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Chris Robinson: Mud, Sweat And Beers.

25 November 2002 | 1:00 am | Mike Gee
Originally Appeared In

Crowe It Alone.

New Earth Mud and The Black Crowes Live are in stores now.

It's about 6pm in Malibu, California. The sun is beginning to set over the water and it's nice and mellow. "It's always nice and mellow in Malibu," Chris Robinson says. "The pelicans are diving, the grey whales are going by, the dolphins, the seals. It's cool out here. And there's a lot of surfers. And everybody does windsailing. To me it just looks like another way to go to the emergency room. I've never been a death-defying, action man, kind of guy."

As founder and lead singer of The Black Crowes for nearly a decade during which time they sold more than 10 million albums and earned a reputation as a white hot live act - well-documented on their recent double live album - Robinson has little to prove. Yet his new solo album sees him take up the challenge of becoming a solo artist with surprising gusto. New Earth Mud is a real grower of an album loaded with earthy songs that spin from pop rock to rootsy, soulful, folk pop and blues and some Sixties psychedelia. You'll hear more than a touch of The Beatles in there. And he wears his heart on his sleeve. Katie Dear and Could You Really Love Me? are open declarations to wife Kate Hudson and Safe In the Arms Of Love comes from a similar place.

"I think those things wouldn't work if they weren't so comfortable and natural," he says. "It's very natural for both of us and it is that comfortable, the way we feel and the things we go through. It only works because that's how people feel when they fall in love, how people feel with that person in their life who makes them feel that special way. It's just life with the Robinsons."

Still, it would be pretty complicated with so much going on.

"Yes, but, you know what, it is simple, man. People are like 'Wow, it must be so glamorous'. The truth is we sit around and I make tea for us. We listen to The Incredible String Band, Kate makes jewellery and knits sweaters and I paint watercolours and play guitar. It is not too different from anybody else."

Robinson seems a genuinely nice guy. New Earth Mud doesn't just get its charm from either its lyrical content or its sense of the history in music. Robinson comes across as reflective without being either maudlin or soporific. Hell, you can even hear Jerry and the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd pulsing, a vein that crosses an obvious love of English folk and psychedelic pop.

"To be honest, that reflectivity is the kind of place where I am. That's just what came out on this record," he says." You know, I could come up with lots of deep and meaningful theories but more often than not it's the simple answer that's the most truthful. I didn't spend that much time writing these songs. In a matter of a couple of months I had 18 or 20 songs. I wasn't pondering. It just came out of me, and that tells me it's what I wanted to say.”

"When we live in an age where everything in a creative capacity is validated by its sheer commercial appeal you're never going to hear any dissension - and dissension doesn't have to be something overt or ridiculous. My dissension is making a personal intimate statement like 'I'm in love'. That may look better in the press because my wife is a famous actress but at the end of the day the way we feel about each other is the way a lot of young couples feel. The things that we've lived through, the things that we see, and the things that we're going to go through are all relevant and to be dealt with as people and not as media events."

He and Hudson could easily have become yet another hollow Hollywood couple. It's not hard to fall for glitz and glamour, especially when you're a very well off young couple but Robinson seems to have little interest in being part of the in-crowd. Or being pigeonholed.

"We live in a place that is so super cool that everybody has forgotten what was and is real. These days it is also a lot easier to come out and talk a lot of bollocks and not back it up. 'It's all about the music’. Well it's not. I grew up with this strange idea that your actions dictate your motivations. If that was the case, in terms of the corporate world and these bands that walk hand-in-hand with the record companies and sell their songs as quickly as they can to these corporations, then their motivations are just greed. You can dress it up any way you like but it's still greed. And greed isn't a place from which great music or art is born."