It’s been a bit of a year for Bristol rockers Blackwolf; what with touring, being nominated for the Classic Rock ‘Best New Band’ award, releasing their debut album … you would think that singer Scott Sharp would be above talking to a lowly blogger like me, right? Wrong. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more humble rock star and it was a real pleasure to chat with him for half an hour following a belter of a show at the Dome in London this month. Enjoy …
Blackwolf was recently nominated for Classic Rock Magazine’s ‘Best New Band’ award. How did it feel to see all of the support that you were getting?
We got a lot more support than we perhaps would have thought, really but Cadillac Three are a great band; I’m a big fan and I would love to get out on the road with them – it was well deserved. To be honest, when Classic Rock nominated us, it hit us for six. We had no idea and we were very, very chuffed, just blown away, to be honest. We’ve been together for just over two years and the support that we’ve had has been insane. We wrote the EP literally in my audition for the band and we recorded it a week later. From that we got the Union tour, then The Answer and Winger tours. One thing has kind of led into the other really, which is great. We pledged for the debut album, ‘The Hunt’ and we did that just after our first tour. It was a case of, we want to record an album, let’s just see what happens and sincerely did not expect to meet the target, but I think it took nine days and it just kept coming.
You’ve had some great, positive articles and reviews from the big magazines, Powerplay, Classic Rock etc., – do you enjoy doing press and publicity?
It’s a massively important thing because success for us is sharing what we’re doing with as many people as possible and magazines, radio stations and all the rest of it, they’re one of the prime ways (apart from live shows) to do that, so we relish it and we love talking to people. It’s all fun!
I don’t like pigeon-holing bands, but if I had to put you into a genre, I would say you fit into the Southern rock genre. Do you think it’s a genre that’s getting over-saturated?
It’s weird because everyone seems to call what we do something different, so some would say southern rock, some would say classic rock or modern hard rock. To us, it’s rock and roll and that’s what we play, how we think it should sound today and we don’t forget what’s gone before us because rock and roll has such a rich bloodline which you can’t escape and we’re by no means interested in imitating or pretending that we’re in an era that we’re not. That’s nothing against bands that do that, some bands do it amazingly, but every time we write or every time we do a show, we try and just take a step forward.
A lot of people say they hear grunge influences and that kind of stuff, which could be a little bit of me as I’m a huge Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains fan, all that kind of stuff. I’m also a fan of people like Aretha Franklin, Big Mama Thornton, and all those kinds of blues and soul singers as well. The influences do literally go from the beginning of rock and roll; Jason is very into Chuck Berry and our influences go right back to Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, all the way up to Alter Bridge, Black Stone Cherry and what’s happening now. There are all kinds of stuff in there. I tend not to listen to our stuff much because I’m a huge perfectionist and I tend to pull everything apart; it’s good when you’re writing new stuff and I do hear the odd kind of metal slant it has and that soul edge. I suppose it all kind of hovers around that blues rock and roll sound.
You’ve already mentioned your debut album, ‘The Hunt’. Was it well received?
It was, shockingly so. We got in the studio; our supporters paid for it all and got us in there and it was fantastic, in all honesty it was a real kind of intimate thing with us and the people that are following us and funding it all. We did loads of blogs and video diaries, Q&A’s, stuff like that. It was a very close relationship with the fans on that album and all we were really thinking about was making sure they were happy with it. We weren’t thinking about magazines, or about how we were going to go down live. When we released it, the magazines starting picking it up and for us it went insane because we expected it to get lost in the void as there’s so much good music out there. We’ve been very fortunate with all the support that’s come out for us.
How does your writing process work?
It’s really important for us all to be there together. Because our influences are so vast, it’s important to us that we all feed off of each other, but it will always initially start with a riff, or, like with ‘Moving Mountains’, I had a melody in my head and I whipped out my phone and recorded it. I took it to Ben, who’s like our riff-master and he just whacked something out straightaway and it fit perfectly. That was on the way to rehearsals and we just jammed it out and it came to life – that’s pretty much how it always happens. It normally ends when we’ve played it live a little bit – although we’ve recorded the album, we’re still writing the songs, they change constantly and continue to breathe.
Do you find it easy to engage with your fans? You have over 5,000 likers on Facebook and you seem to be on twitter quite a bit … are fans that have been with you since the beginning?
Yeah, there are lots, we hang out with some of them. In all honesty, I find it easy to talk to them because – and I mean this from the bottom of my heart – if it wasn’t for them, we would be five guys playing to an empty room and making stuff that nobody’s listening to, which is a bit pointless and just a bit of an ego massage.
With regard to Facebook, probably about two thousand of those people are also on my own FB account and we’ve got street teams, as well as a twitter group who spread the word for us. In Birmingham we had a lock in with fans who came and saw us and a whole heap of them followed us to Hard Rock Hell and some stayed in our caravan with us! It’s a lot of fun and they’re like family to us because that’s how much they mean to us – it might sound cheesy, but it’s crucial for us and anything we can do to encourage them to fall more in love with what we’re doing, we’ll do it. There is so much great music out there and so many great bands, that I think it’s important to make that personal connection if you can. Every show, we hang out at the merch table, whether it’s headline or support – we just want to meet as many people as possible.
But you won’t be able to do that for much longer, surely …
I don’t care, if the Gods look down on us and eventually took us to an arena or something like that, we’d still be doing it. When we stop doing that, we’ll stop playing because there’s no point. If you’re not playing your music for the people that want to listen to it, why are you doing it?
If you’re hanging out with fans all the time, do you get people coming on to you?
Sometimes, I suppose – it always freaks me out a little bit. I’m quite shy when it comes to things like that, and I’m so over-the-top focussed on the music and what I’m singing!
You mentioned earlier that you’ll be starting work on a new album soon, are there any particular producers that you have lined up or anyone that you would really like to work with?
We’ve got a small list of producers that we’re meeting in December and there are a couple of people who we would love to work with, including Toby Jepson (Little Angels) and Jeff Rose (formerly of Skindred).
Who’s the biggest pain in the arse on tour?
It’s not really someone, it’s something, i.e., tiredness. I don’t know if the other guys struggle with it, but vocally, I get tired and it’s constantly just keeping up my voice and what we’re doing. That’s probably the hardest part of touring. I’m such a perfectionist that I hate it if I can’t reach 110% on every show.
I notice that there’s no alcohol in here either …
No, the guys do drink a little bit but I don’t touch the stuff until the last date, so I’ll probably have a drink tonight but whilst we’ve got shows I won’t touch it. It messes with my vocal cords and people are coming out to pay to see us and we want to make new friends – I don’t want to let them down.
What are the best and worst things about doing this?
The best thing is looking out and seeing people, well for me anyway, and shaking their heads or grinning like a Cheshire cat. The worst thing is looking out and seeing a straight face. For me, if I see a straight face, I just want to get them smiling. I don’t want to create anything weird between me and that person, but I do kind of keep coming back to them and obsess a little bit.
I’m very much a homebody, quite a rooted person and if we go on a long tour, sometimes I get a bit homesick, but that’s nothing, really. It is something that I think about for later on, when we’re out on the road for eight, nine months at a time; we were talking to the Blues Pills and they’ve had four weeks off in the last twelve months or something insane and although we can’t wait to get to that point, and there is half of me that loves doing that, I’m a big family guy and I love being at home with my family. It’s a double edged sword because we’ll come out and meet loads of new people and I love all of them too, that’s kind of what ‘Sleepwalking’ was about.
If the world was to end here in one hour, what would you do?
That’s deep … I would go and see as many of my friends and family as possible and try and get in a show with the people that want to come and see us. If anyone out there wanted to come and spend their last few hours with us then that would be awesome!
What’s been the biggest highlight so far for the band?
It’s hard to say because every time we do something, something else happens that tops it!
A semi-serious question for you that I ask every band that I interview … given that rock is allegedly ‘dead’, where do you see the music industry as we know it heading?
I kind of get irritated when people say rock is dead, it’s absolute bullshit to be honest. I think what people are on about when they say rock is dead is that the money in rock and roll is dead. As long as people look at this type of music like that, it won’t make any money because it’s not about how much cash you’re making. When it went down that route, it was the death of that element of it, because it became about something it was never meant to be. If you go back to the original roots of rock and roll, it was deep, they played and sang about stuff that meant a lot to them. As long as bands are still doing that then rock will still be alive. People like Royal Blood, I think what they’ve done is fucking fantastic because they’ve gone out and they’ve shown that with the right support and backing and marketing plan, just two lads, they can do a lot of shit. We just need to hijack their marketing plan!
Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
We just want to share what we do with as many people as possible. Playing arenas would be fantastic, if we can do that in 5 years I would die a very happy man. Next year it would be good to get some more backing, like an agency and maybe a label. It’s very intimate the way we work; we’ve literally got a manager and an agent and then us. We have people coming out and crewing for us but it’s very small so more support in that kind of business element would be great. As we grow as a band, hopefully we’ll get bigger and the quantity of people following us will grow.
I would like to thank Scott for his time – it was awesome to chat to him and the guys in Blackwolf and it’s not very often that someone’s so happy to answer questions! If you haven’t yet bought ‘The Hunt’, you can find it on iTunes. check out the video for ‘Moving Mountains’ here – http://youtu.be/XayXsQIgImU and new single ‘Kiss The Fire’ here – http://youtu.be/M9TMwrxtkqg