Interview: Neal Casal of The Chris Robinson Brotherhood

©Jay Blakesberg

Creativity is so important, more than ever at this point in history. “It seems like freedoms are being taken away from us rapidly, and we consider ourselves freedom fighters, if you will,” laughs the Chris Robinson Brotherhood’s own Neal Casal, who spoke to us on a recent and very rare day at home. On July 21st, the band will release Barefoot In The Head, its third studio album in two years. “We’re not really a part of the music industry as it works today, we fly below that radar really. We have the luxury to do that,” he explains of the band’s prolific nature of its releases. “We’re writing new music constantly, and we work hard to keep the quality high. It means something to us, it has merit. We’re a creative group of people; Chris and I have an excellent writing partnership, everyone pitches in, there are lots of ideas, and we’re getting it while it’s hot,” he adds. “We have a great time bucking the norms of the music business.”

Recorded in house-turned-studio on a hill in Marin County, California overlooking the mighty vastness of the Pacific Ocean, everything about the process oozed creative energy. “A really cool guy built the house in the 1960s and used materials from demolished roads, and bridges, and buildings in San Francisco,” Casal says. “It’s a soulful place to live and record. Our band lived there during the recording, we wrote all the songs there, made our dinners there, slept there, the entire process was there. We had two weeks to make the record, and no one really left during that time. Nothing but music, the whole time.Everyone brought their record collections, listened to music together, cooked, and had communal meals with each other, right in the middle of the recording space,” he continues. “Chris [Robinson] and Tony [Leone] emerged as the two great cooking stars; Chris, among his many other talents, is an excellent chef.”

Named by Robinson, the album itself speaks to that creative freedom—to encourage us to keep a place in our minds, lives, and souls where we can always be barefoot and to retain a childlike enthusiasm for creativity and inspiration, art and music. “In our fast and ever-increasing constricted world, it’s important to keep that alive,” says Casal. “It’s what our band is all about, what our music is about, and what we’re about. It’s what we here for, to remind everyone, ourselves included, to maintain that spirit.”

“I think this record is the best we’ve done, on many levels,” he continues. “There’s always a new song to chase though, the well is endless, and the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know. It’s a lifelong pursuit. In the grand scheme of the history of art and music, we’re small contributors, but we’re doing our best to add more great songs to the great songbook of the world. We have the songs, we have the energy, and the time is now. We have no days to waste in this lifetime,” he adds. “Stay barefoot in the head, and stay creative.”

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Susan Hubbard

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