Some people might slow down when they hit 40, but not Kid Rock: He’s celebrating the milestone on January 15th with a stadium full of friends in Detroit. “I can’t wait for it to get here,” Rock says. “Are you kidding me? I sold 50,000 tickets in 19 minutes. It’s going to be lots of friends, big cakes, big banners, big setup.” After a few days of recovery, Rock hits the road for a 26-city arena tour, where fans will get a heavy dose of his new disc, Born Free. Produced by Rick Rubin — “one of the best sets of ears in the world” — it’s Rock’s most mature set yet, featuring a killer house band, including Chili Pepper Chad Smith, Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo and Heartbreaker Benmont Tench. “To have those players in the studio sitting around in one room with no click tracks, no smoke and mirrors, no wizardry,” says Rock, “that’s what I got in this for.”
You used to rap and boast on nearly every song. Why not on Born Free?
Rick Rubin told me to stop squeezing my own dick and squeeze some of my heart out onto the record. He said, “Everyone knows you’re the cowboy and the American badass and all that stuff, but it’s time to get serious. I know you can write great songs.”
Do you agree with that assessment?
Oh, totally. When I hear a song like 2001’s “Midnight Train to Memphis,” I’m like, “That really could have been a timeless classic.” But I don’t think anyone’s going to play a heartfelt cover of the song and have a comedian come in in the middle and start rapping, “Fuck a bitch, fuck a bitch.” In that regard, I understand his point.
On “God Bless Saturday,” you sing, “Thursday ain’t for shit.” What do you have against Thursdays?
Fuck Thursdays, man! [Laughs] Growing up, my dad’s line was, “Fuck Thursdays in the nose.”On Fridays, he’d have barn parties — get some kegs of beer, get wild and play Bob Seger all night long. Then he’d say, “We’re just getting wanned up for Saturday.”
Speaking of Seger, he plays piano on the Born Free song “Collide.” What was that like?
I sent Seger the song and didn’t hear from him for an uncomfortable amount of time. I started to get a little nervous. He finally called one Saturday and said, “Hey, can I lay that piano down?” I was like, “Absolutely!” I couldn’t have been more happy, watching Seger play one of my songs. I said, “Man, you were making me nervous, I didn’t hear back from you, I thought maybe you’d thought twice about the song.” He said, “No, no, I was home practicing.” That made my whole weekend.
“When It Rains” is about losing someone close to you. Who is that about?
I channeled some of the emotions that I felt when [Rock’s best friend and hype man] Joe C. passed away, even though me and him didn’t grow up playing songs down by the riverbank. I was channeling that emotion of how I felt, and still feel, when I think about opportunities like doing the Kennedy Center Honors and going to the White House. I’m like, “God, I wish Joey was here with me.”
How many presidents have you met?
Three. Clinton, Dubya and Obama. And I think Ronald Reagan shook my hand once in L.A. when I was a kid and we were there for a family vacation. But the funniest one is, after I went to jail for the Waffle House thing, the next morning Jimmy Carter had his people drop off his book called Negotiation: The Alternative to Hostility. Obviously, I didn’t have time to read it.
Do you have a good Obama story?
This weekend I’m taking my dad to the White House, and he’s a staunch right-winger. He’s already said, “I can’t wait to tell him, ‘Hey, Obama, get your hand out of my pocket, I can stimulate myself” [laughs].
What did you think when Justin Bieber won Entertainer of the Year at the AMAs?
I had left — but he did come up and introduce himself. He said he had my old tour bus. I said, “Hope you had it sanitized, son.”
Porn star Riley Steele gets name-dropped on “Rock Bottom Blues.” What did she do to deserve that?