Last weekend, Kid Rock kicked off the summer leg of his Born Free tour with a hits-filled set that included several duets with opener Sheryl Crow and a production that included giant American flags, four strippers and plenty of pyro. "I don't think myself or my band has ever sounded or played better," Rock told Rolling Stone recently. "I'm 40. I'm not going to be at the top of my game forever, but I am right now."
Which may be why he wants to stay as productive as possible after the tour, planning to record a follow-up to last year's Born Free. "Now that we have a catalog that spreads for two hours that people want to hear, let's go back and put it all together," Rock says. "I've done the crazy Devil Without a Cause record – who knows where you can categorize it? – up to the rootsy Born Free record and everything in between and somehow it's all been accepted by my fans."
For inspiration, he's looking as far back as his 1998 album Devil Without a Cause. "It kind of started with Devil Without a Cause," he says, referencing the breakthrough LP that went platinum 11 times. "And I didn't really anticipate it to go anywhere. I was doing what I needed to do . . . I had a kid, no money, and all that shit. I did some rap-rock stuff first, but I still did 'Cowboy' and 'Only God Knows Why' – for what I look back on as this really crazy, rounded record. And I'd kind of like to go back and do something with all the experience of being a better singer, better player, better songwriter, and just make this accumulation of what I do. I'm still not sure what I do, but whatever it is, I own it."
Rock adds: "If I get into a country groove, make the best country groove. And if I get into a rock vibe, make that. And if there's some place for old-school hip-hop jams with rock guitars, I'm cool with it."
He plans to get serious in the fall, and says he is in talks with Rick Rubin to produce again. He hopes to release the new album by next summer. "With [Born Free], he wanted to bring out the serious stuff in me, and we got it. Now I'm going to turn that frown upside down."
But for the moment, Rock is psyched to be on the road with Crow. "She's my favorite duet partner," he says. "She loves country stuff and she can rock out with the best of them. She's not scared to let us take it up to 10 and she can also sit on a stool and make the hair on your arms stand up." He plans to switch up duets with her nightly. "Me and her doing the same shtick every night would get old … we've played so many covers. We've sat with guitars and picked Allman Brothers, Free songs, Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty songs … we've talked about, ‘Hey, maybe we should record these shows every night, and pick different songs, and do some fun covers, and pop out that album we've been talking about doing for 10 years!'