Charlie Starr grew up in eastern Alabama, in a small town bordered by the Chattahoochee River and dotted with textile factories. Like most American mill towns, it took a hit during the dawn of the 21st century, when companies began shipping most of their work overseas. Some residents bounced back by landing new jobs. Others turned to their vices instead, looking for a more temporary fix.
Starr sings about a similar place in "Too High," the latest single from Blackberry Smoke's fourth album, Holding All the Roses, which was released last week.
"The song has to do with whatever plague is sucking a little town dry," he says, "whether it's the meth epidemic or oxy. That kind of thing happens all over America, but it just seems to impact the small towns more. I used to go home to the little town where I grew up, and I'd see people that I went to school with, and I'd think, 'Oh boy.' You can see it a mile away, the damage that stuff can do."
"Too High" was written three years ago, back when the guys were still putting the finishing touches on their breakthrough release, The Whippoorwill. Looking to let his band's listeners draw their own conclusions, Starr kept the lyrics purposely vague, only hinting at the illegal activities of the song's main character. All of that changed, though, when it came time to shoot the music video. (Watch the clip for "Too High," directed by Blake Judd, who helmed Kristian Bush's zombie video "Trailer Hitch," above.)
"Blake sent over this great treatment, and I was blown away," Starr says. "The song is told from the perspective of someone who is trapped in a bad way of life, and the video expands that by giving you this image of a guy making meth in his old shack. His two nieces live nearby, and they've wandered into the woods and found the shack. He means the little girls no harm, so he sends them back home with a message for their mother, which basically says, 'Leave me alone.' I think the video finishes the story in a way that the song couldn't."
Shot in Georgia and rural Kentucky, the video also includes performance footage of Blackberry Smoke, whose cross-country tour in support of Holding All the Roses was scheduled to begin tonight. Unfortunately, icy conditions in middle Tennessee have postponed the tour's kickoff show — a sold-out performance at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville — and the four-month trek will now begin with tomorrow's show in St. Louis. A make-up date for the Ryman show has been scheduled for April 3rd.