y jangle of local Georgia heroes R.E.M. than to the Stones or the Faces or any of the other bands they would later be plagued by comparisons to. Chris loved punk rock too: Black Flag, Jodie Fosters Army, whoever passed through town. In fact he just loved rock’n’roll, whatever shape it came in. 

“Indie rock, hardcore punk, whatever was going on in Atlanta,” he says. “The crackle of the PA, goth chicks smoking cigarettes in dark clubs. It was, like, ‘I want access to this.’” They argued from the start. Classic elder brother/younger brother stuff. It became part of how they operated, and remained that way ever since. The only time they didn’t argue was when they were writing. 

“Rich and I would fight in the studio, fight on tour, we’d fight at the hotel. But we never fought when we were making new music,” says Chris. “There’s something holy about writing songs with my brother.”

Chris describes Atlanta in the early days as the “place where everybody said no to us”. But they had stubbornness on their side. The bloodymindedness that was their greatest strength as well as the source of much grief was in place early on. 

“Of course,” he snorts. “That was our right. Wasn’t that the whole point of rock’n’roll? It was the love of the freedom of our art. I remember in our little indie rock scene, I put an AC/DC patch on my jean jacket and went to the local pizza place where all the dudes hung out. People were, like: ‘What’s that?’ And I was, just: ‘Fuck you.’” 

That attitude would serve the band well when Rick Rubin, boss of their first label, Def American, told Mr Crowe’s Garden the should change their name to something that represented their Southern roots: Kobb Kounty Krows. That’s right: K.K.K. It was the dumbest idea in the history of dumb ideas, and Chris let Rubin know. 

“I went: ‘Fuck you! No way. What are you going to do? Drop us?’ Good, bad, indifferent… no one was allowed to stick their nose into something Rich and I started in our mom and dad’s house. As different as Rich and I are, we’re fucking fully connected with that attitude.” 

Rick Rubin didn’t drop them, although they did change their name to The Black Crowes. And that’s when things got interesting.

"Holy shit,” is Rich Robinson’s description of what it feels like to have your record sell three million copies in less than a year. When The Black Crowes revealed themselves to the world with debut single Jealous Again at the start of 1990, they looked like every cookie-cutter longhair band on MTV. But the song, and the album it came from, were different from all the other hair-metal stragglers at the time. This was a band steeped in the classics, long before retromania was a viable career option. 

A fast-footed cover of Otis Redding’s Hard To Handle gave the Crowes a breakthrough hit and some heavy MTV airplay. The red line on the sales graph went up and up: silver, gold, platinum, double platinum. “You’re in a tunnel,” says Rich. “Once you pop on that road, there’s no getting off.” 

We’d argue over anything. Horrible, stupid shit

Chris Robinson

Sometimes the car they were driving hit the sides of the tunnel and sparks flew. There was the time, early on, that Chris publicly called out rock’n’roll elder statesmen Aerosmith for using backing tapes after the Crowes opened for them. Not long after that, they embarked on a three-month Miller Beer-sponsored tour opening for ZZ Top, only to be booted off after 11 days for badmouthing Miller and the idea of sponsorship as a whole.

“This is live rock’n’roll being brought to you commercial-free,” he would announce, to the ire of Miller and ZZ Top’s management.

This wasn’t how baby bands were supposed to act, they’re supposed to be grateful.

“My first reaction was probably: ‘Oh, Jesus, what are you doing?’” says Rich. “But looking back, it was brilliant. It was what he believed in. It was what we believed in. No one was gonna tell us what to do, let alone some corporation we had no connection to.”

The Crowes took their share of flak too, especially from the press. “‘Rolling Stones, Rolling Stones, Rolling Stones,’” says Rich. “That was all we heard.”

It wasn’t unfair, they did sound like the Stones. And Aerosmith. And the Faces. And most other people they were being compared to. The Crowes got angry and defensive. Then they shut everybody up by making the greatest rock’n’roll record of the 90s.

The Southern Harmony And Musical Companion was written in a weekend and recorded in eight days, but sounded like it had existed since the dawn of American music. While the debut wore its influences on its flapping purple velvet sleeves, this was the work of a band constructing their own transcendent universe, one that sat apart from everything else that was going on in 1992. “By the time Southern Harmony came around, that was us,” says Rich. “That was our sound. You listen to something like Thorn In My Pride or My Morning Song, the Stones would never do that.” 

When the Black Crowes had emerged two years earlier, they were at a right angle to the hair-metal crowd. Now, with grunge in the ascendancy, they might have well existed on another plane entirely: an honest-to-God rock’n’roll band who evangelised about the transcendent power of rock’n’roll itself. 

“I believed in the poetry of rock’n’roll,” says Chris. “I believed in the passion of it. I loved the outsider culture. I don’t want to look normal, I don’t want to live normal. The books I read, the films I loved, the records we were listening to, the drugs we were taking… it all had to fall into this construct. The classic bohemian existence.” He laughs. “In my case gratuitous bohemian existence.” 

Their records were getting more and more bohemian too. 1994’s Amorica was dark and strange. 1996’s Three Snakes And One Charm was even darker and stranger. The red line on that sales graph had plateaued and was heading downwards. People missed the easy kicks of the debut album. Not Chris Robinson. 

Three Snakes is a record that I really love,” says Chris. “To me that’s the dark horse. It was a superdruggy winter we spent in Atlanta, we were in the middle of this intense lawsuit. The record we made, people felt it was too dark and sparse, so we went to LA and did all these overdubs. But there’s a lot of dark mystery in that record.”

A lot of that darkness came from the narcotics some of the Black Crowes were on. Drugs had always been part of the mix, but they had been gradually getting darker. Heroin entered the Crowes camp. 

“Some of the dudes in the band were pretty strung out,” says Chris. 

Chris was no angel on that front. He went through a time of using smack too, an extension of the lifestyle he’d thrown himself into all those years before. 

“I never used needles,” he says. “And when I would do it, all I would see were ghosts. Spiderwebs and ghosts. Heroin was never my thing.” 

His thing was cocaine and booze and pills. Partly because they were fun, but partly because there was something out of whack at a deeper level. 

“I had an amazing Harry Nilsson/John Lennon-esque few years,” he says, referring to that duo’s infamous mid-70s ‘Lost Weekend’. “But I look back and being in the band was so lonely and sad. There was never any nurturing or anything like that in that band. We just probably needed to stop and figure it out, but we never did.”

Whatever Chris Robinson was doing, Rich wasn’t. The guitarist was sober and clearheaded throughout everything. But the highs were the same – and so were the lows. There were times, he admits, when he didn’t enjoy being in the Black Crowes. 

“Only when it was miserable, which was periodically throughout our career. There’s a lot of solitude and loneliness when you’re touring and doing this thing,” he says, unconsciously echoing his brother. “And there was a lot of negative forces at work, trying to sow division. People in the band. People in management. People who told me: ‘When you and Chris get along, it really freaks us out, because we can’t stop you.’ I was told that by one of those people a couple of years ago. I was, like, ‘Wow, you worked to keep us apart as brothers. What a fucked up thing.’” 

Music was always the glue that held them together. “Musically, I never felt: ‘No, I don’t want to be in this band,’” says Rich. “We always pushed ourselves to make the records we wanted to make, without anyone telling us what to do. And we really did cover a lot of musical ground.”

Sales might have tailed off by the late 90s, but the Crowes had become something else: less the commercial powerhouse of Shake Your Money Maker, more the keepers of the flame of American rock’n’roll, one of the last bulwarks against the creeping tide of McMusic. 

Jimmy Page knew this. Page had reunited with old Zeppelin oppo Robert Plant for a couple of albums in the 90s, but their union had run its course. In need of a surrogate Zeppelin to play his old songs, Page figured the Crowes were the perfect candidates. The plan was to play 55 shows, but that didn’t happen. Page pulled out of the tour after just 11 dates. “Back problems” was the official excuse. 

“That’s what Jimmy told us,” Rich agrees. “Back problems.” It’s worth taking a brief diversion away from the main story here. Ex-Crowes drummer Steve Gorman recently claimed that Page was “insulted” after Rich snubbed his offer to write songs with the Crowes: “No thanks… we’ve got enough,” were Robinson’s alleged words. 

According to Gorman, a furious Page told the Crowes’ then-manager that he was “driving to Connecticut and I’m going to kill Rich in his home’.” Rich has heard the rumour. “Absolutely not true,” he says, halfway between amused and bemused. “I remember having conversations with Jimmy, telling him: ‘Hey, if you ever wanted to make a record or do anything, I would love to help in any way I can.’ Jimmy’s a brilliant musician, a brilliant person. I loved playing with him.” 

He points out that he and Page have jammed on stage more than once in the past two decades. And anyway, just think about it: “Jimmy Page wants to write songs for me, and I’m gonna say: “You know what, Jimmy? Led Zeppelin was alright, but I’m not gonna do it’? It’s the most absurd thing I’ve heard in my life.”

Received wisdom has it that the 2000s treated The Black Crowes badly. Much of this is down to their album Lions, a record that was poorly received when it was released in 2001. Lions is no Southern Harmony And Musical Companion, but it is a supple and funky album in the way that no Crowes record has been before or since (any album featuring the spiralling gospel mantra Soul Singing deserves revisiting). 

The next, Warpaint, was even better, a through-line back to Amorica that rewarded the band with their first US top-five album in more than 15 years. No, the only thing that treated the Black Crowes badly during that difficult decade was the Black Crowes themselves. 

Frustrated with the tension, the brothers had tried to do it alone and separately in the first half of the 2000s. With the Crowes on hiatus, Rich formed the short-lived Hookah Brown and released a solo album, Paper. Chris put out a pair of albums of his own, the soft-centred New Earth Mud and the wide-ranging This Magnificent Distance. Neither worked for either. 

“Tried it, and it was a failure,” is Chris’s assessment of his own attempt at a solo career. 

So, inevitably and with gritted teeth, they reconvened The Black Crowes. And it was with gritted teeth that they ploughed through the rest of the decade and into the 2010s. But eventually Chris ground his teeth down to the nerve endings. 

“For me, behind the scenes it had finally hit a level of: ‘I’m depressed, I’m not happy in this configuration,’” he says. “I’d had enough. I felt sort of used. We’d spent years beating ourselves into the ground chasing dollars around. By 2011 I was, like: ‘I want to start from the fucking ground up.’ And it drives people crazy, because it’s the worst business plan they’d ever heard.” 

He pauses. 

“We can talk about when I left the band, what I asked for.” What Chris reportedly asked for, after a 2013 tour, was 75 per cent of the money they made, cutting Rich down from a third to 25 per cent, and fellow original member Steve Gorman to nothing. And he’s not denying it. 

“No matter what anyone says, I’ve never been about the money,” he says. “It’s never been the main motivating factor in my life, it doesn’t rule my decision making as a person. So my thinking was: ‘If everyone wants to keep this thing going as a money trip, then give me some more money.’ I knew that would never happen, but that was the spear I had in my hand. 

“We’d never really had a chance to stop and look around and take any inventory. So for me it was like: ‘Fuck it, no one likes me, but I’m the only one who can actually make it stop right now.’” 

And that’s what happened. The Black Crowes stopped, even if the arguments and aggro didn’t.

A press release announced the band’s split in 2015, although the Robinson brothers hadn’t spoken a word to each other for close to two years before that. And they wouldn’t speak another word to each other for another four. 

Chris had formed a new group while the Crowes were still active. The Chris Robinson Brotherhood allowed him to indulge his Grateful Dead fantasies. “It was the local band I’d always dreamed of having, but never got the chance cos it all happened so quickly,” he says. The name was a pointed dig at his strained relationships with Rich. 

“I was being a dick,” he admits of the latter. Tellingly, he refused to play any Black Crowes songs, drawing a line under his own past. Nor, he says, did he ever tell anyone to do anything in the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. 

“That band made all the records we made, we played over a thousand shows, and I never said: ‘Don’t do that’, or ‘Play this.’ Whereas when we’d started The Black Crowes, that was my job: ‘Hey man, you’re not doing that right’, or ‘It goes like this…’” 

For Rich’s part, he was happy the grief was over. The guitarist had revived his own solo career presplit. Over the next few years he released a string of creditable solo albums. In 2015 he formed The Magpie Salute with a mix-’n’-match assortment of ex-Crowes. The Magpie Salute echoed his old band, from the corvid-inspired name down. It was his own fuck-you to his brother. 

It didn’t go unnoticed by Chris. Interviews with the elder Robinson were punctuated by subtle and not so subtle barbs. He called The Magpie Salute “a Black Crowes tribute band”, and piled on the personal venom: “Let’s get this straight. I don’t like my brother, I don’t get along with him, I don’t want to be in a room with him.” 

“I won’t say it didn’t bum me out, but I didn’t take it so personally,” says Rich. 

Anyway, he was more than capable of returning the volleys. “He pretends to be this peace-loving hippie that doesn’t care about money, while trying to take everyone’s money,” he told Rolling Stone, and called the Chris Robinson Brotherhood “a half-assed jam band playing watered-down Grateful Dead music”. 

“Of course I said some things to get under his skin,” Rich says now. The fraternal soap opera didn’t stop the reunion offers coming in. “There was always money on the table,” says Chris. “A year wouldn’t come around where someone didn’t say: ‘Hey, if you and your brother want to get the band back together…’” 

Rich: “People randomly called each of us, and said: ‘I got an idea.’ And we were, like: ‘That’s not going to happen.’ We were dug in and doing our own thing.”

Several things happened to Rich and Chris while they were estranged that would eventually help bring them back together. In Rich’s case it partly entailed moving to Nashville to look after the brothers’ mother, Nancy, something that reminded him how important family was. It was also about gaining a new perspective on life in a band – specifically, a band without Chris. 

“The Magpie Salute had our own struggles, just like every band does,” he says. “It allowed me to see the band dynamics, and how it all shifts. And it made me realise: ‘Okay, it’s not all just Chris being a dick, it’s me too’, my role in creating this dynamic that was intense and powerful and negative too. I wish I could have called Chris and gone: ‘Now I understand why you got so frustrated sometimes.’” 

At the same time, Chris was following his own path to realisation. Today he puts the self-sabotage that resulted in the end of the band he had co-founded down to a collision of unhappy factors. “I was in a failed marriage, I was hurt, I was depressed,” he says. “It was tough, man.” 

Therapy helped undo the knot of emotions. “Eight, nine years now,” he says. “Rock’n’roll can be a mean scene, and when you’re young you have to be cut-throat. I had to let down my shield.” 

That shield started to lower in 2018, when he formed As The Crow Flies, essentially a Black Crowes covers band fronted by the singer from The Black Crowes. 

“I’d been out in the wilderness in this super-DIY, hippie, psychedelic-driven scene, but I was getting back into my rock roots,” he says. “As The Crow Flies was enjoyable. It was, like: ‘Oh my god, this is fun and loud and good. I like dancing on stage. I like this person again.’” 

The brothers had a mutual friend named Greg, who had worked for the Crowes at various points. In the spring of 2019, Chris called Greg to talk about how he’d been playing old Black Crowes songs, and how it had made him miss Rich. 

Around the same time, Greg got a call from Rich. “Shit, it’s been difficult out here, I’ve been busting ass,” Rich told him. “I wish Chris and I could put it aside and get it together again. Man, it would be so much fun to have this joyous thing we can celebrate.” Greg did the only thing that needed doing: he passed on the message.

Chris and Rich Robinson met for the first time in six years over breakfast at LA’s Chateau Marmont hotel in the early summer of 2019. They’d reconnected on the phone before that, just to make sure this wasn’t going to go horribly wrong. They brought their kids along, too, partly because kids are a leveller and partly because some of the younger cousins hadn’t actually met each other. 

“They’re like: ‘Holy shit, we’re having breakfast with uncle Rich and my cousins. This has never happened in our lives,’” says Chris. “Shit like that will open your heart.” 

The conversation was gentle. They talked about music and family. Rich told Chris about how their mom was doing. Chris told Rich about his new girlfriend. They didn’t prod the hornet’s nest that was their fractious relationship. 

“Sometimes you ignore the shit that happens, you don’t even talk about it,” says Rich. “There was a little bit of that.” 

We always pushed ourselves to make the records we wanted to make, without anyone telling us what to do

Rich Robinson

That breakfast turned into another meal a few weeks later, which turned into just generally hanging out. It didn’t just feel like the drama of the past 10 years had evaporated, it felt like the drama of the past 30 years had evaporated.

“I apologised to Rich for what I said,” says Chris. “I loved the Black Crowes. Rich and I wrote the songs, but I was the one who was, like: ‘Let’s get in a band.’ It all came from a place of hurt, totally.”

The brothers say they knew pretty soon that they were going to get back together as The Black Crowes. Chris says his newfound romantic happiness was a major factor in his decision.

“My girlfriend – she’ll soon be my wife – I don’t think I made the decision to get back in the Black Crowes without her positive influence,” he says. “Challenging me to get into a new head space and put my money where my mouth is.”

There was one final thing that convinced him it was the right decision. In August 2019, Chris Robinson Brotherhood guitarist and longtime friend Neal Casal committed suicide.

“Even though I knew Rich and I were going to get back together, there was a finality to it,” says the singer, sounding subdued for the first time. “Like: ‘I guess I really know that I have to do something else.’ After an event like that, I’ll never say a bad word about my experiences in the Black Crowes again.”

On Monday, November 11, 2019, Chris and Rich Robinson took to the stage at New York’s Bowery Ballroom. With the rest of the band they ran through Shake Your Money Maker’s 10 songs, although not in the original order, and tagged on a heartfelt cover of the Rolling Stones’ It’s Only Rock’N’Roll (But I Like It) as encore. 

It was the first time they had played together as The Black Crowes – or anything else – in six years, and official confirmation that the brothers were back in business together. But, tellingly, it was only the Robinsons. Sceptics zoomed in on the fact that the new line-up included not even one other musician who has played in The Black Crowes before. 

Instead it was made up of members of psych-metallers Earthless (guitarist Isaiah Mitchell), David Bowie’s Blackstar band (bassist Tim Lefebvre) and weird-beards Once & Future Band (drummer Raj Ojha and keyboard player Joel Robinow). 

There was a deliberate and logical reason for this, say both brothers, one that makes sense given the unexploded landmines buried deep within their relationship. 

“It was the first thing on the table,” says Chris. “Rich and I agreed on it. We just want to start with a clean slate. I’m not putting the blame on anyone else, I’m responsible for my own negative interactions with the rest of the band. But we didn’t want to trigger anything. One little thing, and you’re back to fighting on the bus in 2006, you know what I mean?” 

They have a similarly watertight response to accusations that this reunion tour and the whole playing-your-debut-album-in-full thing is either a nostalgia trip or a cynical cash grab. Or both.

“If it was just about money, we’d have done it years ago when people were calling and saying: ‘There’s a lot of money on the table’,” says Rich. “I’m far more interested in having a relationship with my brother again.” 

As for nostalgia, he points out that they never got to play the album in full first time around. They’d already moved on to something else by the time it was released. 

“It’s almost like we’re doing it for the first time. When we first did it, we were just hanging on to the reins and it took us where it took us. Now, we’ve got the chance to go: ‘Well, how would we do it if we were to do it again.’ And this is how we’re gonna do it.”

Some things in the world of The Black Crowes never change. At the point at which we speak, in mid-December 2019, the band had rehearsed maybe four times. 

“Every band, given this thing in front of them, would have been in the rehearsal hall for weeks and weeks,” says Chris. “We don’t need to be in there for weeks and weeks. Let’s just get it together where it’s good. Let the energy bubble.” 

But then plenty of things have changed. Or at least been reinvigorated. Both insist they haven’t had a single argument since they reconnected almost a year ago. 

“Rich and I have been so busy hating each other that we forgot what it was like not to,” says Chris. “But what a cool thing. You turn your back on something and walk away from it for years and years and years, and you come back with all these experiences and heartache and joy. I’m not lost, I’m not dealing with any of the things that upset and hurt me: friendships, money, egos, bands, wives, relationships… all of that shit.” 

There are still important questions to deal with, ones that the brothers have asked themselves. Chief among these is: how do they avoid falling into the old traps? 

“I dunno,” says Rich, laughing. Then he’s serious. “Ultimately, it takes discipline and understanding. And I have to look at what triggers me and I have to look at my reaction. And I can’t go down that road of being triggered. Because that’s all there is. So what I’m going to do is just try and stay as disciplined as I can and try not to be reactionary and fall into the same old patterns. And that’s all I can do.” 

And how’s that working out for you? 

“It’s been great,” he says. And it sounds like it has.

The Black Crowes’ Shake Your Money Maker tour takes to the wing on June 17 in Austin, Texas – COVID-19 permitting – and the US leg finishes two months and 45 shows later in Los Angeles. And after that the Crowes are set to land in the UK for a string of dates in October. 

As for a new album, there are no plans at the moment, but it certainly isn’t off the cards. “I have a bunch of stuff,” Rich says of a stockpile of songs he’s written and is sitting on. “But we want to make sure we do this properly. We want to make sure we can do this before we get into a studio and make a record. That would be cool, but right now this is what we’re focused on.” 

Do they want to make a new Crowes album? 

“I don’t know,” Chris says. “Yeah. Maybe. I definitely think Rich and I will write songs together in our future. I don’t know how, when and where. But if Rich has songs, I’m down to hear them and do what I do. But I don’t think we can do that until we see how this goes.” ‘How this goes’ is the million-dollar question. 

Given The Black Crowes’ explosive history, no one would be surprised if it fell apart some time between now and the end of the tour. But the way Chris and Rich see it, in their own typically hippie fashion, all the turmoil and turbulence of the past four decades happened for a reason. 

“All of that got us to this point,” says Rich. “All of it added to who we are. Life is a journey. Life is learning. If everything’s great, you’re not gonna learn much.” 

“Where’s the lessons,” his brother adds. “Adversity is the thing that makes us. The Black Crowes is a unique thing.”

The Black Crowes are scheduled to tour the UK in October. Tickets are available from LiveNation.

Dave Everley

Dave Everley has been writing about and occasionally humming along to music since the early 90s. During that time, he has been Deputy Editor on Kerrang! and Classic Rock, Associate Editor on Q magazine and staff writer/tea boy on Raw, not necessarily in that order. He has written for Metal Hammer, Louder, Prog, the Observer, Select, Mojo, the Evening Standard and the totally legendary Ultrakill. He is still waiting for Billy Gibbons to send him a bottle of hot sauce he was promised several years ago.