Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Uncle Kracker Talks Summer Touring, His Love Of Vinyl And The Perfect Tailgate

Micahel Shafer, better known by his stage name “Uncle Kracker” is a Michigan born country rock star best known for his collaborations with Kenny Chesney, Kid Rock and his own single albums. The artist has grown a large following since his inception not long ago in 2000.

As a teenager in Michigan, Shafer became friends with Bob Ritchie and was soon asked to join Kid Rock’s band, Twisted Brown Trucker. At the time, Shafer rapped and was featured on a few of Rock’s songs and played turntables for him at live events.

Discovering the joy he got from performing and working with Rock, Shafer began the successful journey of his own solo career. Produced by Kid Rock, Double Wide was Uncle Kracker’s first solo album, released in the summer of 2000. The album made it to Number 7 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Just a year later the album was certified two-time Multi-Platinum. 

Since his debut album in 2000, Shafer has created and released four other solo albums and a handful of singles. He has toured with ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kid Rock, Zac Brown Band, Kenny Chesney, and other legendary musicians. 

In April, Shafer started performing with Chesney on his Sun Goes Down Tour. The tour will run all summer across the US, stopping in cities like Minneapolis, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. The tour will end in August in Foxborough, Massachusetts when Shafer will embark on his own tour.

Uncle Kracker announced that for his upcoming tour he is working on a new album, Indistinct Chatter that will be coming out soon. His newest singles “Reason to Drink” and “Cruising Altitude” have hyped up fans for the longawaited album, having not released one since Midnight Special in 2012. 

We got to chat with Uncle Kracker about his about his favorite barbeque spot in Nashville, his love for playing vinyl records, and his perfect University of Michigan tailgate. 

You’re out with Kenny Chesney this year on tour. Are there any cities that you’re looking forward to visiting?

I definitely love the Pacific Northwest. I’m kind of excited to get up there. It’s been a while since I’ve been up that way. I like everything down south too. 

You’ve toured with Kenny before this year and you guys have made some music together. Do you go out and perform with him on stage?

I do. In fact, it makes for a long day because I’ll play my set early and then everybody else will play. When Kenny is done playing, he’ll bring me out if he’s feeling good. If he’s not feeling good, he’ll clip it early.

Uncle Kracker Talks Summer Touring
Photo Courtesy of UncleKracker.com

What’s your perfect day in Detroit?

It’s probably mid-June and it’s 73 and sunny, on the lake. Maybe a fishing pole. That’s probably the perfect day in Detroit.

Do you have any favorite hangout spots in Nashville since you’ve moved down there?

I mean, I do love Nashville. I’ll feel boring if I don’t have any hangout spots, but I haven’t really hung out. I mean, I’ve been here a year, almost and I’ve just been writing. I do the same stuff I did in Detroit, except I haven’t found a lake yet to go fishing yet just because I haven’t got out much. There’s definitely a lot more action in Nashville. I don’t really have any favorite spots yet unless you’re talking about barbecue joints or something like that. I’m down with Edley’s Bar-B-Que. 

They do have good barbecue in Nashville.

It’s sad because you don’t have those in Detroit.

What do you like to do in your downtime on the road, the off days?

If there is downtime, I try to make sure I don’t have downtime, but if I’m on the coast or something, I’ll find the water, put my toe in it. If there’s a museum, I’ll walk through it. I like walking around. I like antique shops. I’ll putz around antique shops for as long as I can, just looking at all the old junk.

Do you still have the classic car that Kenny gave you?

I still have it. I still have a bunch of cars I don’t touch. Cars are fun. But once all four of your friends see it and drive in it, It’s over. Then the gig is up and you start looking for a new one.

That’s like guitars with some people.

Same thing. Yep. They’re worth the most to whoever’s using them.

You have a big birthday coming up in June. Any big celebrations this year?

It’s my 50th. I think I’ll be somewhere towards Pennsylvania or Philadelphia. I don’t have any plans. In fact, I told everybody, ‘don’t do anything, please because I’d rather not celebrate this.’ I try to mask it and be like, ‘Well, fifty’s not so bad. If I wasn’t this awesome, I’d probably feel a little worse.’

Photo Credit: Laura E. Partain

You’re working on some new music. Tell me what fans can expect from the new album.

I figured if I was doing the new record, I didn’t want to stray too far from my normal. I would just expect probably half the same and half experiment. But it’s all feel good. Even the sad songs are “feel good” songs. I like a good sad song that doesn’t make you feel too bad. The hardest ones to write are the ones that just hit somebody in the heart. I probably should try for one. I don’t have one, I need one.

I like your happy songs. I need a new Uncle Kracker song of the summer. 

There’s definitely some fun ones on there. Thank goodness. I try to make sure.

What’s your favorite vinyl record that you own?

My favorite vinyl record is probably The Beatles White Album, and not for any reason in particular. I just love when you’re playing records on your record player. Now I sound like I’m 50. Listening to records off your record player is a whole different vibe. I think it’s because you have a routine where you’re pulling the record out of the bin and pulling the actual wax out of the sleeve and setting it on the player and putting a needle on it. 

There’s a ritual that goes along with it that makes you more engaged. I love listening to records on the record player, so I’m really biased. I always remember loving putting the White Album on for some reason because it’s all over the place. It’s scattered. I love it.

You are going to be back at CMA this year. Any favorite CMA moments from the past?

CMA is awesome because everybody is so excited. I’ve never seen an audience as excited as them. They’re just running around drunk, whether it’s 11 a.m. or 9 p.m. It’s usually so hot, offensively hot during that time. Playing outside kind of stinks, but it’s still fun. 

Uncle Kracker Talks Summer Touring

Tell me about the story behind “Cruising Altitude” and your craziest airplane experience.

I wrote that with the Warren Brothers. We were in the writing room and I think their dad was a pilot. They came up with the “Cruising Altitude” idea. I don’t know if they’re big on planes or what not, but they’re both the most awesome dudes. That song just came out of one writing session, just having fun.

As far as a crazy airplane story goes, a long time ago I was on tour with Kid Rock and Metallica. Rock was like, ‘Hey, Metallica wants us to hop on their plane to the next city.’ So, we hopped on that plane to the next city. I remember all of a sudden they were like, ‘There’s no air in the tires, so everybody’s got to buckle up here.’ We landed it. They landed this plane. 

Metallica was awesome, but I just remember landing the plane with no air in the tires and looking over at Kid Rock and going ‘This is it. We’re done.’ This was probably back in like 2000 or something, but it might have been one of my craziest plane experiences.

I know you’re a Detroit Lions fan. Are you hopeful for next year?

Very hopeful for next year. I’m not the biggest Detroit Lions fan. They’ve made it difficult to be a fan over the last couple years. I’m not even really that big into sports, but watching the Lions this year was exciting, as exciting as it could possibly be watching any football. I don’t know what happened over the last couple of years.  They’ve really put it together. I think next year will be a better year for sure.

What’s your perfect tailgate?

There has to be food and there has to be booze. Someplace where it’s like T-shirt and shorts weather without being all hot and weird. Tailgating at a Michigan vs. Ohio State game was always fun. Crazy, but fun. I think the perfect tailgate is U of M/ Ohio State games, on the U of M home turf. It’s not fun being from Michigan in Ohio to tailgate. It’s more fun being in Michigan.

You’ve got the tour with Kenny, you’ve got the album, do you have anything else in store for 2024?

I guess I do, but I shouldn’t say. It’s pretty packed as it is with the Chesney tour. I’ll leave that tour and then tour myself, have the new album out. It’s crazy enough. I shouldn’t have anything else in store, to be honest, but I do. 

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Amy Harris
Amy Harris is a writer and photographer who has been traveling for 20 years and flown over 2 million miles to visit over 80 countries on 6 continents. She is a freelance photographer for Invision by Associated Press, AP Images and Rex/Shutterstock. Her work can be seen in various publications and websites including: Rolling Stone, AP Images, National Geographic Books, Fodor’s Travel Guides, Forbes.com, Lonely Planet Travel Guides, JetStar magazine, and Delta Sky Magazine.

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