Uncle Kracker – Interview [2004]

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Uncle Kracker

Uncle Kracker is back for more! We chat with him about his latest record 72 & Sunny.

This record leans more toward country—what inspired it?

It’s just traditional songwriting. I love pedal steel guitars. Even when I was doing more of the rap stuff there was still pedal steel guitars on there. There is always a southern twist and twang. I grew up listening to Patsy Cline and Jersey Jeff Walker. I don’t know if you try to copy it or what, well not copy it because you’ll get sued. As far as the country stuff though—I grew up listening to Motown as well. (Kracker takes a moment to talk to his daughter: “No, we aren’t sticking that in the ground today.”) The country thing just happened. I guess you just get to a point there is nothing left to report or anything to prove or do. So you just do what comes natural.

I was listening to the record and thought that the Beatles had basic songs but they were their songs. And your album is you, but you go back to the basic true songwriting style—which is exactly what Hank Williams perfected. So in saying that maybe everyone stole from Hank Williams.

(Laughs) No shit. I should steal more from him. You can listen to a lot of older Hank Senior I hear that guy hurting. When you listen to those songs, I know its Hank Juniors mom, but what did she do to him? (We both laugh) Then you listen to Hank Junior and there are records—I almost went through a divorce a year and a half ago—and I had this record that is out of print called “Standing in the Shadows.” Every song was about divorce. I think he’s been through a few. You are like ‘aww man.’ When you listen to that you are like ‘now I get it.’ But I don’t even know if you get it as much as you are like ‘oh, it happened to him too.’ It’s good to know you aren’t the lone ranger.

It makes you feel good because here is this big guy ready to cry over his lady and you aren’t alone.

Exactly. You hear this big guy ‘I know it’s over.’ You are like ‘oh man.’ Divorce or destroy.

You said something earlier that I find interesting. You said that you are at a point where you have nothing to prove. This is our third interview and I remember the first time we talked you wanted to prove yourself as an individual songwriter and artist. It has to be amazing that you really have little to prove now. How cool is it not to have to prove yourself?

It’s awesome. There are still days where you read something and someone doesn’t get it. I think I’ll always be creeping through Kid Rock’s shadow. I think people are starting to get it more. I think I’ve been doing alright myself. I’m happy just going into record number three and having success. So many people try to do the solo thing coming out of a group and it never gets off the ground.

I think the second record was the real point of separation.

Right. I think so too. I think there is an obvious difference between us. But then there are times where someone says I sound just like him, but those people don’t realize we are best friends and that we have co-written a lot of their favorite songs together. So when something isn’t written by him on my record and it’s by me it’s going to sound familiar. I’ve read some awful reviews on me and annihilated me because of the Kid Rock thing. People still call me the “Kid Rock Prodigy,” “Sidekick,” and “Charity Case.” But it’s water off a ducks back.

I wonder if most of the time it isn’t just jealousy.

I think so too. I think some of it is jealousy. It’s weird. I’ll read reviews of albums where someone will say it’s awesome and I listen to something and it’s awful. I think it’s what the person is into. Why bash me because of it.

I find it funny that they say you are a Kid Rock clone because you aren’t trying to be. What I hate is when a singer or group member will leave a group so they can make a solo album with their name on it so they don’t have to split the money with the band and yet it sounds just like the band.

Totally. The smartest thing I ever did when I did a solo album, because everyone thought I’d do a Kid Rock Part 2 album. I knew I couldn’t do that. If you asked me ten years ago what my solo album would sound like someday I’d say it would be Run-DMC meets Lynard Skynard. Which is what we did on “Devil Without A Cause.” After that was so huge and we figured out the game more I knew I couldn’t do that. It wouldn’t be fair to fans of Kid Rock or me. It would be one big waste. It would stop dead in its tracks.

Was 72 and Sunny the type of record that was an experiment or natural?

It was natural. It’s all been a natural progression. If it felt good that day it got recorded. I’m a much laid back person and easy going. I love light FM, but I like the early ‘70s classic rock. When we were sitting around writing “Bawitdaba” I mean… I’m just not that heavy. I’m more “Only God Knows Why.”

I like the first track where you go “oh well, it doesn’t even rhyme.”

Right.

That’s just you being laid back?

(Laughs) I was just scatting that in the studio. That is the rapper in me where I sing stuff off the cuff. I heard it and thought it sounded cool so why not leave it. I wasn’t going to try and figure out a word that would rhyme.

Is that Kenny Chesney on the last track doing the duet?

Yeah, I called him to return the favor. (Laughs)

Your voice matches well with his—I mean you have that gruff country voice which I bet you could sing those old Hank Senior songs about drinking and…

…I know a thing or two about drinking. (We both laugh)

It sounds like you’ve been through everything.

I love that old Hank stuff and country. What was really weird that over the past year I’ve met and befriended more country artists then I’ve ever done in the whole pop thing. In pop you do all these pop shows and you meet people and everything is fine and there is something about it. In the Kid Rock thing we met and became friends with Metallica. But when we were touring with Metallica and Limp Bizkit it was great. But when I put out “Follow Me” I was lumped in with pop and was doing all these pop festivals and shows. So I had to go on stage after Nelly Furtado. Most of them can’t think for themselves and have personalities on loan from a toilet. I went from signing boobs and asses and you wonder what the fuck happened. I get little thirteen year old girls with fuzzy pencils coming up for autographs. I’m not mad, but it was different. I’ve done pretty well in that pop game for a few years, but I haven’t met anybody real in that game. Honestly, I haven’t met a person I could look in the eye and talk to. People I could have or should have talked to I couldn’t.

Pop is completely different from country because people become real friends.

Exactly. I always wonder why isn’t there a group of artists that come together to rally against record labels. Why isn’t there a room full of people trying to figure out the internet thing? If record labels don’t find it they don’t want anything to do with it. If they can’t take credit for it they still will.

And now you have real friends in country has it helped?

You know Kenny and I had a good thing with that single “When the Sun Goes Down” and it would have never happened had we not become friends. There are so many egos and assholes. It’s completely full of them. (Kracker’s daughter runs up to him: “I’m not catching toads right now, your mom brought lunch home why don’t you go check it out.”—which of course causes me to laugh. Life is grand.)

+ Charlie Craine

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