Whether you call him a rapper, a pop singer, a poser, a country music artist or even a musical genius, one thing is for sure — the Kid’s successful. Robert Ritchie, known to most as simply Kid Rock, has remained one of the most fascinating characters in American music during 2008.
With a history that includes an early morning Waffle House scuffle near Atlanta, another incident at a Nashville strip club, multiple marriages to Pamela Anderson and, more recently, inviting rapper Lil Wayne to join him during a performance on the CMA Awards, Kid Rock seems to have a natural knack for making headlines. But those headlines don’t seem to hurt his popularity.
In fact, it may even add to his mystique. His latest album, Rock N Roll Jesus, has gone double platinum, and his single, “All Summer Long,” was one of this year’s biggest hits on the U.S. pop and country charts. It reached No. 1 in six other nations.
“Sounds like another great excuse to throw a great party,” he laughed during an interview in Nashville with CMT.com. “I guess let’s start with why.
“It’s the music I love. It’s who I am as a person. People say I’m creatively confused or whatever they call it, but I just honestly enjoy music. I enjoy life.”
Creatively confused or not, he wasn’t the least bit shocked by the success of “All Summer Long.” He credits the feat to the mash-ups of two masterpiece melodies, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” and Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London,” blended with an original song and lyric over the top.
“It’s like having a football team with Brett Favre and Barry Sanders on it,” he explained. “You’re just not gonna beat it.”
He also speaks volumes through his music. Over the past decade, Kid Rock has uniquely traveled through multiple genres. His early success in the ’90s came in the form of modern and mainstream rock with Devil Without a Cause featuring brash beats like “Bawitaba” and “Cowboy.” He rocked the charts in 2000 with hits like “Only God Knows Why” and “American Bad Ass” and later crossed over to adult contemporary with a collaboration featuring Sheryl Crow in “Picture.” Just when he seems to settle into one genre, he quickly moves to the next and even back again.
“I love being able to jump onstage with Jay-Z and perform or jump onstage with Hank Jr. or Aerosmith or whoever it is and just be part of music and a part of life. I’ve been very blessed,” he explained.
Though critics may have a hard time understanding his musical direction or question exactly where he fits into the musical pie, Kid Rock seems nothing but certain.
“As much as I seem spirited as to, like, have my middle fingers up at the world, I don’t do this to prove the critics wrong at all,” he said. “That’s not my underlying values as my motivation. But to prove my fans right — the people who love me and believe in me. That’s why I keep making records, going on tour, making music — to take care of the people I love, my family and friends.”
As far as his family is concerned, Kid said both his parents and his teenage son enjoy his music and listen to his albums. He did admit, however, that his mother preferred the calmer tunes like “When You Love Someone” to that of his earlier songs like “Pimp of the Nation” and “Wax the Booty.”
“She’ll hear songs and say, ’Why do you have to say that stuff?'” He told her, “Some people enjoy it, mom.”
“Moms love me, by the way,” he interjected at one point during the interview. But it isn’t just the moms who keep his music afloat. The fans who attend his shows vary like the songs on his albums. There are mothers, fathers and young and old alike who seem to adore this self-proclaimed “Cowboy” and continue to pack the house for his concerts night after night.
“I really enjoy it, just mixing things up in life,” he smiled. “I always say at the shows, ’I know everybody here doesn’t have everything in common with one another, but what I do know for sure is that everybody’s here because they want to hear some music and have a good time.'”
He then went on to compare his concerts to the likes of his unusual dinner parties.
“I have a house in California, so whenever I have dinner over there, it’s like my science experiment of how many different people I can get to come over,” he explained. “I’ll get, like, Josh Groban and Kenny Chesney and this person and my rapper buddy over here and this guy from the Eagles. … I really enjoy that in life. Bringing people together is one of my favorite things. … I believed that’s what a rock ’n’ roll Jesus would really do — bring people together through music.”
Yes, Kid Rock is quite the unpredictable individual. For a man who has a hit single and an album titled, Devil Without a Cause, he may be the last person one would think to compare his concerts to church. When he begins to play “Amen,” a serious song he wrote, he urges the audience to take out their phones and wave them in the air. He then instructs them to turn around and slap fives with one another.
“It creates this very spiritual moment,” he explained. “That’s how church should be. Let’s have a couple of cocktails and go to church on Saturday night. … It just seemed like rock ’n’ roll had turned into bad rap music. Like the only rock ’n’ roll stars you’ve seen in the last 10 years are rappers. You know, with the shades and the jewelry. The spirit of rock ’n’ roll is alive and well. It kind of just needs to be cultivated a little bit.”
He went on to mention his musical motivations have changed throughout the years. He now recognizes the fact that his music has the ability to touch the lives of listeners, and he’s come to embrace this idea.
“When I first started, all I wanted to do was like, buy a new car and get laid. … But then when you really get into it, it’s incredible how many people you touch and come into contact with. … I can really influence and help a lot of people with the powers that God’s given me to sing and do what I do. So, it’s changed completely.”
But in Kid Rock fashion, he laughed, “I mean, I still like cars and getting laid. But I also try to help people out and be a good person on the inside.”