Uncle Kracker has never limited himself to one genre of music.
The Michigan native got his start DJing for Kid Rock in the early 1990s and released his first solo album “Double Wide” in 2000, which featured the single “Follow Me.” More hits followed over the years, such as “Smile” and his cover of Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away.”
He also was featured in Kenny Chesney’s 2004 song “When the Sun Goes Down,” and he’s continued collaborating and touring with Kid Rock.
Having ventured into hip hop, rap, rock and country territories throughout his career, Uncle Kracker said he writes music in the style of “whatever I’m feeling at the time.”
Uncle Kracker is set to headline the first day of Corn Fest. You can check him out from 9:30 to 11 p.m. Friday at the sound stage for $5 admission.
In advance of his debut DeKalb performance, Uncle Kracker talked about his musical career and style with Daily Chronicle reporter Stephanie Markham.
Markham: What have you been up to lately?
Uncle Kracker: It’s Groundhog Day for me. I write, record, tour, write, record. It’s been that way for so long, so that’s basically all I’ve been doing, just writing and recording. I do stay pretty busy, except for touring-wise, last year I had a pretty light schedule, but by design, because I’ve been pretty hard and heavy for a lot of years.
Markham: What can we expect to hear at the show this Friday?
Uncle Kracker: I’ll hit my setlist probably an hour before I go on, but I’m gonna play probably old songs, maybe a couple new songs, play a couple songs that aren’t mine. ... That’s about it, a little bit of everything for everybody, a lot of crowd participation, that type of stuff.
Markham: What are your favorite songs to play, and what are the crowd favorites?
Uncle Kracker: My favorites to play are ones that I haven’t played in a long time. If I go out and I’m playing the same show every night, it becomes zero fun for [me], which just makes it even more fun to switch the setlist up when the time comes to get to somewhere different. ... Crowd favorites are always the ones that were on the radio; [they] will end up being “Drift Away,” “Follow Me,” “Smile,” “In a Little While,” “When the Sun Goes Down.”
Markham: What for you has been the key to longevity and staying active with your music?
Uncle Kracker: I wish I knew. I just have been really lucky, really blessed, and I just try to write songs that make me tick and hope other people can connect and they can get anything out of them at all. Then, I feel like I did my job. It’s hard to lose when you’re doing what you love and what you want to do and stay true to yourself. ... You don’t have to be on the radio to have a career in this business. I argue with my brother about this all the time; he’s like, ‘You haven’t had a song on the radio in years,’ and I’m like, ‘It doesn’t matter. I do what I love to do every night.’
Markham: You opened for Kid Rock recently in Iowa. What was that like?
Uncle Kracker: He’s my best friend. We talk every day. Rarely do I get to open up and play the same show as him, but it’s fun because when you do, you get to hang out with your best friend in a different city somewhere.
Markham: What, in your mind, makes for a successful show?
Uncle Kracker: I think a good time had by all would be probably the most successful. It’s hard to pull off though, that’s for sure, but I feel like if everybody is singing along at least for a few minutes, that’s a success in my books. ... I like to make sure everybody is involved. It’s a good gauge on what you might play next, too.
Markham: Can we expect to hear new music any time soon?
Uncle Kracker: Yep, I think we’re going to do a new record probably after Christmas, so next year. ... probably January I would say.
Markham: Are you writing more in the style of country music?
Uncle Kracker: Just whatever I’m feeling at the time. Sometimes [a song] will come out and it will sound really, really country, but then I’ll come out of there and something will sound like an old blues song or something different. It’s always different. In fact, throughout the years, I’ve never really let [me] pigeonhole myself in any one thing or the other, which I guess is why I’ve always been kind of pop, pop rock, rappy, souly, country, whatever, just because growing up DJing, I’ve always loved every type of everything. So I don’t ever limit myself to anything in the studio. ... You just write a song, and the song is what it is, and if they gotta put a label on it let them go ahead and do it, but if it sounds good to me, it’s a wrap.