10 Questions with ... Jerrod Niemann
March 23, 2014
BRIEF CAREER SYNOPSIS:
Sea Gayle/Arista artist Jerrod Niemann releases "High Noon" this week, his third album since signing with Arista Nashville in 2010. Niemann's breakthrough came when he co-wrote "Good Ride Cowboy" with Garth Brooks and Richie Brown in 2001. The tribute to Chris Ledoux became a huge hit for Brooks. In 2010 his Sea Gayle/Arista Nashville debut album, "Judge Jerrod And the Hung Jury" yielded a #1 single ("Lover, Lover") a top five ("What Do You Want From Me") and top 15 ("One More Drinkin' Song"). His current single, "Drink To That All Night" is sitting inside the top 10 this week, ready to make a run for #1.
1. Jerrod, thanks for doing 10 questions! Let me start with this: Do you know how many times I've had to spell your name for people?
I just did a show the other night. My name was spelled wrong on the passes, the schedule and even the direct box, where you plug in your guitar. Three different ways. So I had to take a picture of that.
2. They usually want to go with 'EI" instead of "IE" and just one N instead of two, right?
You know what's weird? Half my family spells it EI and one N. When my grandpa and his brother went off to war and came back, they applied for benefits and the government spelled their name wrong. So he had to start spelling it that way.
3. Your new album comes out this week; it's called "High Noon." Explain the title.
Well growing up in South West Kansas, we lived in Dodge City for a few years. The original Dodge City! The main street is called Wyatt Earp. It's part of our heritage. "High Noon" has always been kind of a cliché where you go out and face your nemesis. Every time you record new music, you're looking into the future, which is a nemesis because you want people to connect with that music.
4. What was your nemesis while making this album?
Taking chances. You have songs you hear and think, 'I could record that.' I try to find and write songs that are unique and different. Any time you do that you're taking risks. Some people may not want change as much. For me, it's about challenging myself.
5. Your last album ("Free The Music") did that for sure, with horns and different production elements. It was kind of out there, actually.
In our business we are judged by where you end up on the charts. You go back and forth between commercial value and what inspires you. On the last album it was exciting to show horns, which have been in Country music forever. As a Country fan myself, it was fun to learn about that and try to inform other Country fans about our heritage. Sometimes more people gravitate toward that than others. All you can do is be yourself and hope it works out.
6. On the first two albums, you recorded a lot of them by yourself. You did all nine vocal parts on "Lover, Lover." You went to a new producer on this new project, but how much of it was all you?
Jimmy Lee Sloas produced "High Noon" with me. He is from Sandy Hook, Kentucky, the same town as Keith Whitley, so he has that thing in the water. His first gig was playing keyboards for John Conlee. When I met him, he was playing bass for Megadeath. So obviously, he's a versatile guy. We had a ball in the studio. But I also have a little studio in my house. A red room, with red shag carpet, red walls and a red ceiling. I'll sit down, write a song and record my own, wacked out version of it. Then we take all those tracks and build around them in the studio. So on this album, I did kind of a glorified work tape on all the songs I wrote. You can capture a lot of little things that way. Jimmy is so talented and can hear the missing pieces; he adds his ideas and basically fixed all my mistakes.
7. So, you wrote what, eight of the 13 songs on "High Noon?" Was it hard for you to not write all of them, having such a strong songwriting background?
I was going to record outside songs and nothing but for this album, but I just kept writing and writing and another song would fit. When I went in and got together with Jimmy, I said here's about 10 songs. We all moved to Nashville because of great singers and songwriters. When you hear a song you wish you could have written, you realize you can give it a different take and say something you may have never said yourself.
8. "Donkey" is one that you didn't write, but that was originally done by The 69 Boys. Another example of your very diverse taste in music, right?
Well, to be honest, I had never heard the original. I guess Donkey and Honky Tonky just rhymed. It was BCS Championship day and I was at Tin Roof in Nashville. Detox, from Halfway To Hazard told me about it. I didn't know if it was the worst song I'd ever heard or the best. Probably both. So I put it on an iPod playlist on the bus. When that came on, no matter who was on the bus asked about it. We went into the studio and I said I'd do it if Detox would do the donkey sound. He did. I guess you could say he's the ass on the record.
9. There's a lot happening in this format right now. And you even have a Colt Ford cut on "High Noon." If "Donkey" is a single, are you all in? How do you feel about that?
Well, it's all about taking chances. Sometimes they don't work but when they do, you're the one who pulled it off. Twenty years from now, you hope people reference our stuff and get the music they want out there and say, 'well Jerrod Niemann had interstitials on one album with horns on another.' I'm still lucky enough to be standing and out on the road a couple hundred days a year, singing songs about donkeys.
10. Do you have a favorite on this one that you wrote?
I really like "Day Drinkin'" and not just because it's a drinking song. I wrote that with Lance Miller and it just kind of fell out in 30 minutes. It's one that, when I pick up a guitar I just start singing it. I try to write at least one song on the piano for every album. "The Real Thing" is sort of a waltz, a 50s-60's rock and pop feel. A real throwback. I don't know if these are the quote, 'hits' of the record, but I've never been a fan of the hits on any records, but more so the cuts. Garth Brooks always had great album cuts. In this day and age when it's a click of the button for one song it's always good to find snapshots of where you are musically on the project, as opposed to one song.
I've always wondered: Is it hard to sing the National Anthem? It looks almost impossible.
Well a lot of people don't want to sing it because they say it's rangy or difficult. But it's really not. The spectrum on "Lover, Lover" goes from the highest possible note I could hit, to the lowest, so it's actually more challenging than the anthem in that respect. The difficulty for most people is that, it's not about the artist, it's about our country. You do want to a good job. And when you sing it and do a good job everybody forgets about you. But if you screw it up, everyone is pointing and laughing and watching YouTube for a few days. Most singers would tell you more than being hard, you don't want to mess it up. I like hearing it, but not performing it.