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Interview:
A "mellow" Kid Rock talks about "First Kiss" and more
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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He's got a new album coming out in just a few days, some high profile TV appearances on his docket and a three-month concert tour looming for summer.

But as Kid Rock sinks into a couch in his spacious Allen Roadhouse studio in Clarkston, just after finishing his breakfast and a quick morning stogie, his attitude is a low-key "what's all the fuss about" rather than hyperbolic promotional overdrive.

"It's really not that interesting at this point," says Rock, 44 (real name Bob Ritchie), sporting a backwards trucker's cap, a dark long-sleeved shirt, jeans and work boots. "I haven't been in trouble for awhile. so there's nothing really fun to talk about now. My life is pretty mellow. I'm having a good time, and no one wants to hear about that, right?"

But truth be told, Rock's been making quite a bit of noise since the start of the year. There was that mountain lion he shot in Idaho -- perfectly legally, he notes -- during the holidays that kicked up an animal rights furor after good pal Ted Nugent shared it via social media. And there was the verbal dust-up with Michael Moore and Seth Rogan over the merits of "American Sniper."

And, lest we forget, the self-proclaimed "Devil Without a Cause" became a grandfather on Christmas Day.

But the most important noise is musical. On Tuesday, Feb. 24, Rock releases his 10th studio album, "First Kiss," a rootsy, Americana-flavored set that was recorded at home and in Nashville, using players from his Twisted Brown Trucker band as well as the Austin, Texas-based Band of Heathens. Rock produced the album himself except for two songs, including the title track and first single, for which he brought in Nashville hitmaker Dann Huff. And Bob Seger contributed lyrics to "Say Goodbye," the bonus track on the "clean" version of "First Kiss."

The tour, with Foreigner opening and reprising his $20 tickets of 2013, kicks off June 24 in Hartford, Conn., and includes at six-night homestand during August at the nearby DTE Energy Music Theatre.

For someone with that much going on, Rock is indeed relaxed as he talks about all of it near a framed Detroit Pistons Motor City jersey commemorating his record-tying eight-night 2013 stand at DTE. Here's 15 things we learned about "First Kiss" and Rock's "mellow" world during a wide-ranging conversation...

* Stylistically, he'd call "First Kiss"...: "I don't know what you call me -- a rock artist? A part-time rock artist? I'm still creatively confused at this point. But the Americana stuff,just doing good blues-based music, something I think people are going to get off on at a show or jsut have a good time with...that's kind of where we're at. Sometimes we think about songs going into them, like what type of feel would we like to have, but other than that we're just trying to write good music. If I tried to keep up with what's going on and what's popular and do an electronic dance beat over some rock 'n' roll, that wouldn't be what I do. That's not what I like. I'm just trying to be me."

* This direction serves his lyrics better, too: "I'd like to say I've always been honest in (his songs), but every time we sit down to write it just feels more comfortable. Every record I keep saying I feel more comfortable in my own skin, more comfortable where I'm at, being who I am. A good example is 'Good Times, Cheap Wine;' It's basically (saying) I'm not the hip guy and never have been, and I'm alright with getting old and not being in tune with what's going on with the kids. I'm just trying to be where I am in life and be honest about it."

* He wanted to do something better than his last album, too: "It just felt to me like (2012's) 'Rebel Soul' was forced in a lot of ways. When I look back there's a lot of things where we were just trying to push circles through square pegs. ('First Kiss') was a lot more easygoing. Everything's fallen in line."

* Where's the rap?: "There was some hip-hop stuff I recorded, and, to be honest, my chops just aren't up in that world now. Rhyme-wise they are, but the delivery I get a little rusty. It's not something that excites me anymore. There's some of the music I dig here and there, but the attitude and the disposition that the rap world has, I don't want any part of it. I just found a simpler life and some things that make me happy outside of a bunch of drama like that.

* The F-you attitude isn't gone, though, as "FOAD" demonstrates: "When we're in the studio writing I'm always being a wisenheimer; whenever we're stuck on a lyric I just come up with the dirtiest lyrics I can think of and we just kind of have a good laugh. And on that one I just said, 'Baby, why don't you f*** off and die,' and my guitar player Marlon (Young) is like, 'You're an idiot!' but I went, 'Y'know what? that one might stick,' 'cause I love the contrast of this really beautiful song that's pretty and heartfelt and then, boom, you're just calling it what it is." Bob Seger subsequently wrote less profane lyrics that became "Say Goodbye" for the "clean" version of the album.

* He still believes in albums: "I think trying to make an album just makes you work harder and keeps you more focused and creative. There's something to be said for making a single and just trying to get it out there, but I've kind of moved with my audience. I'm not sure if they'd dig me just putting out a single or two. I think they want to hear a body of work, and hopefully there's a few things I can play live and that will be staples."

* Dann Huff made a major contribution: "I like Dann's stuff, and obviously his guitar playing. And having Justin Niebank, who`s a great producer in his own right, to mix was great. I sent them two songs I'd already cut, 'First Kiss' and 'Drinking Beer With Dad,' and I was pretty happy with them. And Dann even said, 'What do you want me to do with these songs? They sound great to me.' I said, 'Thank you. I'd like you to beat 'em,' And he did. We threw ideas back and forth and tried different thing. He spent a lot of time on the vocals, which I think really stands out especially on 'First Kiss;' we sang the hell out of it, and I think it shows. I'd love to work with those guys again."

* Tom Petty hasn't responded to "First Kiss:" "I've not heard from Tom Petty yet for the name-check. I can just imagine him smoking a joint and being like, 'Cool, man. Cool.' There's no real Jenny Clayton, either; that was just a good rhyme."

* He really did, and still does, spend time "Drinking Beer With Dad," as the songs says (We're SO surprised...): "There's been beer drinking with dad since I was of age and maybe before. When I used to crack him a Wiedemann's he`d let me have a sip out of it when I was real young, but especially in the last couple years, that's what we do together. We sit back somewhere...and we just chop it up and get into life and talk, and sometimes we're yelling and screaming at each other and my mom's like, 'Go to bed!' Or we have heart to hearts or talk about the world, politics, this and that. I think those are some of the real special times, and now I'm able to do that with my son, too."

* Being a grandfather is...: "I haven't really gotten into the whole swing of it yet; I think that's going to come with a little more time as my granddaughter gets older, y'know? I've been using the running joke that it keeps my hillbilly credentials intact, being a grandfather at 44. But it's a great thing. I'm looking forward to it, being the good guy, take the kid and send it home... (laughs)"

* There are some pretty deep love songs on "First Kiss:" "Y'know, I don't talk about my girlfriend too much 'cause I've learned my lesson on that. It's not something we need to be out there. We've been together quite some time. Her being anonymous. It makes it so much better that way. Just being comfortable and just having life so much more simplified, not chasing chicks around -- which I did for a long time, very successfully.... (laughs) But just to settle down it's made things easier, and I think that comes out in these songs."

* The album cover deserves more than lip service: The "First Kiss" cover is a painting by veteran Detroit visual and performance artist Niagra, which Rock acquired after donating $20,000 towards the publication of a new book about Detroit's Orbit magazine that will be published Sept. 1. "Orbit was great to me in my early career and I saw they were trying to fund a book. And I saw that beautiful piece of art and I thought, 'Man, if that doesn't remind me of a great image for a first kiss...' It all just worked out in my head where I could fund their book, get rights to this piece of art, hopefully help her with her career. It's just a phenomenal image, one of my favorite record covers I've had to date. It's gonna look great on a T-shirt, maybe a big thing on stage or something. And with her being from Michigan, from our area, that was special, too. Everything about it was perfect."

* His heart's in Michigan, but he also has a sweet home in Alabama: "Hank (Williams) Jr. led me to Alabama; I"ve been going down there with him for years and years, hunting and hanging out. Some acreage came up that connects to his property, and we popped a double-wide (trailer) in with a nice little lodge behind it and it's just turned out to be one of our favorite places. The people down there are salt of the earth and it's really the ultimate sense of freedom. You can do whatever you want, and I've got enough room to do it. 'You wanna shoot the machine gun today? Let's go have some fun. Wanna turkey hunt? Deer hunt? Wanna just cook food tonight and hang out and watch the game?' It's so great..."

* So about that mountain lion...: "That was kind of out of left field 'cause I just sent the picture to Ted, kind of as a friendly 'Hey, check this out. Look what I got,' and he posted it. And he's got all the animal activists' panties in a bunch anyway, so it was actually kind of fun to hear people's ignorance and not know what they're talking about about conservation and the way things go and that you have to apply for a tag and it manages the animal populations, whether it's elk, deer, this that and the other."

* The "American Sniper" debate was personal. And not: That's just something I felt I was connected with. I've been kind of looking for a way to tag Michael Moore, anyway; he's not on my personal favorite list, anyways, never has been so when that opportunity presented itself I just kind of jumped at it. And as far as Seth Rogen's concerned, he was just basically caught in the line of fire. He's Canadian, so who cares. (laughs) I actually think his response was funny and I enjoy some of his movies, but it was just something I would run my mouth about."

CATCH THE KID

* Kid Rock and his Twisted Brown Trucker Band perform at the Daytona 500 at 12:15 p.m. ET Sunday, Feb. 22, on Fox.

* The group visits NBC's "The Tonight Show" with Jimmy Fallon at 11:35 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 23.

* Rock and company will also appear on NBC's "Today" show on the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 24.

* Rock guests on Howard Stern's show Wednesday morning, Feb. 25, on SiriusXM.

* Rock and Twisted Brown Trucker, with Foreigner, perform Aug. 7-8, 11-12 and 14-15 at the DTE Energy Music Theatre. Tickets are $20 and go on sale Tuesday, Feb. 24.



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