This song from Niemann’s High Noon album is kind of a country boy’s worst case scenario. He has no ride to the bar, so he decides to ride a “donkey, donkey down to the honky-tonky.” Whatever gets you there, right?
And Niemann admitted in an interview with industry publication Country Aircheck he knows it’s not exactly a mainstream country song.
“When I first heard ‘Donkey,’ I knew it was either the best or worst song I’d ever heard — or both,” he said. “I was so confused by it that I put it on the playlist on the bus for like a year, and someone would always go, ‘Whoa, what is that ?’
“So we recorded it. I thought, good or bad, it won’t be indifferent. That’s what I want, for people to pay attention.”
Then, Niemann took a minute to defend himself to his harshest critics.
“Thank you to people who say I’m single-handedly destroying country music for giving me such power,” Niemann said, sounding sarcastic and maybe even a little wounded. “Recorded country music’s been around since 1927. Even if I was trying to destroy country music, it would be impossible.”
He compares songs like “Donkey” to “Write Your Own Songs,” an old Waylon Jennings song Jennings co-wrote with Willie Nelson. The lyrics include, “We write what we live and we live what we write/Is that wrong?/If you think it is, Mr. Music Executive/Why don’t you write your own songs?”
“The lyrics say to the traditional country fan, ‘Mr. Purified Country, the world’s getting smaller and everyone in it belongs,’” Niemann said. “We look at those artists as the epitome, but they were receiving flak back then.”