Jerrod Niemann Interview: Singer Prepares to Settle Down, But Keeps Gambling With Songs on ‘High Noon’
There's a room in Jerrod Niemann's house; a red room. Don't jump to conclusions, although it is where the 'Drink to That All Night' singer says he builds confidence. Think red walls, a red ceiling, thick shag carpet -- red.
"I hate the fact that it’s a red room, because I’ve heard people say '50 Shades of Grey’ has some crazy red room stuff going on," Niemann shares with Taste of Country. "This isn’t that crazy." He's not lying. In fact, you can see it for yourself here.
She’s got this enormous heart. Maybe that’s why she was attracted to me, because she thinks I’m a fixer-upper.
The room is his studio, if one can call it that. No professional recording happens there, but Niemann is able to monkey around with his wild impulses and ideas. It's where he can play with different sounds and mixes. His new album 'High Noon' takes chances, but he isn't nervous about it. He may have been initially.
"It was just more like a nervous challenge, a nervous excitement. Like, ‘Ooh, can I do that?’" the singer says. "There are songs that you hear that are pretty safe and down the middle, and they’ll probably be hit songs. But I want someone to feel something. I’d rather have someone say, ‘I can’t stand that song’ or love it than, ‘Eh, that’s alright.’"
'Donkey' fits the bill, and so does 'Drink to That All Night.' Niemann says he was surprised everyone at his record label supported releasing the thumping electro-country jam, now a Top 5 hit. There wasn't even a long, drawn-out discussion with votes and politicking.
"I mean, after coming off of an album full of horns ('Free the Music') and our last song ('Only God Could Love You More') went away at (chart position) 29, I thought, ‘Man, it’s all about taking chances and gambling.’"
'High Noon' works the edges, but not to the extent his previous two Arista records did. It's a more consistent project, with serious love songs or heartbreakers to balance out the songs like 'Donkey.'
Niemann remembers the first day he heard 'Donkey.' David Tolliver (known as Dtox) told him about it while the two were at the Tin Roof in Nashville.
"So he sent it to me, and the next day I listened to it, and I’m rarely, rarely speechless. I’m sitting there and I thought, ‘What in the hell is that? That’s either the worst song I ever heard or the best -- or both. So I just kind of laughed it off and about three days later, I thought, 'I’ll go back and listen to that' and listened to it about a half a dozen times, put it on my iPod, brought it out on the road."
I’m sitting there and I thought, ‘What in the hell is that? That’s either the worst song I ever heard or the best -- or both.
It stopped the conversation when it shuffled through on his bus. Slowly, it grew it on him. "Obviously country music was built on amazing songs like ‘Chisled in Stone’ and ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today,’ but not every song has to rip your heart out," Niemann says. "Sometimes it’s okay just to tap your foot and laugh a little bit."
Calling 'High Noon' a party album is fair, but that doesn't tell the whole story. A number of songs were written with Niemann's fiancee Morgan in mind. 'The Real Thing' is one he points to, but 'Refill' also seems inspired by the romance.
“I left town to make a little money but there’s always a price to pay / I miss my baby’s peaches and her Tennessee honey / There’s only one road that I can take / I need a refill,” he sings before the second chorus.
Colt Ford appears on 'She's Fine,' another Morgan song, but that's not the most striking thing about the hip-hop influenced track. Listen closely for a sitar.
"My fiancee, she actually went to India for awhile to work with children with leprosy, and she really liked that," he says. "She’s got this enormous heart. Maybe that’s why she was attracted to me, because she thinks I’m a fixer-upper. She went there and the song I wrote mainly about her going to India. She just really loved the sitar and I thought, ‘I’m gonna sneak that in there just to show her I love her.’"
'I Can't Give in Anymore' is the darkest of the 13 songs. Richie Brown and Brad Passons wrote the song. Paul Franklin adds pedal steel, giving the track a duet feel without adding another vocalist. Lyrically, Niemann said he cut the song for people who are in a dying relationship and need something to tell them they're not alone.
"I’ve been there before. Like, we’re the same people, doing the same things," the hitmaker says. "What has changed here? You either fix it or move on. It seems like everybody goes through that."
I mean after coming off of an album full of horns, and our last song went away at 29, I thought, ‘Man, it’s all about taking chances and gambling.
A new album, a tour with Keith Urban and a looming wedding date don't stress Niemann. In fact, little rattles this Kansas native ... except having nothing to do. Fans won't be surprised to learn that almost nothing makes him angry, either.
"Man, I think something is wrong with me," he admits. "I really don’t get mad. I’ve had my friends crash my car. Back when we had a 12-passenger van, we were riding around the country and getting into fender benders. I just don’t get mad. But when I do, I only have one mad and it’s pretty mad."
So, what sets Jerrod Niemann off? "It’s if someone representing me in any way treats someone like crap. I don’t like that," he spills. "I don’t like to go to restaurants and be rude. Life’s too short."