With his gold-certified debut, Double Wide, entering the top 10 of the Billboard 200 albums chart this week, Uncle Kracker appears to be on the fast track to success. But to him, the race to sell records feels more like a marathon than a 50-yard dash.
Despite his fairly visible role as Kid Rock’s DJ, Double Wide failed to make much more than a minor ding in the Billboard 200 albums chart during its first 30 weeks in stores. But now that the album is at #9 with more than 542,000 copies sold, Kracker must feel like employing Rock’s signature middle-finger salute when addressing those who doubted him.
“It gives you that kind of ’I told you so’ feeling,” Kracker said, “because I always knew the record was good.
“The last thing you want to see is your record sit on a shelf,” he continued. “You work for a record deal, and you work for writing a record, and you mix and master the record and put it out, and it doesn’t sell, and you’re kinda like, ’What? That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.'”
What is working for Kracker is Double Wide’s latest single, the romanticized, harmonized and countrified “Follow Me.” With its acoustic foundation and mellow tempo, the track sets itself apart from the album’s more aggressive, confrontational songs, like “Heaven” and “Who’s Your Uncle?” And unlike the themes of those songs — basically “I’m the baddest” — the message of “Follow Me” is left up in the air.
“I’ve heard some people think that I’m talking about drugs, or some people think I’m talking about cheating,” Kracker said. “I guess it’s kinda both. … It’s like a dirty picture painted with a pretty brush.”
Despite his experience behind the wheels of steel, both on his own and as a member of Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker band, 26-year-old Kracker never aspired to be a DJ. In fact, the man formerly known as Matt Shafer had no musical experience whatsoever before he hooked up with the Bullgod.
“He called me up because he had some issues with his DJ and he needed a DJ for a show he was doing,” Kracker recalled. “So he put me behind the turntables, and I was there more or less as something for people to look at, because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing — I learned at the shows.”
Working the decks wasn’t the only duty Rock required of his friend. “There was a point where I was doing everything. I was running samplers and doing the turntables and working the lights and working the fog machines — basically, everything that you can stick behind the tables, that’s what I was doing. And every now and then during the show, I would hit a little scratch or two and hope that it didn’t suck.”
Kracker said he intends to spend the first two months of the summer touring on his own before launching into a larger trek with labelmates Sugar Ray from mid-July through late August. A fall/winter tour with Kid Rock is also being discussed.
While on the road, Kracker said, he’s been laying down cuts for soundtracks to the films “Osmosis Jones” (due in August), “Summer Catch” (due this summer) and “Scooby Doo” (due next year), as well as remixing a song by the British band AKA that was written and produced by former New Radicals frontman Gregg Alexander. Kracker’s career, it seems, is far from crumbling.
“Everything’s kind of falling into place. And we knew going into it that the odds of someone going from a big group and splitting off and doing a solo project [weren’t good]. There hasn’t been many people that have had success doing it. I’m just happy to have done what we’ve done with it so far.”