“All cosmic things come to pass here in CRB land,” said Chris Robinson, vocalist and guitarist of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.
The band had vehicle problems and was six hours behind schedule on its way through West Virginia to Charlotte, North Carolina, for that night’s show. Robinson was relaxed and calm, enjoying the scenery and rainy weather.
The frontman finds this peace within an unusually busy time in his career. His band tours almost constantly and has put out an album, “Anyway You Love, We Know How You Feel,” as well as an EP, “If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home By Now,” this year. But Robinson finds comfort in his place in the industry.
“We don’t really have the pressures of having commercial success or driving the commerce of a corporate situation, so that gives us the freedom to be more creative with our releases,” he said. “It’s like small-batch, steward driven. I’d like it to have a boutique quality to it.”
As frontman for the chart-topping Black Crowes, Robinson saw that more commercial side to the industry, but finds joy in his new group’s status.
“It’s cool; we don’t have any nostalgic ties or hit records that people demand to hear,” he said. “We have the freedom to be in the moment.”
The band’s also been afforded the opportunity to play in whatever styles it wants. Usually connected to the jam band scene, the group puts out long albums with a variety of genres mashed together. You’ll hear funk next to blues next to folk next to world music.
“The best part of it is, at the end of the day, rock ’n’ roll is the great mutt,” Robinson said. “It’s the bastard child …”
The ability to write that sort of music doesn’t come simply from having the commercial freedom to do so. Extensive touring and “being able to live the life” allows the band to work together, each member bringing a set of influences. For Robinson, it’s the most collaborative project he’s ever been part of, and he finds that increasing collaboration to be “beautiful.”
“It’s more representative of who I am, and where your mind and your heart and your soul meet,” he said his songwriting’s expansiveness. “That becomes your expression and that becomes where you are as an artist and, hopefully, as a person.”
But within that freedom, CRB maintains focus. Even on rare days off, Robinson gets up early to work on music for a few hours before enjoying dad time or allowing himself to be “an obsessive NBA fan.”
Robinson added, “We’re dedicated to our lives and our commitment as musicians and what that means to the Muse. That drives us more than anything else. We want this soulful experience and this dynamic experience because we connect with things like that. Not just music. We connect that way with nature, with art. We connect that way with people.”
The Brotherhood took to the mountains of Northern California to lock down its sound for this year’s releases, producing its own work for the first time. After drummer Tony Leone joined the band, the troupe decided to take a year off from recording. They chose to “hit the road to get everyone up to speed and to get our language together,” using the extra time to develop new ideas.
Robinson described the recording process, saying, “We spend all this time together; we know what we sound like. You’re not going to go to the bathroom and someone turns the guitar up. Everybody’s very adult and very easygoing, man. We’re all there just because we want it to be the best it can be while it’s happening.”
That best happens to be a varied approach, and it’s no surprise given Robinson’s broad interests. He listens to “weird private-press ’80s new age to krautrock records to bluegrass records to jazz records.” In case that’s not enough, he reads plenty, too.
“Super-deep weird, inspired science fiction stuff. I’m super interested in ancient history — archaeology, pre-Roman Britain, ancient Rome, of course, ancient Egypt — lots and lots of weird stuff. Occult science stuff,” Robinson said, explaining his reading habits.
All of these interests, along with the “Serbian mid-’60s avant-garde cinema,” the “psychic adventures” and the touring, come together in what he describes as the alchemy of rock ’n’ roll. It’s a process that Robinson’s well suited for. He’s been doing this music thing since he dropped out of school about 30 years ago, and he sounds excited by it.
“I believe truly, as someone who lives his life by creative whims, that’s the freedom to still sort of ramble around and daydream for a living,” he said.