I love Kid Rock. Okay, I've never been married to the man, or even been to a Waffle House with him. Still, I've had the pleasure of knowing the Artist Formerly Known As Bob Richie for quite a few years now, and he's always been a straight shooter with me. At the risk of blowing Kid's cover, he's one of the most solid characters you'll meet in music. Spending some very quality time with him at his home outside of Detroit this year, I could see up close that he's a good, loving dad too.
Musically, Kid Rock has always been his own man. Who else would ask Lil Wayne to sit in with him at the CMA Awards, and make friends with Jon Stewart and Fox News too? Kid Rock's latest album, Born Free, is his most moving, accomplished and, yes, mature work yet. This is not the work of a Devil Without A Cause or a rebel without a clue either. Produced by Rick Rubin, it's an album that comes straight from the heart -- and yes, that's clearly one of his many organs in good working order.
What can you say about a great, soulful rock album with country touches that features Martina McBride and T.I. on one track called "Care" and Kid and Sheryl Crow painting a stunning new musical picture called "Collide" with no less than Bob's longstanding idol Bob Seger backing them up on piano? Here's what I can say? Do yourself a favor and buy it -- and make a nice Kid happy for Christmas.
So what was it like to be on the bill for "The Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear"?
It was a lot of fun. The Rally was billed as a non-political event, which I liked. Jon Stewart called me and we talked without any managers or anything. He's a great guy. He sent me a care package from 2nd Avenue Deli in New York. First time I ever had kosher food! That corned beef sandwich on rye was rockin'. I'm a fan of Colbert, Stewart and Megyn Kelly. I like to stay well rounded.
You're a man with deep roots in rock, rap and country at a time when the music world feels so fragmented. Is it fair to say that you're a uniter, not a divider?
Rev Run [of Run DMC fame] gave me one of the most meaningful compliments I ever. He said, "I never met anyone who brings people together like you do. That's what you do." That's high praise, especially from a great man like him. So I'm going to try and stay on that path. I just try to stay true to myself, and speak my mind -- even when it gets me in trouble, like when I opened my big mouth about Steven Tyler and American Idol. Hey, I gotta be me.
Born Free reminds me of the great Bob Seger albums that I grew up listening to back when I was a kid in the Seventies. Bob appears on the album, along with Sheryl Crow on the track "Collide." Is it fair to say that Bob Seger help set the template for what you're doing now?
Absolutely. Not only is Bob Seger a role model for me musically -- when I was growing up Bob's records led me back to all the music that inspired him too. I really discovered the music of Stax, Chuck Berry, and Muscle Shoals through Bob. Loving what Bob does led me to dig back into music history enough to experience some of the amazing music that moved him growing up. Learning that music became my homework. Frankly it's the only homework that I've ever successfully done. My biggest dream is that someday some kid will like what I do enough to dig back through my albums, then Bob's records and then back into the past just like I did with him.
How was the relationship working with Rick Rubin as your producer on Born Free?
It was a very successful relationship. Hell, who am I kidding, it's one of the only successful relationships I've ever had! Rick's been a friend and advised me before, and we talked last time about working together on my previous album. But we knew our time would come eventually. So it was like, "Rick, let me get on the highway and then you can drive us both home." Working with Rick was great.
From the time you played me "Born Free" back in Detroit, I could tell this song and the new album are very important to you.
You're right. They are. It's a strange time to be putting music out, and it's my job to try and get this music out to the people who care. My main goal is to make music that stands the test of time. If I'm honest with myself, what I really hope is that "Born Free" will become a classic. It may never be a big hit, but that's okay because some of the greatest records of all time weren't the biggest hits right away. Hell, "Family Tradition" by Hank Williams, Jr. only reached #4 on the country charts and it doesn't get better than that song. Right before my album came out this week, I was having a bad day. I felt like I had to "Slow My Roll" -- to steal a title from myself. So I came into my recording studio and I saw one of the possessions that I most treasure. It's an album that the great Johnny Cash took the time to send me. On it he wrote, "To Kid Rock, Thanks for keeping the music going. A Fan, Johnny Cash." That's what it's all about now -- keeping the music going.