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Born and raised in Vero Beach, Florida; Jake Owen became a professional golfer after winning his first tournament at 15 years old. While at Florida State, he suffered a career ending wake-boarding accident. While recovering, Owen self-taught himself the guitar and realized his talents for singing and writing. Owen eventually moved to Nashville and began writing songs with producer Jimmy Ritchey. After penning several songs, Owen caught the attention of Sony BMG and was signed to their RCA Records imprint.
By 2006, Owen was ready to release his debut album, Startin' With Me. It debuted in the top ten of Billboard's Country charts fueled by the lead off single "Yee Haw". Jake Owen tour dates were scheduled on the opening stage for Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood on their respective tours. While on tour, Owen scored his first top ten country single - "Startin' With Me". Jake Owen tour dates were then scheduled with Alan Jackson and Brooks & Dunn in 2007. Owen closed out 2007 with a national tour with Sugarland and Little Big Town and joined together to record a cover of "Life on a Northern Town".
Following his extensive concert schedule, Jake Owen returned to the studio and released his breakthrough sophomore set. The album, Easy Does It, debuted at #2 on the Billboard Country charts and yielded the hit singles "Don't Think I Can't Love You" and "Eight Second Ride". Jake Owen tour dates are currently scheduled on the opening stage for country superstar Keith Urban and his world tour. Other solo Jake Owen tour dates are scheduled periodically throughout the year. Owen is also in the studio penning and producing hits for his upcoming third album. Don't miss a date on the Jake Owen concert schedule 2011. Use Eventful as your source for Jake Owen tour dates and concert tour information as well as for other of your favorite artists and upcoming events.
Joe Nichols: As far as where I’m at with my new music and my new label, Red Bow, this is more than a new chapter. It’s a new book. My new single “Sunny And 75” is getting as great a reception as anything I’ve ever done, and the album it comes from is something I might have hoped I could do at other points in my career, but have been held back from. And I’ll be the first to say that the holding back has mostly been me. What strikes me this time is how much freedom I’ve felt in this process, the depth I have in my relationships – personal and professional, it really is a family thing. And, to be honest, just how much fun I’m having. Freedom, family and fun ... there’s your sound bite.
The hard part of this journey, if that’s not too cliché a word for it, was leaving my last label, because the wheels in Nashville just turn really slow sometimes. And time turned out to be our enemy and our friend. The more distance I was able to get from the last few years of stops and starts, the better. But our enemy was losing a consistent presence with the fans and radio. That hurt, but it set up some anticipation for something new; it was also very healing and kind of humbled me a little bit.
I went into the studio to start making music with my own money. One of those sides, a song called “Yeah,” will probably be a single on this record. The other was a stone-cold country song called “Billy Graham’s Bible.” So, we walked into labels with something to play for them. Quite a few were interested, but the majors tend to have a lot of artists in line and wanted me to look at a late 2014 release. I wanted to be in business with somebody who had the same sense of urgency about me as I do, and Broken Bow did. Being one of the flagship artists on their latest imprint, which is a joint venture with Sony Red, helped this all feel brand new.
The one thing about my approach to this record that I was almost militant about was that I wanted to find hit songs that might be a bit unexpected. Having a hit, writing or making good albums has never been a problem for me, it’s been that momentum you get from a consistent series of hits. That’s why I wanted to be rigorous about finding songs that cut through, even if they didn’t seem to fit the idea people have of what I should sound like. I wanted to be able to say we’ve got six singles on this album. Or ten. And that meant being open to songs and sounds a lot of folks wouldn’t have thought would work.
The interesting thing is that we’ve ended up with a very balanced record. There are lots of songs that feel like they’d sound great getting heavy airplay, and there are also some that I think people will say, “That’s a cool moment on this album.” Sometimes those coincide.
A lot of that has to do with my relationship with the label. People warned me that Benny Brown, the founder, is very involved in the A&R process. At first I didn’t know how that would go because I’ve been very hands-on with the music throughout my career. After working with Benny, I can say he’s very involved, but all in good ways.
When he finds something he’ll say, “I like this for you, what do you think? Would you try this for me, because we don’t know how it’s going to sound until you try it.” That’s a push in a healthy direction with the understanding that if it doesn’t turn out in the studio, we don’t have to show it to anyone.
That was comforting and allowed me to try things with nothing really to lose. It was freeing and very different from where I’ve been in the past with the A&R process. In some more jagged situations, I probably did become a bit of jerk about ￼ cutting what I wanted to cut. So Benny’s approach let me gracefully bow out of that kind of attitude. I was able to approach this album with a new heart for the music and a new set of ears. It’s worked out tremendously.
Several are songs I probably never would have found or thought were right for me if I had found them. Having Benny bring them to me and having that ability to try, to see what something sounds like, has been great. My producers, Mickey Jack Cones and Derek George, have also helped me understand that whatever I do vocally, it’s going to bring it back to traditional no matter how far out there we get.
Just as the drive for hit singles led to a balance of material on the album, my voice and the ability to be edgy with song selection created a balance, too. In an organic way, it made for a unique sound. You can have a rock-pop feel with the track, because the traditional vocals bring it back. There’s always going to be a traditional element in my music that I won’t change, and really just can’t change. But I can reach beyond my comfort zone, too. Certainly in 2013, it would be foolish not to try.
I realize there are purists who could be let down by that mindset, and there have been times I have absolutely felt that I was letting people down by trying new things. And, of course, that created massive fear in me that probably led to decisions that hurt my progress. So I’m glad that I now feel comfortable enough in my own skin to know what being true to myself really is. I am true to traditional country music and always will be. I have bled and sweat and cried country music my entire life. And broadening my approach won’t change that one bit. That’s the freedom – to be happy and successful and make music I’m proud of.
There are layers to my relationships and the people around me. There’s a depth there that I’ve never felt before, especially in a working environment. I care passionately and deeply about the music, as well as the people I’m working with. I care about the overall well-being and success of everybody. That is a wonderful feeling, and way more important than having hit records and looking good to the outside world. This is family.
I have been a Nashville guy for a long time and would move back there in a heartbeat, but I also love Texas because it’s the place I want to raise my children. It’s just a great way of life here. When I’m home, there are no crowds, no industry events to go to, none of that. It’s just family, friends and a normal pace of life.
The new music is going over awesome on the road, especially “Sunny And 75.” The other new songs we play get an incredible reaction, too. As far as the crowds go, I’ve been almost two years without a single at radio and people are still showing up in awesome numbers. I’m impressed and incredibly grateful for country fans, because they are amazingly loyal.
I’m also thankful radio is welcoming me back with open arms. I love that I have true friends there who care about me beyond the music and career stuff, because I care about them in the same way. So I’m especially proud to give them music they can play in good conscience. It’s not just my friends hooking me up with airplay, it’s something deserving, and I hope to continue giving them that.
The biggest thing I feel is just that it’s a new day. I’m wiping the slate clean and starting something brand new. I love my old catalog of music – “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off,” “Brokenheartsville,” “The Impossible,” “Gimme That Girl” and the rest. But I’m starting the first chapter of that new book now. I’m pretty sure it’s got a happy ending, but I also hope there are a few surprises for people along the way.
Craig Morgan: Craig Morgan is country music's stealth star. He's had back-to-back #1 singles, massive radio airplay--including country's biggest hit of 2005, solid album sales and a belated nomination in 2006 as the Academy of Country Music's new male vocalist of the year, yet his recognition factor has not quite caught up to the scope of his popularity and his level of success. That is all about to change with his latest CD, Little Bit of Life.
Morgan likens his career to a catapult that has been stretched all the way back through hard touring, steady radio airplay and media exposure and is now poised to heave that career forward with projectile force. He has two secret weapons in his arsenal. As a singer, Morgan has a clearly identifiable voice. As a songwriter, he displays a distinct point of view.
Little Bit of Life is Morgan’s fourth album and third for the red-hot independent label Broken Bow Records. His previous albums spawned such memorable hits as I Got You, Redneck Yacht Club, and the poignant Almost Home, as well as That’s What I Love About Sunday, which spent five weeks at No. 1 and ended 2005 as country radio’s most played song of the year, surpassing hits by Toby Keith, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban, George Strait, Sugarland and Faith Hill, among others.
Maggie Rose: Music is a powerful means of expression and rarely has a young performer displayed better command of the vehicle than Maggie Rose. Possessing a strong, warm voice that is alternately playful or poignant as the subject matter dictates, Maggie has a gift for penning insightful songs and delivering them with emotional punch. Working with legendary producer James Stroud, Maggie has crafted a debut album filled with potent songs, each one anchored by her riveting vocals.
With one listen to her impressive voice, it’s obvious Maggie could have chosen any musical genre and found success, but country seemed like home. “I did have a lot of influences,” the Maryland native says recalling her childhood. “My mom exposed me to great female artists like Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt and Trisha Yearwood, really powerful female voices.”
Always passionate about music, she embraced a variety of different artists and styles, but felt a particular kinship with country artists, especially those with the ability to share compelling stories in their songs. “The first concert I ever went to was a Shania Twain show,” she says. “While I also admired many of the pop singers that were so popular when I was younger, when it got down to my becoming an artist, country always spoke to me. I connected with country music more than any other genre.”
By the time she was 16, she was performing regularly with a Bruce Springsteen cover band called the B Street Band. “I would do my own little introductory set and then they’d play the Bruce Springsteen cover songs,” she recalls. “They were such a good band, so it was a great experience to be backed by great musicians.”
While majoring in vocal performance at Clemson University, Maggie got a phone call that changed her life. A friend had sent some of her demos to music mogul Tommy Mottola, well-known for launching Celine Dion, Destiny’s Child and Mariah Carey, among others. “I remember getting the call from Tommy’s assistant as I was walking with my friend to economics class,” Maggie recalls. “She said, ‘Tommy wants you to come to his office and sing some original songs for him.’ It was so surreal. I didn’t go to class that day. I went back to my dorm room and tried to process everything.”
When Mottola learned of Maggie’s desire to pursue a country music career, he helped her connect with James Stroud and his wife Laura, a successful Music Row publisher, who Maggie describes as her “Nashville Mom.” Laura introduced Maggie to some of the community’s top songwriters who became friends and collaborators. James was so impressed with the demos he began hearing, he took Maggie in the studio to begin work on her debut. “I’m so much more sure of the artist I want to be today than I was when I first moved here,” Maggie says, “Moving to town, I became aware of the reality that there are so many talented people here. It gives me so much perspective. One of the reasons people move here is to be around other creative people.”
Maggie first gained a national audience with the engaging single “Maybe Tonight,” which was accompanied by a charming video that spotlighted her performance skills. Previously known as Margaret Durante, the young artist felt she really wanted fans to know her as Maggie Rose, the name all her family and friends call her. She felt it was time to hit the reset button. “Sharing the name that I’ve been called by my family and friends with my fans is just another way to open up a part of me to them that they haven’t seen yet,” she says. “I was not being untrue to myself going by Margaret Durante, but I’m giving my experiences and my stories to my fans and I wanted them to call me by my nickname. I think it’s just a nice way to honor where I’ve been and where I’m going.”
Becoming more confident in her musical gift ignited a particularly creative period for Maggie that fueled the songs on her debut album. Co-writing with some of Nashville’s most noted tunesmiths, Maggie delivers a diverse collection that examines the intricacies of life. “I feel like this music is unapologetic,” she says. “I want women to hear this and be like, ‘Yeah! Right On!’ It gives women empowerment definitely, but also I want people to be entertained by it. A lot of the music, for me, is very coming-of-age. It’s about finding out who I am, not just as an artist, but as a young woman growing up, being on my own in Nashville.”
Maggie is thoughtful, articulate and intelligent yet has a playful streak that is endearing and a dry sense of humor that will sneak up on you. Her songs have the ability to move an audience with their depth and intensity, yet she’s equally capable of delivering a light-hearted romp that will make audiences want to get up and dance. “‘Fall Madly In Love’ is just a catchy, infectious, flirty, confident song,” Maggie says. “There’s something about that song. I couldn’t stop singing it once I heard it once and it just came alive. When we recorded it in the studio with James, it just took on a life of its own. It’s an undeniable song with lots of energy and confidence, which is what I feel like my music is about right now, just being confident and sassy and having fun.”
“Preacher’s Daughter” spotlights Maggie’s ability to pen a great story song. Co-written with Connie Harrington, the eerie lyric recounts the murder of two young lovers. “We had a blast writing it,” Maggie says. “We wanted it to be sultry and a little dark, but also have a deep South, funky country sound like Bonnie Raitt. I love how she has that cool vibe about her. We were trying to channel that for ‘Preacher’s Daughter.’ I love singing it. Every time I perform it I can’t help but just to come alive because it’s a great story.”
“Better” is a compelling song that finds Maggie channeling the pain of a past break up. “I was telling James Stroud and Stephony Smith the story of this person who had just broken my heart,” she recalls. “They said, ‘Boy, have we got a song for you!’ They played me ‘Better’ and I was so moved by it. I was right there in the trenches of everything that was going on in the song in my own life. Even now when I sing ‘Better,’ it just takes me back to that feeling that I had emotionally when I first heard the song. It’s really powerful and totally honest. We didn’t compromise anything on that song.”
Uncompromising, unapologetic and unexpected--these are just a few of the words that come to mind in describing Maggie Rose. Whether she’s opening for Jason Aldean or Lady Antebellum in a large arena or performing an intimate set in a local club, Maggie has the ability to transport the listener through her music. “I love connecting with people,” she says. “There’s no feeling like it. When I go to a concert, I won’t know the person sitting next to me, but if someone puts on a great show, by the end of the night I feel connected to complete strangers because the person on stage has made us all relate to what they are saying. We all feel that common ground that we’ve bonded on. It’s incredible and magical for me. As an artist and songwriter, that’s the thrill--to be connecting with a group of people by sharing your stories. It’s pretty remarkable.”
Tate Stevens: Tate was born March 1st in Misawa Japan, the youngest of four children. His family was led overseas by his father who was in the Air force. Tate was influenced by country music at an early age. His father played country music, even landing a spot on the famed “Louisiana Hay Ride”. ..
Tate wanted to be just like dad and play country music. At four years old Tate received his first set of drums. Within a few years, Tate was demonstrating his vocal abilities in front of his first band, The SOS Band, playing in local events. ..
Sports were also a big influence in his life. His childhood years were filled with wrestling tournaments, football games and talent events. In high school Tate won many accolades in football and wrestling, but, although the temptations were there to play sports in college, music was his real passion. ..
Tate continues to play multiple shows at various venues, sharing the stage with many of today’s top acts such as, Jason Aldean, Emerson Drive, Trent Tomlinson, Mark Chesnutt and Tracy Lawrence just to mention a few. With a new album coming out in 2008, Tate is focused on making his mark in the Country Music Industry!!.... .. .. I edited my profile with Thomas Myspace Editor V4.4 (www.strikefile.com/myspace)
Emerson Drive: Emerson Drive hit the airwaves hard with their debut single, "I Should Be Sleeping" in 2001, and have been at the top of the country charts ever since. Emerson Drive tour dates are currently scheduled throughout North America this Summer, 2011.
The band has its origins in Alberta, Canada when they were originally known as 12 Gauge. Original member Brad Mates, entered and won a talent contest in high school and decided to start a band after his success. He soon recruited bandmates, began practicing in his basement, and hit the road in Canada. The band eventually charted two singles in Canada including the top 40 track "Some Trains Never Come". Although they found some success in Canada, the bandmates moved to Nashville in order to hit the American country scene. After some line-up changes and a name change to Emerson Drive, they were eventually picked up by DreamWorks Records in 2000. The band teamed up with famed '80s pop-star, Richard Marx, to produce their self-titled debut album and released the single "I Should Be Sleeping" in November, 2001. The single was a top five hit for the group and the album debuted at #13 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. The follow-up single "Fall Into Me", was also produced by Richard Marx and was an even bigger hit for the group.
Following the huge success of their American debut, the band decided to repeat the successful formula and asked for Marx's help to produce the sophomore album. While in the studio with Marx, Emerson Drive concert dates were booked on Shania Twain's high profile "Up! Tour". The gig with Shania kept the band on the road for nearly a year and they were finally able to release their second album in 2004. Although they were able to find some success in Canada, the album faltered in the US and Emerson Drive was dropped from DreamWorks in the same year.
The guys weren't deterred and they were eventually picked up by Midas Records Nashville. The band brought in veteran country hit-maker, Josh Leo, to produce their third American album, "Countrified". What they created in the studio was nothing short of magic, and they suddenly found themselves in the #1 spot of the Billboard Country Songs survey. The album's second single, "Moments" made history when it hit #1 on the country charts. Emerson Drive became the first Canadian country band to have a number one single on the American country charts. The single also garnered the band their first Grammy nod for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
The group suffered tragedy and setbacks following their huge commercial and critical success. The band's bassist was found dead in his Montreal home months after resigning from the band in 2007. In 2009, the band's fourth album "Believe", was shelved in the United States due to a dispute with their record label. "Believe" managed to debut in the top ten of the Canadian charts, and the band hopes to release it sometime in 2011 on their new label. In 2011, they signed with Quarterback Records to release their current single "Let Your Love Speak", in February. They have also released a greatest hits album entitled "Decade of Drive". In support of the album, Emerson Drive tour dates are currently scheduled across North America. Use Eventful as your source for Emerson Drive concert dates and venue information.
Blackberry Smoke: We don't pull any punches about calling this Southern rock because that's what it is," says Blackberry Smoke frontman Charlie Starr. "It's what we think new Southern rock should sound like." Starr, guitarist Paul Jackson, bassist Richard Turner and drummer Brit Turner are indeed sons of the South, but their considerable chops recall The Swanee River Boys and The Stanley Brothers as well as Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers.
"We love all kinds of music - our CD collection in the van is extremely diverse," Charlie continues. "You can hear a bluegrass influence on our harmonies. We all grew up listening to that kind of music, and I started singing in church, so I think a little gospel flavor filters through, too. We like to mix it up and take some chances."
Still, discerning ears will detect a strain of Bon Scott in Charlie's upper register. "Our music is probably harder driving than what you'd call classic Southern rock," he concedes, "especially in the guitar and drum sounds." In fact, this ain't no gospel, this ain't no bluegrass, this ain't no fooling around: Blackberry Smoke is balls-out rock and roll.
The response of fans to the live performances on Bad Luck Ain't No Crime, the band's debut disc, is thrilling confirmation of that. Studio tracks "Testify" and "Sanctified Woman" may be attracting the most attention at rock radio, but these rough-and-ready versions of originals "Scare The Devil" and "Muscadine" and the standard "Freeborn Man" may better capture the essence of Blackberry Smoke.
"We recorded those during the motorcycle rally in Sturgis [South Dakota], at The Full Throttle Saloon," Charlie informs. "We took an RV, parked it behind the stage and just lived there for a week. We opened for everyone who came through. It's outdoors and the weather was beautiful. There's no charge to get in and lots of booze flowing. What that audience sounded like - we couldn't have asked for better live recordings. Technically, there are some warts, but the energy was so high that we didn't care. We aren't brain surgeons - it ain't pretty sometimes, but it sure does feel good."
Even when Charlie's singing about hard times, there is joy in the music. You can't help thinking that he, Paul, Richard and Brit were born to play together.
The road to Blackberry Smoke winds through Lanett, Alabama, where Charlie was raised, LaGrange, Georgia, where he met Paul, and Atlanta, longtime stomping grounds to brothers Richard and Brit. Growing up in Lanett, a textile mill town ringed by fields of corn, peas and butterbeans, Charlie began his training as a singer before he could talk. His mother's uncle is Bluegrass Hall Of Famer Buford Abner, lead singer for the aforementioned Swanee River Boys; great uncle Merle Abner sang bass.
"My dad has played guitar and sung bluegrass my whole life," Charlie adds. "I spent a lot of years going to bluegrass festivals. Every weekend we'd drive to Virginia or Kentucky. It was a fun thing to do. When I got to be a teenager, I said, ?I don't want to play this kind of music; I want to play "Smoke On The Water."' But after a while, I think you always come back to whatever sparked your interest in music in the first place."
He vividly remembers his mother singing along to the radio, with The Rolling Stones, The Faces, The Beatles and Bob Dylan among her favorites. He notes that his own idols range more toward Hank Williams - of whom he says, "I don't think a better songwriter has ever walked the earth" - and Steve Earle, but the Bad Luck Ain't No Crime track "Normaltown" is indisputably reminiscent of the Beatles' psychedelic awakening.
Charlie recollects: "When I was growing up, we'd all sit around the piano singing, and I'd grab my dad's guitar every time someone put it down. About the time I turned six, I guess he figured he'd better get me one before I broke his."
The boy learned how to play on his own after a few lessons from Dad. He graduated to the electric guitar in his teen years. By then Charlie was getting into the Allmans, Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker, Molly Hatchet, Blackfoot and 38 Special, whose material he calls "a little more pop, riding-around-in-your-Camaro stuff."
He naturally gravitated toward other rock musicians. "Paul and I have been buddies for a long time," he says. "He's always been a great guitar player. We'd go down to Atlanta to see bands. There's a couple of late-night watering holes where musicians would convene after concerts, and that's where we got to know Brit and Richard. We kept saying we should all jam and when we finally did, there it was; the band just kind of fell together."
Blackberry Smoke's creative approach remains a collaborative one. "Sometimes I'll come in with a basic idea, just play some chords and a melody on an acoustic and a song will grow from that," Charlie explains. "But most of the time I'll write with Paul - we live within 15 minutes of each other - or we'll be in rehearsal and just start jamming on something and magic will happen."
The band members have a similarly easygoing, give-and-take personal rapport. Charlie says he knows it's a clich', but he nonetheless attests: "We're like a little family, like four brothers. We all just get along really well. We've all been in cover bands, and in every cover band there's somebody ya hate. There's nobody in this band like that ? unless I'm the guy and they haven't told me! We could never stay on the road for 40 days if we weren't laughing and having a good time. All our dads were in the service and they taught us respect for other people. Hell, Brit and Richard's dad is a retired Air Force colonel; they really walked the line."
During their travels, the Blackberry Smoke boys have headlined all over the U.S. and opened for a slew of rock acts. The band got their name from another likeminded artist, former Black Crowes singer-songwriter Chris Robinson.
Casey James: Casey Everett James (born May 31, 1982) is an American singer and guitarist from Fort Worth, Texas, who was the third-place finalist on the ninth season of American Idol.
Born in Princeton and raised in Cool, Texas, James had a bad reaction to his pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine when he was an infant, and his family feared brain damage. According to his mother, however, she realized that he would be all right and was going to be musical when he started humming before he talked. Then, at the age of 21, following a serious motorcycle accident that nearly ended his life, James was told by doctors that he would no longer be able to play guitar, a medical prediction that proved untrue.
Before American Idol, Casey played with his band "Casey James and Crossover". In 2010, USA Today music critic Brian Mansfield suggested that James was the best guitar player the show [American Idol] has seen." James had tried out for and been selected to compete in the ninth season of Idol in 2009 in spite of the fact that he had never seen the show. James was the oldest contestant to be selected for the Top 24 of the ninth season at the age of 27
Uncle Kracker: Is there anyone better to tell it like it is than one's kid? In January 2008, when Uncle Kracker began to write the songs that appear on his new album Happy Hour, it was his eight year-old daughter who suggested that he try writing something a little less downbeat than usual. "She said to me, 'I can't really dance to any of your songs,'" the father of three says with a laugh. "Not that I needed to make a dance record, but it dawned on me that I tend to write a lot of acoustic ballads and mid-tempo type tunes. And I thought, 'It's pretty bad when your own kids won't listen to your records. Your own kids!' At the end of the day, people want to have fun more than they want to cry. I realized that it was time for something a little more upbeat and positive and that's what I ended up with on Happy Hour."
Produced by multiple Grammy-Award winner Rob Cavallo, Happy Hour is a breezy blend of country-flavored pop and rock and roll that showcases not only the Detroit native's natural appeal as a likeable Everyman, but also his considerable gifts as a songwriter. Though many know him from his early years as the DJ in Kid Rock's Twisted Brown Trucker Band, Uncle Kracker (whose real name is Matt Shafer) has had impressive success as a songwriter, racking up co-writing credits on Kid Rock's blockbuster hits "Bawitdaba," "Cowboy," "Forever," "Only God Knows Why," and 2008's No. 1 "All Summer Long," as well as his own Adult Top 40 No. 1 "Follow Me" (from his 2001 double-platinum debut Double Wide). "Uncle Kracker has zero musical talent," says Kid Rock. "No musician skills at all, but he's a phenomenal songwriter--very talented with words and melodies."
On Happy Hour, Uncle Kracker's soulful drawl unspools over massively hooky choruses on feel-good songs like the buoyant first single "Smile," the hilarious SoCal-skewering "I Hate California," and the freewheeling "Good To Be Me," in which he sings about riding with the T-Top down in his Cutlass Supreme. Three songs about whom we shall call complicated women -- "California," "Hot Mess," and "My Girlfriend" -- highlight Uncle Kracker's playful humor and dead-on sense of satire, while "Corner Bar" takes a more thoughtful tone by addressing the current economic downturn ("A funny little thing we all call greed / Brought my hometown down to its knees"). Other standouts include a stirring cover of Bob Seger's classic "Main Street" and the lone acoustic ballad "Me Again."
The songs may go down easy, but that doesn't mean they were easy to write. Happy Hour is Uncle Kracker's first album in five years because after he finished two years of touring behind his previous release, 2004's Seventy Two & Sunny, he wrote and recorded an entire album that he wound up scrapping. "I just decided it wasn't the right record," Uncle Kracker says. "It didn't feel relevant. So I shitcanned all the songs."
Uncle Kracker was forced to raise his game when Rob Cavallo was brought in to produce the album. Known for his work with Green Day, Kid Rock, and Dave Matthews Band, Cavallo "wouldn't let me just give him schlep," Uncle Kracker says. "Basically, he wouldn't put his hand on anything that wasn't up to snuff. So I started writing new songs and there was one in a batch of 10 that he said, 'Well, we can do this one.' I co-produced my last couple of records, so it was nice to write something and take it to a producer and let him bring out what worked. Sometimes you can be too attached to a song to be open-minded about taking suggestions from anybody."
"I think Matt really stepped it up by bringing in someone like Rob to help him with the production end of things," says Kid Rock. "Happy Hour is his best record sonically. I also think it's his best-written record. It should be--he's had like five fuckin' years to write it!"
Uncle Kracker chuckles when he hears Kid Rock's comments. The two have been best friends since meeting in 1987 at a club in Clawson, MI, where Rock was spinning in an all-ages DJ contest. With similar taste in hip-hop and classic rock, the two became fast friends. What's little known is that Uncle Kracker actually signed his first record deal at age 15 with a Detroit indie label. "I started writing rap songs when I was 11, after the first Fat Boys record came out in the mid 80s," Uncle Kracker says. "I met Kid Rock when I was 13 and got my deal a couple of years later. I was still legally too young to sign a contract for myself. But people always think it was just like Kid Rock spit me out of his womb and that was it," he says with a laugh.
Uncle Kracker wound up contributing to Rock's 1996 independent release Early Mornin' Stoned Pimp and 1998's multi-platinum Devil Without A Cause before busting out on his own with Double Wide in 2000. The album peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Top 200, spawned the smash single "Follow Me" (undoubtedly paving the way for the chart success of acoustic troubadours Jason Mraz and John Mayer), and went on double-platinum success the following year. Uncle Kracker's gold-selling second album, No Stranger To Shame, followed in 2002, spawning a hit cover version of Dobie Gray's classic "Drift Away." That track reached the Top 10 on Billboard's Hot 100 and set a record for most weeks at No. 1 on the AC chart, remaining there for 22 straight weeks.
In 2004, Uncle Kracker released Seventy Two and Sunny, which showcased his melodic songwriting and unique stylistic synthesis of pop, rock, country, soul, blues, and even doo-wop. Country superstar Kenny Chesney was featured on one of the album's tracks, "Last Night Again," so that same year, Uncle Kracker returned the favor by singing on Chesney's "When The Sun Goes Down," which topped Billboard's "Hot Country Songs" chart for five consecutive weeks. It also marked the first time in more than 20 years that an artist without a previous country history, like Uncle Kracker, was featured on a No. 1 country single. Uncle Kracker hit the road with Chesney for an arena tour that found Chesney's fans singing along with "Follow Me" and "Drift Away."
"I've learned a lot from Kenny Chesney, like how to have a more positive outlook on things," Uncle Kracker says. "He taught me how to care a little less and not sweat the small stuff." That influence can clearly be heard on Happy Hour--Uncle Kracker's most upbeat record yet. "It's definitely a departure from what I was doing," he says. "I'm just looking forward to people hearing it."