The former Kid Rock hype man and Top 10 hitmaker ("Follow Me," "Drift Away," "Smile," "When the Sun Goes Down" with Kenny Chesney) has signed a new deal with Lava/Republic Records, reuniting him with Jason Flom, who brought him to Lava/Atlantic in 1999. Kracker's first single for the label, a rendition of Green River Ordinance's "Endlessly," comes out Tuesday, [July 15] and Kracker is working on an album he hopes to bring out later this year.
"It feels good," Kracker (real name Matt Shafer) tells Billboard. "It's a little bit of a twist; the same guy who signed me 15 years ago. It's a little weird, but it feels good to talk with somebody who knows what they're talking about and knows what they want and knows what you're about, too. It feels like everybody's on the same page again. It's been along time since I've had that."
Kracker kicked off his solo career with the double-platinum "Double Wide" in 2000 and was with Lava for three albums before moving to Atlantic for 2009's "Happy Hour" and the independent Sugar Hill Records for 2012's "Midnight Special." Along the way his emphasis switched from pop to country -- especially after being part of the chart-topping Chesney hit in 2004 -- but although "Endlessly" hews towards the roots side of the equation, Kracker he says he doesn't feel pushed in a specific direction this time out.
"I've been writing everything from pop to country to blues -- just a mixed bag of everything," says Kracker, who's been working with Kid Rock cohorts Al Sutton and Marlon Young at Sutton's Rustbelt Studios in suburban Detroit. "I've definitely got an album or more worth of stuff. The awesome part is that everybody's like, 'Let's not worry about what works (commercially). Let's worry about what feels good, what sounds good. Let's make sure the album's good.' That's so great, especially since, really, who knows what has a chance these days, anyhow. It never was easy, but it seems less easy these days, so why even worry about it?"
Kracker says Flom brought "Everything" to him, saying that, "Kracker has to do this one.' It's kind of a ballad, but it's got this pop-country twist thing. (Flom) really wanted me to do it, and it's the kind of song that fits with what I do. I think it came out really well."
While he's continuing work on the album Kracker is also on the road as part of good pal Mark McGrath's Under The Sun Tour. That, too, reunites Kracker with a bit of his past. "I remember when my first record came out," Kracker says. "McGrath and Sugar Ray were on the same label, and McGrath did a cameo on the 'Follow Me' video, which helped me get the video on VH1. He's always been a good guy and we've stayed friends for 15 years now. And I remember doing all the radio festivals years ago wtih Smash Mouth and Sugar Ray, so it's nostalgic for me. It feels like a high school reunion almost. I don't get excited about touring, ever, but I'm excited about this one."
Under The Sun wraps up on Aug. 13 in Paso Robles, Calif., while Kracker also plays the New York State Fair on Aug. 30.