The name Blackfoot should be no stranger to any fan of Hard Rock or Southern Rock, but this trailblazing '70s/'80s band has been somewhat quiet and shrouded in controversy for the last 15 or so years. With founder Rickey Medlocke joining Lynyrd Skynyrd full-time in the late 1990s, the band was left to their own devices, with a myriad of line-up changes taking effect over the years seeming to cloud their once legendary status. Cut to a few short years ago, when Medlocke decided to once again attempt to bring order to the Blackfoot camp, hiring a brand new set of young guns to pick up the mantle and take the band into a new era of Southern Rock greatness. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo caught up with guitarists/vocalist Tim Rossi to talk about the brand new line-up, the hot new album Southern Native, the current tour, and what the future holds for the band known as Blackfoot.
SoT: Blackfoot has a long and storied career that has cemented them as one of the most beloved Southern rock bands of all time. Most folks might be a little fuzzy on the recent history of the band-can you give some insight into what has gone on since Rickey Medlocke left to join Lynyrd Skynyrd in the late '90s, to the various line-ups that appeared later, to Rickey deciding to put it all back to together with a new, fresh line-up that will take the band into the future?
Tim: After Rickey rejoined Lynyrd Skynyrd in 96' he let Jakson, Greg and Charlie use the name to go out and play. Which they did. Sadly, in 2005 Jakson passed away from an aneurysm and after a period of mourning the band regrouped and over the years continued performing with different lineups, and Greg being the linchpin. Fast forward to 2012 and Rickey had the idea to form an all new young lineup of Blackfoot. That's where we came in.
SoT: Southern Native is a very strong, modern Southern rock album that occasionally dips into the '70s/'80s glory years, but also accessible enough for today's hard rock fan, as well as some crossover flavors. How much influence did Medlocke bring to the table, and what was the writing & recording process like putting it all together?
Tim: Rickey brought a lot to the table. Not only producing but also co-writing most of the songs and suggesting 2 of the cover songs that we recorded. Not to mention bringing Kid Rock co-writer and guitarist Marlon Young's song "take me home" to our attention. He also played rhythm guitar, slide guitar, lead guitar and sang harmony vocals on various songs. Besides all that, the recording process with Rickey was great because he always encouraged us to be ourselves and play what came instinctively to us. And occasionally when we needed direction or ideas he was always there with an abundance of both.
SoT: Obviously there are going to be some skeptics who are going to have a hard time with Blackfoot with no original members, but the music more than lives up to the name. How is the band handling that criticism, and what's driving you all going forward?
Tim: We handle the criticism pretty well. Everybody is entitled to their opinion and we respect that. We just use any negative criticism we get as fuel to push us forward. Just the same way that we use all the positive feedback to fuel the battle to carry on the legacy of Blackfoot and keep southern rock alive and moving forward into the future.
SoT: Music that crosses the line between rock & roll and country is obviously pretty hot right now, and Southern Native has some elements that should fit in with that crowd. What does the band think about the whole Southern rock/country/pop movement that seems to be all the rage these days?
Tim: There's a lot of really great bands out there playing that genre now. We love bands like Blackberry Smoke and Black Stone Cherry and are honored to be in the same group as such talented guys as that, helping to lead the charge in the new southern rock movement.
SoT: Blackfoot are set to head out on the road-what do you expect as far as turnout on this tour, and do you anticipate a lot of older fans or young ones as well?
Tim: Actually it's been an interesting blend of both. And fortunately the reception has been really good. We're winning over most of the old school fans and making new fans out of the young people that don't know the history of Blackfoot.
SoT: Setlist time...can fans expect a lot of old Blackfoot favorites as well as some newer songs from the Southern Native album?
Tim: Yes. Exactly! The vast majority of the set is the classic songs that everyone loves from the original lineup. Predominantly from what many European fans call "the animal trilogy". Which are the albums "Strikes", "Tomcattin'" and "Marauder". And as well, we pepper the set with a handful of new songs from "Southern Native."
SoT: One thing the new album does skimp on and that's guitar firepower, a very important part of the Blackfoot legacy. Was Rickey a big help in shaping some of the riffs and lead interplay on the album?
Tim: Rickey was always encouraging me to bring in big riffs and to let the solos rip. So in that sense he was crucial in pushing me and as well occasionally having to reel me back in when he had to. And when I would come in with a riff and Rickey would perk up and ask me to play it again I knew we were on to something.
SoT: If the band could put together and tour with 2 other active bands on a hot triple bill, who would those other 2 bands be?
Tim: For starters we'd have to make it a quadruple bill. And it would be Lynyrd Skynyrd, Winery Dogs, Black Stone Cherry and Blackfoot. We really look up to all of those bands and they're all super talented. Not only would we have a blast playing with those guys, but I'm sure we'd learn a whole hell of a lot more from being around them.
SoT: Look into your crystal ball- where do you see this new incarnation of Blackfoot 3-5 years from now?
Tim: Hopefully writing and recording new music and touring as we are now, but on a larger more global scale. We love what we do and it's the fans that make it possible for us to do it. So as long as that relationship between us and the Rock Fans all over the world continues then I think we've got a very bright future.