Interview: Jerrod Niemann Talks New Music, Friendship With Lee Brice and More
When Jerrod Niemann left his longtime label, Arista Nashville, earlier this year, he quickly found a home at Curb Records. The new partnership not only made him labelmates with good friend (and duet partner on his current single, "A Little More Love") Lee Brice, but Niemann also found himself working with many of the same people he'd worked with at his former record company. The result: an album that Niemann calls the best of his career.
"Each album you make, I think you find yourself more," Niemann tells The Boot. "When you first move to Nashville, you try to be like all your heroes, and then you realize as time goes on that you have your own things to say, and you start saying things more like yourself. So I feel like it’s just a really cool album. Maybe instead of a 'feel-good' album, it’s a 'feel better' album."
The 37-year-old knew that he would find a way to release new music to his fans, even if he had to do so independently, but working with Curb, he says, is his best-case scenario.
"For me -- maybe it’s because I come from a small town -- I like having a small team, where everyone knows everybody and you have access to anybody at any time, whether it’s me or them," Niemann shares. "The passion is the very best; there's a huge spectrum of who they want you to be as an artist. I like to uncover many different layers in country music, so it’s been awesome. But on the flip side, half the people I work with [now] were [also] at Sony, so it’s been great, and everyone else I hadn’t worked with, I knew through Lee."
"A Little More Love," Niemann's first single from his new record, is currently in the Top 40. The singer says that joint success with Brice has given him time to reflect on how far the two have come since their early days in Music City.
"Lee and I have been good friends for about 15 years now. We moved to Nashville about the same time, along with Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser and those guys. Everybody is still really tight, but with Lee and I, there are so many similarities ... We were actually friends and had the mutual respect as men before mutual respect as musicians," Niemann explains. "That was cool to be able to go through struggles together, seeing the best and the worst of what this world has to offer, and be there for each other as friends."
Although both men have landed songs on the charts at the same time and enjoyed successful albums, Niemann insists that there isn't any competition between them.
"It’s unbelievable the amount of passion he has," Niemann boasts of Brice. "It’s alluring and also inspiring to be around him, because we both want to always create the best music. We’ll send each other songs all the time, not pitching them to each other but just to share music that we’re recording or writing ... Lee is a really amazing guy. He’s a great friend, obviously amazingly talented. To watch him turn into a husband and a father, and to literally watch each other grow as men, is sort of bizarre."
Once again, Niemann is producing his new set of tunes, partnering this time with Jimmie Lee Sloas. Sloas also co-produced Niemann's 2014 release, High Noon, which included the No. 1 single, "Drink to That All Night."
"I didn’t write a whole lot [for the new album], just because I hadn’t been able to write a lot, but what’s cool about being able to produce your own record is being able to turn other people’s art or music in your own way, which is exciting," Niemann says. "I do tweak some lines and stuff -- not that the songs aren’t perfect the way they wrote it, but sometimes I want to say things a little different. Obviously I don’t become a writer on the song, but in the interpretation, I tweak things here and there."
Niemann is a much different person than he was as a struggling artist at the start of the new millennium, but his passion for music has only grown stronger. Sounding more like a sage veteran than maybe even he wants to admit, Niemann acknowledges that, at the very least, he is more aware of the importance of his role as an artist.
"As we get older, I’m still in that gray area of understanding the bigger picture. You get into town, you hope you get the chance to have someone record your song or maybe you have the chance to make an album, but as you get the chance to travel the country, and really the world, and meet all the cool, fascinating people, you start to wonder what it would be like to be a father. You start to see the people that need help, whether it’s financially, or someone lost a man or a woman in the relationship and now they’re a single parent with their kids," Niemann notes. "You start to see all these people in need in this world, and it just makes you want to try to attempt to be a part of as many people’s lives as you can."
With his forthcoming, still-untitled album, Niemann's biggest hope is to inspire a generation of new and old fans to find joy even in times of difficulty.
"I’ve always loved music to help me escape from anything in my life that wasn’t as fun as I would like it to be, or maybe sad or unhappy," Niemann admits. "My attempt is to be an escape for everybody for 30, 45 minutes, let them go off to -- whether it’s the past they want to relive, some songs can take you there, or the present or the future.
"There’s different songs that take you different places," he adds. "My goal is to take everyone to new places."
"A Little More Love" is available for download on iTunes.
Lee Brice Discusses "A Little More Love"