Kid Rock wasn't playing around on 2010's Born Free, the heavy, heartland-indebted album that saw him team with producer Rick Rubin, record with a backing band that featured members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Heartbreakers, and generally get serious about the rather dour times middle-class America was facing. "All Summer Long" it most certainly wasn't.
So it probably shouldn't come as much of a surprise that, when it came time to record the follow-up, he was looking to get back to basics: namely, making a record that raised a little hell, drank a little more than it probably should, and had absolutely no problem with either of those two things. After all, it's what he does best.
"I set out to make a greatest hits record, but with all new songs," he laughed. "After the last record that I did, which was pretty poignant and spoke about things that were going on in Detroit with the economic downturn, this was like, 'I just want to get back and make a fun Kid Rock record. Whatever it feels like that day in the studio, write those songs, whether they're hip-hop or rock and roll or country, just have fun with it.'"
And the end result is Rebel Soul (out November 19), a roiling, rough-around-the-edges collection of Southern-rock indebted stompers, whiskey-tinged country ballads and all manner of Saturday-night debauchery. It was recorded fast and loose — "Me and my band were just sitting there in the corner while they were re-doing my studio," Rock explained. "So I was like 'Man, let's just plug in and record,' and we worked it out in a couple of weeks" — and is all the better for it. In a lot of ways, it's the record Rock's been working toward his entire career — though he prefers to think of it as just the latest effort in his ever-evolving career.
"On the early records it was very difficult to get through layers, to get the music to the people, and now I feel like I can kind of do this and people go, 'Oh, this is Kid Rock being creatively confused,' " he said. "I just look at it like, 'These are the songs I want to play, and this is the kind of music I want to hear.' "
One song he's particularly fond of is first single "Let's Ride," a ripping throwback he wrote specifically for U.S. troops in active duty ... not so much as a tribute to their service, but more as a soundtrack to their dangerous daily routines.
"I wanted it to be an anthem, something for the guys to get pumped up to when they've got to go out and do these horrendous jobs," he said. "There's been several songs written, some of them are a little sappy, but all very poignant ... but, from being there so many times, I've heard the stuff they listen to when they're out there, blaring stuff from their Humvees, when they're driving around on these missions ... and I said, 'Man, let's try to make them a theme song, to get them pumped up.'
"We wanted to keep it very truthful, but heavy and hard, and hopefully it's something that will help them get psyched up when they have to do their job," he continued. "I was almost thinking of maybe what a commander would say to the group as they have to go out and go into one of these situations. And a lot of the guys who work for me now are all guys who have done several tours, so I was able to get a lot of insight. I tried to write what these guys would want to hear."
And while there are some out there who might roll their eyes the moment Rock starts talking about the troops, well, let's just say he's not letting their indignation get in his way. He's "proudly" supporting Republican Mitt Romney's bid for president, and he won't apologize for espousing his beliefs on record. The way he sees it, speaking out loudly and proudly isn't part of the problem; it's part of the solution.
"I'm just so fed up with political correctness. People are so angry at each other for their viewpoints. You know, yeah, I'm a little right wing, I'm gonna vote for Mitt Romney, but that's where my politics end, speaking to people who listen to my music, you know?" he said, as many young voters are choosing a political stance amid Wednesday's (October 3) presidential debate. "But if you're not [going to vote for Romney], it's OK, we can still have a conversation and be friends and maybe enlighten each other on some views. I think thinking differently is what made this country great."
And to further illustrate that point, Rock went on to tell the story behind one of Soul Rebel's more, uh, forthright tracks: a demure little song called "Cucci Galore."
"It's years old ... I worked with it for a while, played to Rick [Rubin], and he hated it. So Zac Brown, the country singer, was at my house with his band, early on, and there were some girls there, and I'm playing this song, and they're going 'Man, this song's great, you gotta put this out!' " he laughed. "And Rick never wanted me to put it on a record, so I emailed him and I'm like 'Dude, I don't know what you're talking about. Zac Brown's here and he's telling me I should put out this 'Cucci Galore' song, and there's girls dancing on my coffee table right now, out of their minds on it.' And Rick texts me back 'Them hoes is so drunk they'd probably dance to "Taps." ' So, of course, I put it on the record."
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"Let's Ride" or "Cucci Galore": Which song are you anticipating? Leave a comment below!