#CMchat Exclusive Interview: Jerrod Niemann

Jerrod Niemann recently got a chance to go back in time a bit, paying a visit to his Alma Mater, Liberal (Kansas) High School to take in a Redskins game. It was an experience that he truly enjoyed.

“You always hear people say ‘Soak these moments up, because when they are gone, they are gone, and I can imagine that people have things in high school that were no fun, and things that were amazing. To get to hang out with some of my friends, and get to go to a football game. We were one of those fortunate programs that went to eight state championships in a row, so there were definitely a lot of memories of what it meant to me – and the community.”

Nostalgic look to the past aside, Niemann is blazing full steam ahead these days – with a brand new album, This Ride, which will be released this Friday (October 6). He says that he can’t wait for his fans to hear his first all-new album since 2014’s High Noon.

“Every time you get a chance to write or perform music, that’s what you moved to town to do…it’s not just going in and trying to write songs that matter, but it’s getting to hang out with your favorite musicians and producers, and all the people behind the scenes that unfortunately people don’t get to see. It’s my favorite process, and I can’t wait for people to hear the music to the people.”

He knows his fans have been very patient waiting for his Curb Records debut to be released, and he feels they will be happy with the end result.

“It’s crazy how quickly time flies…fortunately, we travel all the time, so it doesn’t’ seem like three years – for me. But, when you look through your social media page or old photos, you see where it has been. If you’re just churning out records, there’s a high probability that you might not have the quality of music that your fans deserve. So, to be able to take the time with this record was really cool….to be able to take the time with this record was great because we got to complete the record, in between labels, and decided to see if we could find something that beat what was originally on it. So, we ended up recording three more that made the album. It was fun to do the best of the best, which is what everybody deserves.”

As has always been the case with a Niemann project, the singer says he tried to push the envelope on both a lyrical and sonic level.

“I think that challenging yourself in any artistic form is what everybody should do – try to grow as a performer or as a singer-songwriter. For me on this album, it was about taking half the instruments to get twice the sound. To get into the studio and do that, you have to go in and arrange it to a point that every note counts. There’s not a whole lot of rhythm instruments – everybody has something going on that is definitely an important piece of the puzzle. We tried to make every note matter.”

Make no mistake about it, Niemann loves the creative project. He says it’s what feeds his creative spirit.

“It can be so fun to be in the studio that you start stacking things up to a point where it’s impossible to play the song live. I thought – let’s do the complete opposite where less is more, where silence speaks louder than words or too many guitars. There’s a lot of air in these songs where every instrument is in your face once you hone in on it because there’s just not that many there. That was our goal. Also, to get in there with somebody like Jimmie Lee Sloas, who is such a talented producer and musician – it’s all about the vibe and the intangibles. Jimmie brings such an amazing hang to the whole deal that you want to out-do yourself. You seem to come up with stuff that matters more.”

This Ride is the first release for Nieman since he tied the knot with his wife, Morgan. How has marriage affected his music?

“It’s ruined my career, to be honest…”

(He dead-panned before turning serious)

“It’s changed the music a little bit. I cut my teeth in the honky-tonks. So, whenever you’re going around in a twelve-passenger van for years playing bars, you always let that seep into the music. If you listen to our albums, you probably think ‘This guy needs to go to rehab,’ because of all the partying songs. You stick to what you know. But, now that I know marriage and love, it’s easier to let some of that seep in, and it’s good to show more layers of the onion. I’m glad my wife puts up with me and has become such a muse to the music.”

After four albums with Arista, what was the process like recording with Curb? 

“There’s a lot more of a boutique Mom and Pop feel, where everybody wears a lot of hats, but what they really want is you putting your own stamp on things…there are some places that really like to have their input in, and you have meetings about meetings, and sometimes, the artists’ vision gets lost, but what I really love about this record is that I was able to get back into a zone and get in my lane.”

One highlight from the new disc that the singer-songwriter is excited about is “But I Do,” which was written by Josh Osborne, Jimmy Robbins, Jon Nite.

“If you’re going through a particularly rough time in your life – it seems like everybody is a Dr. Phil – and everybody knows what is right for you and has the rest of your life figured out. But, there are sometimes things that you just have to go in and face yourself. You run into somebody that you might have hung out with, and there’s that moment where your stomach is churning because you miss them – or you never want to see them again, depending on the relationship.”

He stressed that he also tried to roll the dice from a sound standpoint.

“Production-wise, a lot of the time you’ll hear the electric guitar come roaring in, and the acoustics are in the background. We took the approach of what happens if you swap them out when you hear the acoustic take the lead. We just tried to let everyone switch chairs, so to speak.”

Many of the songs have already been worked into his live shows, including the throwback vibe of “I Ain’t All There,” which features a vocal cameo from Diamond Rio.

“I was sitting in my basement in the wee hours of the morning. I like to hang out when my wife and the dogs are snoozing, and I was working on this song, thinking how cool it would be to have a Diamond Rio-harmony sound on it because nobody can do harmonies quite like them. I came up with this pattern. A few nights later, I was at dinner with my manager and some friends, and it was brought up about approaching them and seeing if they would sing on it. We did, and they came in and brought the song to a completely different level. I enjoy getting to name drop them on stage every night when we play it. Because of them, it’s one of my favorites on the record.”

Niemann recently got to go in front of the camera for a completely different reason, and he and his family participated in a recent run on Family Feud, of which he enjoyed every moment that you saw – and some that you didn’t.

Steve Harvey is a lunatic – but in the best of all ways. People see the edited version of the shows, but what you don’t see is what happens when someone throws out a crazy answer, and you see his facial expression. He will walk in front of the stage and do stand-up comedy for a few minutes. It’s all brilliant and sounds like it’s been scripted. To be able to do something like that with my family was awesome – except that we lost.”

And, if Harvey ever needs a day off from the hosting gig, perhaps Jerrod’s sister Amy could fill that role. He said that she definitely had her moments of rendering everyone speechless with her responses.

“They had to trim off some of the things that she said because I don’t think Steve Harvey wanted to get his stage stolen from under him, but it was pretty funny.”

Check out this EXCLUSIVE First Listen on Billboard.

Author: Chuck Dauphin

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