Uncle Kracker likes to roll. Not only was the title of his debut album, Double Wide, a reference to both a luxuriously large mobile home and a style of rolling paper, the LP was written and recorded on a bus.
For the follow-up, however, Kracker settled on a more stationary location — one that doesn’t roll but, as it’s been brimming with his new tunes since mid-December, most certainly rocks.
The DJ has been holed up in a makeshift studio in his hometown of Mount Clemens, Michigan, a northern suburb of Detroit, where he’s recording tracks for the new album. While the studio is a bit more comfortable than the back of a bus — it has indoor plumbing, for one, but no phone — Kracker’s sticking to the bare-bones approach by using just a ProTools rig and forgoing much of a modern studio’s flashy wizardry. He’s keeping it simple, stupid — not such a bad idea given that his debut sold upward of 1.6 million copies since its release in June 2000, according to SoundScan.
Song-wise, Kracker said he’s not going out on any limbs and is content to stick with what ain’t broken. A conservative approach, sure, with one exception.
“I’m singing a lot more than I was before,” he revealed. “With my first record, I didn’t know I could sing. I actually still kind of can’t, but I’m singing a lot more this time around. And just making more melodic stuff again — I don’t know, I’m just trying to make good songs. I don’t think there are any different avenues that I’m walking down. … I just want to make timeless stuff. [I’m] not saying this is going to be a big project; it’s definitely nothing artsy. I’m definitely not reinventing any wheels. I’m just sticking to my own pattern — my own stuff that I want to listen to, stuff that I want to hear.”
Though the album under construction is officially without a name, Kracker thought about calling it No Stranger to Shame. While most songs are also nameless, fans can expect some to bear titles such as “Keep It Coming,” “I Do,” “Mr. Hawkins” and “I Wish I Had a Dollar.” The album doesn’t sport any outside guests at present — though Kracker fancied a collaboration with that Great Ball of Fire himself, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Kid Rock will contribute to four of the songs.
Besides not having to deal with motion sickness, another difference between recording Kracker’s new material and making Double Wide is the relaxed atmosphere and greater clarity that comes with working at his own pace.
“It’s a different environment, definitely,” he said. “Before, there was a little pressure. I was on the road with Kid Rock, and I didn’t have all the time in the world to sit down and write. … Just trying to get that thing done and out of the way in between all the madness was a little shaky.
“But this is a lot different because I actually get to sit down and see things through a little more. I get to spend a little bit more time on it. … Before, [I] just kind of slapped something down and shipped it out. I don’t like to dwell, but I like to make sure that I have time.”
Kracker views the benefits of his proper studio in retrospect. Initially, he wanted to repeat the record-on-a-bus process, since he spent the summer promoting Double Wide on a tour with labelmates Sugar Ray. However, a little imp with a penchant for partying named Mark McGrath squashed those plans but quick.
“[At first], I was like, ’Man, this is gonna be good. I’m going to be on tour. I’ll be able to write three-quarters of the record while I’m out here.’ But this led to that, and that led to Mark McGrath.
“Mark’s a blast. We were actually supposed to do a Christmas song together; it was supposed to come out on some compilation. But we spent like a month and a half together and didn’t even touch it. That’s how much we didn’t get done.”
McGrath, too, may lend a hand to the album, since Kracker said he’ll be paying a visit in January. Once the album’s completed — hopefully by mid-January — Kracker will prepare to hit the road with Kid Rock to support the Bullgod’s Cocky in March.
Many of the show specifics, like whether it will be “stripped down or balls out,” are still being contemplated, including how Kracker will fit it. He might perform a few new songs during Rock’s set, as he did when Double Wide first dropped, or he might serve as the opening act.
Either way, Kracker’s experience at performing front and center, rather than being confined to behind the decks, has helped him follow in Rock’s Barnum-esque footsteps, but he said there will always be a measure of stage fright to keep his chops on point.
“[It’s getting easier], but it always has been and always will be tough to play songs to people that they’ve never heard,” Kracker explained. “[During the Kid Rock tour], it was weird to play ’Follow Me,’ being it was that type of song and most people hadn’t heard it before. So that was a little uncomfortable, but I think I came out of that one ahead.”