By Jeff Hahne
RIDING WITH THE KID: Kid Rock
It's been a long road for Robert Ritchie to this point. Better known as Kid Rock, the singer-songwriter's debut album, Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast, hit the streets in 1990, but it wasn't until 1998's Devil Without a Cause that he broke into the mainstream.
Since then, it's been a tumultuous path to his first number one record, last year's Rock N Roll Jesus. People probably know him more for his offstage antics than for his music. How many people know he plays guitar, banjo, keyboards, drums and a handful of other instruments? The funny thing is, he doesn't care.
Kid Rock just wants to enjoy the success. He recently spoke by phone from Nashville, where he was filming his latest video, about the new album, the ongoing "Rock and Roll Revival Tour" and his plans for his next two albums.
Are you surprised, after all the success you've had during the last 11 years, that you only now hit number one?
There are so many ways to look at that number. To me, it's just a good excuse to throw a great party. Other than that, you can cut and dissect it any way you want.
I guess most people assume it would have happened earlier ...
Those albums came out and sold 5,000 copies the first week and struggled to sell that many for the next six months then turned into millions of copies sold. I've never come out of the box -- I've always built it on the strength of an album. The same for this album -- the single I'm putting out now is one of the stronger singles on the record. The label wanted to come out with it first, but that's not how you build an album ... or a career.
On the current tour, you're on the stage for the full duration -- nearly three hours and more than 30 songs. How much fun are you having with it?
There's no question that it's a lot of fun to play some of those bigger songs with Peter Wolf or Rev. Run. It's a highlight for me just to be a part of that, just as a fan. Playing for three hours and not having an opener -- I'm just trying to think forward and do something creative, something that hasn't been done in a while or something that's new and fresh.
Was that your idea going into it?
There's a lot of people out there like the Peters and Revs that don't or can't go out and play what I call staples of American music. I always thought that people would really love to hear these songs, especially with the artists singing 'em. Rev. Run ... I don't think with D or J he ever played with a full band except for "Walk This Way" and we do that for every song. Those songs are beefed up and I think they're stronger than they've ever been.
Nobody knew what to expect going into this. Peter and Run were both asking, "What's gonna go on here? What do you mean that we're all onstage together? How's this gonna work?" When you get frontmen, they've all got their quirks. The fans are really the ones that are winning because for the ticket prices and the show they're getting -- I don't think there's anything out there that's fuckin' with it.
It seems like both fans and critics are enjoying it ...
Yeah, the critics -- we read the articles and I haven't made that many friends with 'em, but they all start, "No matter what you think of Kid Rock ..." (laughs) You can tell that even though they can't stand me, they still say the show was good.
Does it bother you that a lot of people know you only for what you do offstage and not for your music?
I get asked that a lot and I've just kind of embraced it. It's just the way it is. Ask people in Hollywood who systematically outline their days by how to get into that or stay out of it ... I refuse to be that person. I'm having too much fun and life is too short. If I get caught with my pants down every once in a while, I really don't give a shit. I'm not out trying to hurt anybody.
Was this record in response to any critics being that you focused more on the songwriting?
Criticism is a great motivator. I really wanted to round off the catalog for what my bread and butter is -- performing live. I think this record really helped me do that. It gave me more melodic songs, some uptempo rock stuff and let me give a better experience when I perform live of everything great in music.
What's the status of Running with the Kid -- your album with Rev. Run?
I've brought some programs on my computer on tour and am making some beats and stuff and really starting to dive back into hip-hop, which is my first love. I've been talking about it and making some really fun hip-hop and I'll see if that happens with Run and with my own next project, too. I'm 37 and almost 40, so I'd really like to be that smartass Kid one more time before I really gotta grow up.
Kid Rock's Rock and Roll Revival Tour featuring Rev. Run and Peter Wolf will stop at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre on May 3 at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $12.50 to $65.