Bob “Kid Rock” Ritchie leads a drama-filled life-much of it in the public eye. As a rocker and a rapper, he’s made history with his visionary amalgam of the two genres. He married the notorious Pamela Anderson in three sequential weddings, and then got dumped several years later. A sometimes wild child, prone to fights and displays of bad behaviour, he also has a quiet side, from which his music comes. He’s also a responsible father and a local philanthropist in his home town of Detroit. His best friends are country star Hank Williams Jr. and rapper Reverend Run. Rock is an intriguing study in contrasts, and at age 37, just seems to be getting warmed up.
Last year, Rock released the best album of his career, “Rock ‘n Roll Jesus”, which sold 172,000 copies in its first week and debuted at #1 on the charts. He appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, and recently performed on, of all places, the “Larry, the Cable Guy Christmas Spectacular” on VH1. “This is a variety show for the ages!” said Larry on his blog. “Nothing says Christmas variety like Tony Orlando, Kid Rock, Vicki Lawrence, Flavor Flav, strippers, and midgets!” Par for the course for Rock though….
Kid Rock is going to start off 2008 with a bigger bang than ever– the biggest tour of his career, in fact. The ROCK AND ROLL REVIVAL TOUR will return him to arenas for a Rock ‘n Roll spectacle that will include a host of friends, including Reverend Run from the superstar rap group RUN DMC. Special guests can be expected to perform with Kid Rock at stops throughout the tour. As Rock has said, ‘It's going to be like "going to Church drunk on a Saturday night."
Dish caught up with Rock a few weeks ago, when he passed through Nashville for a sold-out show at the famed Ryman Auditorium. He was doing some club dates in preparation for his upcoming tour, which begins on Jan. 4, 2008 in Uncasville, CT.
Q: What does it mean to you to play the Mother Church of Country Music?
Kid Rock: It’s exciting. I’m really looking forward to it. I got out of bed this morning, like yeah, real excited to play this show. I always love to play in Tennessee – Nashville, especially. I just have more fun in this state than, I dare say, anywhere else. I kind of consider this as a second home. I always wanted to do a live record. Maybe one day I will. I want to do half at the Apollo, and the other half at the Ryman. Maybe one day…we’ll see how things go tonight. But yes, I’m extremely excited to play tonight.
I think you heard the song “Blue Jeans and a Rosary”. I might pull that out for the first time tonight, with just the piano and the four-part vocal harmony. I always joke at the end of the show that the show goes so many different places – genre hopping musically. It goes from rock and roll to gospel and of course blues and country music and hip hop. And we always throw the kitchen sink in at the end of the show for the encore. But that’s kind of the journey that it takes.
Q: Does Nashville influence your music?
Kid Rock: Everything influences my music. And this is just another part of it. It reminds me of…it’s different…my dad always says, ‘If you want to be a carpenter, don’t hang out with a painter.’ So you know, I always wanted to be a musician. This seems to be the place where the greatest musicians in the world congregate. And it’s always great that anywhere you go around here you’re going to find a jam session, which I love. There’s a piano, there’s a guitar, there’s somebody singing, there’s somebody playing, there’s somebody that wants to write a song. So it’s been a huge influence.
And just the process is so different. There’s so many things years ago that I never realized. I never thought that people made appointments and got together to write songs. I was like are you kidding me? I was like they’re seriously going to make an appointment to get together in a room and write a song? That was so foreign to me. It was mind blowing. There was actually one time, there’s some song, I think it was about Hank, actually. I think it’s called “The Night Hank Williams, Jr. Came to Town” and this dude asked if I’d cut that one day. I’d never really cut a lot of other people’s songs. And then a while later somebody goes, “I think Kenny Chesney has that song on hold.” What? What are you talking about on hold? Who reserves a song? They’re like, “Kenny put it on hold.” I said, “Well, tell Kenny I’m gonna slap him upside his head. That’s my song.”
Q: When did you start loving music? What does it means to you?
Kid Rock: I think, like anyone else, it [started] in my house growing up. My parents and brothers and sisters had a pretty eclectic record collection. All the stuff I was raised on was from my dad’s 45 collection. All the old stuff – Carl Perkins, and he was a huge Johnny Cash fan and Chuck Berry fan. All the Mo-town stuff. And you know, spoon-fed Bob Seger from the time I was a kid. And then of course, the Fleetwood Mac records and Elton John and Marshall Tucker – he was a huge Marshall Tucker fan. And then I got into Hip-Hop, and that was like blues music. You know, when I was young, my parents were listening to Waylon (Jennings) and I was like, I didn’t want any part of that, I want to rock. You know who listens to country music? You know when you’re a kid, you’re like echh.
And then I got into Hip-Hop, which looking back on it now, Hip-Hop really is the blues music of my time. There has not been another music form since the blues influenced every other form of popular music. So to be part of that was, I think, something very special. And then it kind of came full circle. As I started to become a better song writer, country music really started – I started to pay attention more to it and realized, wow, the level of songwriting and craftsmanship that was involved in it. And I found a bridge between country music and Hip-Hop.
Q: Talk a little about (1998’s) “Devil Without a Cause” versus (2007’s) “Rock and Roll Jesus”.
Kid Rock: From “Devil Without a Cause” – which kind of was where I held my middle finger up to the world and said ‘Here I come, look out, we’re batting down the hatches’ – and now I’ve seen so much and just been blessed with so much. People like Rick Rubin have told me to try to step up and take the place as the next great American songwriter, which really is a lot of pressure, but I work good under pressure. So actually, it started out as a joke – “Rock and Roll Jesus” – and then turned into something very serious for me.
Because the joke was: I have a friend, a great friend, Diana Jenkins, who always gets a boat in the south of France a few times a year, we always go in the fall. Well it just happens that this I had this record album, and so this year I said, “Diana I’m not going. I’m going to stay and finish this record, I’m on to something here.” She said, “But you must come. This person is gonna be there and this person.” I go, “I don’t care if Jesus is going to be there, I’m not coming.” She’s like, “But you are the Rock and Roll Jesus, you must come.” So I start laughing a little bit and go, hmm..that makes sense. I think whenever you’re putting Jesus’s name out there period, it can’t be a bad thing, it can only be a good thing because whether people agree with my music or not, it’s afforded and allowed me to do a lot of great things for a lot of other people.
Q: How did the recording go?
Kid Rock: I’ve done so many different things musically, that a lot of it was tough at the beginning. People didn’t understand how you could make a rap song with country picking guitar, what? Where are we going to play that? And “Only God Knows Why” and “Bawitdaba” and things like this. And so the records…I’ve always snuck in a few hits here and there, you know, “The Picture” (recorded with Sheryl Crow), and what not. And with this record, it just seemed that I felt more comfortable with my own skin than I’ve ever felt, just being a songwriter, performer, a father, a human being, really I just felt like the stars aligned.
I went through a lot of things leading up to the record, and of course that helps the writing process as you know, and I really just took my time on this record. I mean, I was screwing a lot – that’s why I took so long; it wasn’t like I was in the studio every day. I’ll be the first one to admit I was out having a good time! I like to enjoy some of the fruits of my labor at a younger age, rather than wait until I was 65 and spend my years in Florida or whatever it is you’re supposed to do. (laughs) So it was a long process.
Q: What’s the difference between what you thought being a rock star would be like and what it actually is at this level?
Kid Rock: Actually, I wake up everyday and think, “Wow, I’m blessed.” I always say I’m the luckiest person on the earth. I think I’m in the bonus round of life at this point. But it’s everything I thought it would be. I mean, I have no problem with it at all – I love it. I don’t complain about it, I don’t bitch. You gotta do all the stuff that comes with it, but I signed up for it. There’s so much time you gotta…..give autographs in the bathroom. I don’t get mad at them. Well, I wanted this; it’s here.
Q: When you say ‘giving back’, what do you mean by that?
Kid Rock: I’ve done everything I’ve set out to do, but I think then you realize there’s much more to do. Now that I’ve done all these great things and tried to help people here and there, I’m feeling lately like there’s more I can do – not only where I’m from, but globally. There’s something bigger that I can do in this world to help other people out. I can still have a good time – but on the side. But this is just something I’m feeling. I know something’s there – I don’t know what it is yet, but I’m definitely searching.
Q: Christmas is coming up, do you have wish list of people in Nashville you want to collaborate with?
Kid Rock: I don’t have a wish list, no. I’ve never done that collaboration thing. I mean, I do it with my guitar player and my band or people I know, but I’ve never really gotten into that state. I’ve never…I’ve been in the studio before and some guys are like, ‘Let’s write a song’. I’m like, “Oh,” and we’ll sit down and write a song, but I’ve never sought out to write with different songwriters.
Q: Have there been any consequences or lessons learned from past actions?
Kid Rock: Not really. I’m pretty fortunate. There hasn’t really been much backlash.
Q: Have all your life’s experiences changed the way you approach your music?
Kid Rock: I’ve just tried to become more relevant as a songwriter. I had a lot of fun the last years, letting everyone know I’m Kid Rock, and I could be a drunk cowboy at times – Woo hoo! Let’s have fun! I think I covered all that. So I just felt I was growing up, getting older, and it’s time to move on and write things more relevant than that. For some reason, I think I’ve always been honest enough where I could start putting this down, as best I could, as honestly as I could, and people would believe me. And that no, there’s no smoking and beers there at all. I think I’ve put myself out there enough in the media and the press where people understand that, whether it’s right or wrong.
(Only 5 days after this interview, Kid Rock got himself into trouble once again. He was again involved in a fist fight after a post concert stop at a Waffle House, in Atlanta. A drunken man began heckling Rock, after Kid bought everyone in the restaurant breakfast and gave the waiters $ 300 to split among themselves. Rock escorted the gentleman outside and locked him out as a joke. This angered the man who then punched his way back in through the glass and the fight ensued. It spilled out into the parking lot where members of Kid Rock's band and crew joined in. They were all charged with misdemeanor battery charges. Kid Rock got away with a $1000 fine-as reported in Wikipedia)
For more about Kid Rock and The Rock and Roll Revival Tour go to www.kidrock.com