20 Questions With Uncle Kracker

Talking About Michigan, Hawaii and the One Thing About Kenny Chesney That Irritates Him

With a No. 1 country hit (“When the Sun Goes Down”) and a summer tour — both with his pal Kenny Chesney — Uncle Kracker’s life is anything but dry. His new album is scheduled for June, but in the meantime, he answers fan questions about hanging with Chesney and Kid Rock, dreaming of harmonizing with Emmylou Harris and meeting somebody who just might be cooler than Hank Williams Jr.

1. How hard is it to maintain a relationship when you spend a vast amount of time on the road?

How hard is it? Uh, you know what, it was harder in the beginning than it is now. Everybody just falls into place and deals with it. But as long as you know your place, it ain’t that hard.

2. It looks like you guys had a ton of fun in the video for “When the Sun Goes Down.” What do you remember the most about making that video?

Lobby call was at 4:30 a.m. in the hotel before we went down to film the first scene. I think what was most memorable was sitting beside the ocean eating omelets from catering with Dale Morris, who is Kenny’s manager. At like 5 in the morning in January, it was ridiculous.

3. If you could meet one person you haven’t met yet, who would it be, and why?

Uh, shoot! Dead or alive? I think if there’s one person I would want to meet, it would be Hank Sr. His son is so … cool, I’d like to see who’s cooler.

4. What female country singer would you like to sing with?

Hmm. I think I’d do a duet with Emmylou Harris. That would be cool. I’ve been a fan of hers since Wrecking Ball. I think she’s awesome.

5. What’s your favorite thing about living in Michigan?

The seasons. You get every one of them. Spring is beautiful here. Summertime is not awful. Fall is perfect. Winter sucks, but you still get a winter. I like the seasons. We like … the lakes up here, and we do a lot of fishing.

6. How did you meet Kid Rock, and do you all keep in touch?

I met Kid Rock when I was 12 years old or 13. We met at a teen club. It used to be a teen club. It was actually a bar that turned into a teen club on Sunday nights. They had DJ battle competitions, and he happened to be in a competition against my brother. They met and became friends, and then Kid Rock and I became best friends out of that. So we’ve been best friends for about 16 years. We talk about every day still. We’re like two little girls. Call to gossip and blabber … . (laughs)

7. I know that you hang out with Kenny and Kid Rock. What is the wildest thing that y’all have ever done together?

Oh, I don’t know. I don’t remember! (laughs)

8. How old were you when you first got interested in a music career?

I started doing rap demos when I was 12, actually. I first started getting into that when I was 10. I was listening to the Fat Boys in ’84. I started listening to a lot of rap stuff, writing my own stuff, and it evolved from there.

9. You’ve had success in rap, pop, R&B (with “Drift Away”) and now country. Are there any other genres of music you’d like to try?

No, I’m kinda happy with the country-pop-rock-blues thing. That’s where I fit in. That’s basically what I love. There’s nothing else I really want to do, and everything that I have done has been by accident anyway. If I stumble across something else, I don’t know. I’ve been kind of lucky in doing what I have done. I don’t really have any master plan either. I’m just writing songs, and that’s about it. I like making music and making records.

10. Have you ever played Hawaii before? Do you think there is any way possible you guys could make it out to Hawaii for a show?

I have never played Hawaii. In fact, I’ve never even been to Hawaii. But there was a time when I was supposed to do something down there, and something fell through. … If I get a chance, I’d hop all over it for sure. As long as it made sense for everybody. That’s a pretty long haul from Detroit, to pack up the crew and the gear and go and try not to lose any dough on my end.

11. After all the years and time working and writing with the Kid Rock camp, is it hard to get used to working with other people? Do you feel just as confident in the work that comes out as you did with Kid Rock and TBT?

I’m always confident with everything that I do. As far as being comfortable with other people, I’ve never worked with anybody that I didn’t feel comfortable with. As far as working for [producer] Mike Bradford, Kenny Chesney or Phil Vassar, they’re all really cool cats, and I get along great with all of them. Obviously, I work well with Kid Rock because we’re best friends, but I won’t work with anybody that I don’t feel comfortable with.

12. How did the band you were in with Kid Rock become called Twisted Brown Trucker, and what does that mean?

When Kid Rock was doing the rap stuff, he was picking out instruments and playing them and figuring out how to incorporate the band with the rap stuff. He was evolving at the time into something different than he was or I guess molding what he was doing. And Twisted Brown Trucker was kind of his alter ego at first. Then it just became the band he played with, the band that tours.

13. What is the most unexpected CD in your collection?

The most unexpected? Ooh. That’s a trick question. I’ll get nailed on this one. I’ve got just about anything. I don’t know what would be unexpected. There’s some Neil Diamond in there. Sade. I listen to just about everything, as long as it’s not too heavy. You could put Neil Diamond in there. Maybe B.J. Thomas.

14. Do you have any pre-show rituals to get ready to go on stage?

No. No rituals. Just kinda sit around, and when it’s time to do it, it’s time to do it. That’s it. As long as there’s beer around, that seems to be the only thing close to a ritual, I guess.

15. What is your best advice from someone who likes to perform but still has some issues with stage fright?

I don’t know. The old saying goes, “Never let them see you sweat,” and I find that to be 100 percent true. I don’t have any advice to overcome it. I know people that are absolutely terrified but do it every day, and they are absolute wrecks. But there’s medicine for it, I think. (laughs)

16. Is there any particular country artist that got you hooked on country music?

I would have to say Hank Jr. He pushed me over the edge. I grew up listening to a lot of Patsy Cline and George Jones because my dad had it in the tape deck growing up. But what really pushed me over the edge was Hank Jr. He made me see what I always missed when I was a kid, when I overlooked that George Jones stuff. He fueled my fire, and even then I only got into everything he sang about and the people whose names popped up on his records. I think he was responsible … .

17. Do you see any difference between rock fans and country fans?

No, not really. To me, fans are fans. If they’re there, they’re there. If they’re excited, they’re excited. If they like it, they like it. All you can do is hope that they do like it. There’s not a difference. You would think that there’s a huge difference between a Kenny Chesney or Toby Keith fan, as opposed to a Slayer fan. But the only difference is, Slayer will have a tremendous amount of energy coming from their fans, but so would Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney. It’s all energy, it’s a different kind of energy. Obviously I think the songs are different, but fans are fans.

18. Will there ever be a Kid Rock and Uncle Kracker tour? It’s not the same without you behind the turntables.

We almost did this summer. We talked about it. I don’t know. We figured we’d be worth more on the reunion tour than we would be now. (laughs) But we’re always talking about it. I’m testing out my waters now, and he’s feeling his, and we’re waiting. We’re walking down the hill, as opposed to running, I guess. If and when it does happen, which I’m sure it will, then both of our plans will have come full circle.

19. I’m originally from Knoxville, Tenn., now living in Michigan. How did it feel to be in Neyland Stadium playing with Kenny Chesney in front of 60,000-plus fans?

I s**t all over myself when I went out there that night. That was beautiful. I went out there with my pants sagging. Didn’t have no belt. I was using those little ear monitors I’d never used before. But you know what? It was awesome. What a rush.

20. Is there anything that Kenny does that gets on your nerves?

That Kenny does? … No, no. … He works out a lot. (laughs) That gets on any fat guy’s nerves. (laughs)