It’s a Wednesday afternoon. My telephone rings. The call is coming to me from a tour bus eating up the miles, eager to make the Tuscaloosa, Alabama show. Above the road sounds, I hear a smile, as loud and as proud as the Midwestern accent of Heartland rap rocker/country crooner/songwriter, Uncle Kracker, who took time out to give me a call to talk about the upcoming Smiles Charity Concert, to be held Sunday, May 29th. The free outdoor family festival and concert at Adriatica in McKinney, will go from 5pm to 10 pm and features Uncle Kracker, along with, The Maylee Thomas Band, Stars Go Dim and Hollie Cavanagh.
Uncle Kracker, (aka Matt Shafer) has been making music since the age of 11. By 15, he’d signed his first record deal with an indie label in his native, Detroit. As a songwriter, his credits are impressive, having penned hits for himself, as well as in collaboration with his childhood friend, Kid Rock. With Kid Rock, as a member of the Twisted Brown Trucker Band, came the hits, “Bawitdaba”, “Cowboy”, “Forever”, and “Only God Knows Why”, as well as, 2008’s No. 1 hit, “All Summer Long”. As a solo artist, Kracker has enjoyed blockbuster hits in “Follow Me” (from his double-platinum album “Double-Wide”), “Smile”, and “Good to be Me”. He is currently on tour, supporting his good friend, Kenny Chesney, playing venues in Alabama and Mississippi over the next couple of days before making his way to McKinney.
Michele: Looking at your tour schedule, it seems grueling, yet, you find time to be in McKinney Sunday [May 29th] playing the Smiles Charity Concert benefitting Operation Finally Home.
UK: It’s the least I can do. I’ve been to Iraq to entertain, and that was an honor. It’s a privilege to get to do something to help boost the morale of the men and women serving over there. It’s not very often you get that opportunity to do something like that here at home. [Smiles Charity Concert] is a good opportunity to do so.
Michele: Let’s talk about your music. I’m a fan, my kids are fans, for that matter, my folks are fans. It’s like you’ve found this way to blend what is contemporary and hip, with what is humorous and nostalgic and somehow inject it into the songs you write; which by the way, seem to cross all genres….where does that ability to do so come from?
UK: My music does jump around a lot and it doesn’t seem to be on purpose. It’s actually a pretty natural thing for me. I was a disc jockey for a while. I dj’d at clubs when I was younger and I figured out, you don’t always get to play the songs you like all night. Through that experience, I got a general appreciation for most kinds of music. I think that is where that comes from. That and just my absolute passion for music.
Michele: My favorite Uncle Kracker video today is “It’s Good to Be Me”. I love the nostalgia. How autobiographical is that video?
UK: It’s pretty autobiographical. And nostalgic. I didn’t write that song in a rock star sense. I wrote it from a “things are good right now” place. As the song went on, it became more about hoping people can be happy with themselves. It’s about being proud of who you are and where you’re at in life, no matter what you do for a living.
Michele: You’re currently touring with Kenny Chesney, and as most people know, you and your best friend, Kid Rock came up together in the music world. When you guys get together, do you just giggle when you look at all you’ve accomplished and experienced since you were kids?
UK: [Laughs] No. I’d say we fight more than we giggle. [Giggles]….Actually, we pick at each other all the time. It’s all in fun though. We have fun together…that’s a good way of putting it.
Michele: While waiting on your call today, I entertained myself by watching back to back Uncle Kracker videos. You, Kid Rock, Kenny Chesney – You guys always do cameos in each other’s videos and collaborate on various projects?
UK: Yes, we like to support each other –even if we don’t like the song. [Laughs] I’ll get a call, like, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to have you in the background as a bartender, or scrubbing the floors?’ That’s what friends do though….it’s our way of showing support to each other, kind of like going to funerals. [Laughs].
Michele: Switching gears….I understand you’re a Dad to all girls. Are you the Lone Ranger Guy in your house?
UK: Yep, I’m the Lone Ranger. One of my dogs is a male but he might as well be a girl. It’s definitely interesting [parenting girls]. Our oldest daughter will be 12 in 2 weeks. She is definitely going through her changes! My other two girls are 11 and 7. They certainly keep me on my toes!
Michele: Let’s talk about your latest projects. What’s new with you?
UK: You know, I’m not promoting a new album or anything. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all about The Smiles Charity Concert. It is all about them [the Operation Finally Home recipients], and I’m really looking forward to it.
For details about the Smiles Charity Concert featuring Uncle Kracker, click here.
— Michele Stevens Bernard, TownSquareBuzz.com