County artist Jerrod Niemann will close out the Washington Town and Country Fair’s main stage entertainment Sunday night, Aug. 5, with a show that gets under way at 8 p.m.
Earlier this month he spoke to The Missourian’s Currents online arts and entertainment editor Ethan Busse by phone about his work. Following are the highlights of that interview:
Q: You were raised in Liberal, Kan., right? It’s good to have a Great Plains, Midwestern artist comin’ through.
A: One thing about Missouri is there are a lot more trees, you’ve got all the lakes and the trees . . . it’s always good to be in this part of the country.
Q: The start of all of it, your mom won a Tracy Lawrence guitar, and the rest is history?
A: Well, I hope someday the rest will be history, right now I’m trying to make it that way. My mom . . . we kinda made a deal. She was going to a concert, and she said they were givin’ away autographed guitars, if I win, you have to learn how to play.
So yeah, that was pretty much what happened. She walked in . . . and I was like, no way you won that guitar . . . I stuck to my deal, and I was very grateful that I did.
Q: You started playing young, won awards, had recognition early on.
A: Yeah, it’s like anything, it’s been pretty tough at times.
My third record deal, I’ve just, no matter what it’s never crossed my mind to move home, to give up or anything like that.
That’s how I knew that I had to figure out some way in. So, me and the guys recorded an album, we got a record deal and Brad Paisley heard it, sent it to Sony and they picked it up and it’s been so much fun.
Q: So you went to college and while you were there, you recorded your first album?
A: Yes, South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, west of Lubbock . . . It’s a really unique school . . . very, very affordable.
You can major in country music, blues, rock . . . anything you want, but the great thing is you take liberal arts classes but then also get these electives that are, you know, are studio, and arranging and ear training, all these classes that will help you years down the road.
It’s a great school for anybody who’s aspiring to song writing or just a musician.
Q: You had a collaboration with Garth Brooks, right?
A: Yeah, I was lucky to get to meet him. When I first moved to Nashville just sort of one of those freak deals, . . . he invokes these amazing stories, that you’d hear and they’re true. He’s just an amazing individual . . . unbelievable guy.
He heard some songs and invited me and my friends to start writing for him.
We actually had three songs now that he’s recorded.
There’s two things basically you learn in a writers room with Garth Brooks — how far you’ve come because you had that opportunity, but how far you have to go because you’re writing for Garth Brooks and how amazing he is as a talent.
Q: Around 2010 you signed in Nashville and released “Judge Jerrod and the Hung Jury.” That song, “Lover, Lover,” that Sonia Dada song really skyrocketed.
A: Yeah, that was a really, just on a whim, I recorded that. Like I said, I didn’t have a record deal, so I did that song as a kid growing up in Kansas. We were on a syndicated station out of Denver . . . we would just go hang out at the city pool, that’s kinda where everybody could ditch the kids, cheap babysitter, and all summer we played really the crap out of that song out of Denver, and we thought it was like don’t stop believing . . . really huge to us.
Through the years I’d hear it randomly in an elevator or in a restaurant . . . and I told my sister who in Nashville . . . she had music player on her iPod and I saw it on her playlist, I was like, “Oh, no, don’t play that song. I’ll never get it out of my head.”
Later, we were hanging out in the studio and I downloaded it to play for my buddy . . . we should try to do a version of this and get a bunch of people to sing it. Didn’t realize I’d have a record deal and would need permission from the label and my buddies, so I ended up singing all of the parts myself.
It was purely luck, and I’m just glad, very, very grateful.
Q: You sang all the parts and dubbed it together?
A: I did. I did eight of the nine parts the first night alone, and after that my voice was really tired and genetically probably those notes were pretty low. It’s two complete full sets lower than their version, which is four keys total.
So I was like, man, I’m not hitting these notes, so went down the road, and kinda gave up. We were hanging out at the Tin Roof in Nashville, and man there’s been many times that this particular bartender over-served me and I woke up with a really low voice the next day.
Laid on the couch. Woke up the next day . . . I don’t think the vocal instructors throughout this wonderful country would agree with me on that.
Q: You’ve had some other top Billboard hits, “What Do You Want?” and “One More Drinking Song.” You wrote those, right?
A: Yes, I wrote, “What Do You Want” when I was going through a breakup, a pretty rough one, probably the toughest one at least this old heart could stand, I guess... (laughs).
I realized you only hear from your exes for three reasons.
They either want, they call you because they haven’t heard from you and they’re curious what’s going on.
Or, two, they want to make you jealous, or three, the bar is closed, it’s late and they’re lonely.
Try to dig out of your He-Man, Master of the Universe pajamas.
Other than in a relationship, those are kinda the three reasons you’d hear from somebody.
“One More Drinking Song,” I wrote that because my publishing company asked me not to write any more songs about drinking, so I wrote “One More Drinking Song.”
Q: I have two questions from some of our readers and website viewers. We let them know we were going to be talking to you:
The first is, do you have a name for your favorite guitar?
A: You know, I really don’t, and I think it’s just because I’ve never come up with a good one.
I break the G string a lot (laughs).
Q: Another question, if you could have any guitar in the whole world free of charge to you, which one would you want to own and would you tour with it?
A: I’ll give you two answers.
The first answer is when “Lover Lover” went No. 1
The guy from Sonia Dada who wrote the song gave me the guitar that it was written on, a 1957 J-185 Gibson, which is worth way too much money just to give it to somebody. So after a couple of the “Oh, no, I can’t take this,” “Yes, you can,” “No, I can’t,” I just said, “Look, I will take this . . . and if you wake up in the middle of the night cold sweatin’ on ‘What did I do?’ at any point in your life, just let me know and I’ll give it back.”
So that would be the same thing.
I would like to see Lefty Frizzell . . . my favorite country artist of all time, and there’s a Gibson guitar in the Hall of Fame that has Lefty Frizzell written on it and inlaid into the neck. . . it’s so beautiful.
I wouldn’t want to own it because I don’t deserve to own it, but if someone were to let me “borrow it” and I would obviously return it . . . but it would be neat just to see that guitar.
Most guitars that are significant are kinda significant because of the people who played them, for me anyway. I just really don’t have any business having my hands on it.
But I would definitely stare at it every night.
Q: Anything you want to say to your fans here in Missouri before you come out to play our Fair?
A: I want to say it’s neat to be back in the part of the country that I was raised on and all I can say is everybody better drink a lot of water and take a lot of vitamins, because they’re going to need ’em.