Even if they don’t know the band by name, Pittsburgh sports fans are probably familiar with Blairsville rockers Black Ridge.
Their songs, “New Day” and “Celebration” have been featured regularly during televised Pirates and Penguins games, and the tune “You’ll Never Stop This Machine” was used during the 2021-‘22 NHL playoffs and on the nationally televised “Hockey Night in Canada.” That’s in addition to airplay on more than half-dozen local radio stations.
The band made a recent trip to Nashville, returning with new industry contacts and a new record on the way. They will host a record release party for “Raw Power” Nov. 10 at Next Door Café in Blawnox.
”Our music comes from the heart and I think that’s why people have been connecting with it, ” said Paul Cha, 32, of Blairsville, rhythm guitarist and primary songwriter for the band. “It’s humbling when someone tells you your music has saved their life or they listen daily. It’s not an ego boost, it just feels good to have our art working in a positive way.”
Cha spoke with the Tribune-Review about working on the new album and watching the band’s profile rise.
A: It can vary from song to song. Generally, I will be riffing on guitar, piano or bass at home and start to work out a vocal melody. Our frontman Paul Guerrini also has a big hand in helping with vocal melodies and lyrics as well. It all comes together at rehearsal as the full band works out the arrangements. The title track, “Raw Power” was conceived from a rock riff I originally wrote for (promotional music) when I hosted a show on WIUP-FM. “Stick It Out” is a head-on rock tune that was created in 15 minutes because I felt we needed more straight rock songs in our catalog. “Rock Steady” was created one morning as I sat down on the piano playing in a ’70s Brian Wilson-esque style and it just came out.
I love to write hooks that people will have stuck in their head before the end of their first listen.
Q: What was the biggest challenge in putting this album together?
A: Funding and bringing in a new lead guitarist. Recording a professional sounding product is not cheap. It’s actually incredibly expensive. We record at Very Tight Recordings in Sharpsburg and work with who we believe is the best in the area, Matt Very. It’s not cheap but it’s absolutely worth it. We also brought in our new lead guitarist, Joey Conner, during recording sessions. We had a few weeks of rehearsal and a couple of hours of studio time, but what he did turned out to be incredible. Joey has been a great asset to the band on and off stage. I love working with him — we all do.
Q: Do you have a favorite song on the new record?
A: I feel like I go back and forth all the time. If I had to pick one, it would be the title track, “Raw Power.” It’s quintessential Black Ridge! Rock guitar riffs, huge chorus, meaningful lyrics, melodic solos and powerful drumming. It turned out just how I heard it in my head, every song did. I am so proud of all the guys in the band for their performances.
Q: What type of guitar do you play, and what are some of its qualities that help the band define its sound?
A: I have to give my dad a shout-out on this one. Having a vintage-gear hoarder as a father has been pretty great. It has allowed me to have the access to gear to build and explore tones. My main guitar is a custom shop Fender Stratocaster. Some people buy pre-worn guitars, but this one is the real deal. In the early days: I’d throw it on- and off-stage, slide it around by the cable and once broke the whammy bar off inside. It’s truly an extension of me and the energy I feel on stage. I’m a bit more protective of it these days. I also used my prized 1972 Gibson Les Paul. Although I have used it live, its weight has relegated it to a studio guitar. It may make a few special appearances. Our engineer/co-producer, Matt Very and I mixed the signal of my Fender Deluxe Reverb amplifier with a vintage Marshall Super Lead to give it an extremely thick and clear tone. It hits just as hard on any speaker.
Q: Have you road-tested any of the new album tunes at your live shows, and if so, how has the reception been?
A: Yes, we have been playing them since this summer. The response has been beyond what we could hope for. People are connecting with “Raw Power” as a lifestyle, not just music. We want to continue to spread our music and our message with as many people as we can.