Jerrod Niemann’s highly anticipated sophomore album Free The Music is available in stores and online now. The album features 12 tracks, including Niemann’s current single, “Shinin’ On Me.”
CountryMusicIsLove recently caught up with the Kansas native to discuss the making of his new album, the meaning behind the title, and more. Check out our exclusive interview with Niemann below…
CMIL: What do you enjoy most about the album-making process?
JN: Just the challenge, sort of like an athlete. Whenever they work for something so long and then they accomplish it, it obviously means a lot to them. This album has pretty much tortured my brain for two years. I wanted to get it done so badly, and have it done right, and basically make sure what was in my brain was translated onto the album. It was one of the most torturous experiences of my life, but definitely one of the most rewarding in the fact of getting it finished. It’s just the way I wanted it.
CMIL: Let’s talk about the album title, ‘Free The Music.’ I get the feeling there’s a double-meaning behind it.
JN: There are several different meanings. The first and foremost is, I would love someone to get the album and do just that – if you’re going to work, if you’re going to school, or you’re getting off work and going to the gym or whatever, just pop it in and you ‘free the music.’ It’s your escape from reality. For me, Free The Music, I don’t know if you’ve seen the album cover, but that’s what it is. It’s opening up the doors and letting the music out and hopefully the listeners in. For me it’s not saying, “I have freed the music and I know everything.” Personally, it was an exciting process to dig into the history of country music beyond the artist and the songwriter, but into the recording process and the instrumentation behind it.
We all look at the fiddle and steel guitars as the epitome of country music – and those are two of my favorite instruments, don’t get me wrong, but even they didn’t originate in America. So horns, long before the steel guitar was invented, Bob Wells was using horns in country music already. I feel like there’s bits and pieces of our forgotten past that we don’t really embrace. Since they’ve been kind of locked in the past, we wanted to free the music that way. We wanted to use the instrumentation and recording process from the past, but use our new ideas and our new way of interpreting these instruments in today’s time. It’s sort of like merging yesterday with today and freeing some of the history of country music and trying to educate country music fans like I was educated. There’s a lot more to our history than what we’re using right now.
CMIL: You mentioned the album cover- did you help come up with the concept? It sounds like you’re very ‘hands-on’ with all aspects of the album-making process.
JN: Being fortunate to be on this particular record label, we have a lot of faith in each other and they were kind enough to let us go back into the studio and just do our thing. That being said, we’re all on the same team and [we] all have the same vision. People are going to relate with their different senses to what they see. I just thought that if the record is unconventional, then maybe the cover should be too. I love just how it sets more of an escape from reality and that’s the base of the cover. Everybody talks about hobbies. Instead of doing this and doing that, my hobby is writing songs and playing music, producing, mixing and things like that. They’re all really different and all have really different challenges. In this particular case, writing in a certain direction for two years to cater to these instruments was a huge challenge, but then to go in the studio and make sure that we follow through every single process to get it to end up with the original idea of the finished product is very tough. You have to be involved in everything.
CMIL: ‘Free The Music’ includes a duet with Colbie Caillat. How did that come about? What was it like working with her?
JN: I was blown away that she was sweet enough to do it. I just threw the name out there. They were saying, “Hey, who do you want to sing on the song?” and I was sort of joking in the fact that I didn’t think it was possible, but they said, “Hey, all we can do is ask.” She called me and said that she really liked the song. She was in a hotel room – this just shows you why she’s is a Grammy Award winner –she recorded it in her hotel room with a rig she took on the road. I still to this day haven’t met her in person face to face. We’ve talked on the phone a few different times, but since our record was recorded so differently, I thought her recording in a hotel room just put the icing on the cake. And of course she just brought the song to a whole ‘nother level and I’m very thankful that she’s a part of it. She’s really, really, really sweet. I need to meet her so she can understand my sense of humor.
CMIL: If you had to pick a favorite track on the album what song would it be and why?
JN: I would say my favorite song on the album is probably “Only God Could Love You More.” We officially haven’t really talked about it [being the next single], but I would love to get that song out there at some point. I actually wrote it with our boy Lee [Brice] and Jon Stone. We wrote a whole different version of it, [but] I came up with a different song and when I started writing it, that song fit so perfectly that I got a hold of the guys and said, “Hey, what about this?” and we just kind of rewrote the song.
[“Only God Could Love You More”] was Jon’s idea. I thought, ‘”Wow, what an amazing thought- that only God could love you more. Nothing can say I love you like that.” So the song had to equal that thought and it took two times to get it right. That was just a real special idea and I was glad Jon saved it for us. That’s the only time I’ve ever been in the studio and sang a song in one take. It was just the scratch vocal that we used and it was just right around the time that we wrote it. There’s this weird vibe when you first write a song, songs have this live excitement to them. If you can record it while it’s still new in your mind and your soul it just really captures a really special thing. It always gets a real cool reaction when we play it live.
Fans can catch Niemann on the road throughout the fall. Click HERE to see if he’s coming to a city near you.