Kansan still soaking up success on verge of new album’s release

By Joshua Kinder

Life is good for Jerrod Niemann. The Kansas native is still riding high from the success of his debut album Judge Jerrod & The Hung Jury that hit the charts in 2010 and produced the smash singles “Lover, Lover,” “What Do You Want” and “One More Drinking Song.”

Niemann, who lived in Dodge City and later graduated from Liberal High School in 1997, will be making his second trip to Manhattan in as many years later this month when he takes the stage at Country Stampede. The country music festival is June 21-24 at Tuttle Creek State Park. Niemann will take the stage at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 23.

For Niemann, who attended Stampede as country fan growing up in southwest Kansas and even performed regularly in Aggieville while his sister attended K-State, coming home is always special.

“I just love coming home and reminding yourself why you’re there in the first place: because of those Country Stampede shows and being in awe of those wonderful entertainers who love country music so much,” Niemann said during a phone interview this week. “And to think there are so many people from all over Kansas and Nebraska, too. But a lot of Kansans out there. . . you just hope that you can provide something over the course of those four days that they’ll remember the rest of their lives.

“I haven’t forgotten where I came from, and to be able to perform in front of my ‘family,’ you can’t ask for a better situation.”

Niemann knows all about good situations these days, as he’s on the road this summer with Miranda Lambert and Chris Young. Last summer he toured with Brad Paisley and Blake Shelton.

“Miranda is just so cool, and I see why she and Blake are such a perfect match,” said Niemann, who took to the Stampede stage a year ago wearing a K-State shirt. “She has an awesome personality and she’s an amazing individual and very kind and accommodating. She invites everyone to hang out before and after every show. She’s so accessible.”

And despite all the success of the last 18 months, Niemann still finds himself in awe of the artists he now calls friends, trying to take a little bit from each of their shows as he paves his own way in country music.

“When I was on tour with Brad, you go from being on stage at a club with 800 or 1,000 people to 25,000 people or more,” the 32-year-old Niemann said. “It’s a whole different ballgame, and you have to try to find a way to connect with those people. At first you have no idea, so you have to learn from somebody and try to understand where to begin when you’re trying to entertain a crowd of that size, especially when they’re there for somebody else.

“I’ve learned from going out and watching Blake, Brad and Miranda, and Gary Allan and Dirks Bentley, too, before that. You have to learn how to look at the cameras, connect with the people in the back, how to use the stage, reach the people on the side — it’s a matter of adjusting from a smaller show to a bigger stage.”

In the midst of touring, Niemann is also set to debut his second album, Brassoline: A Venture Through Wayd’s Worst Nightmare, this October. The forthcoming album features the lead single “Shinin’ on Me,” a song he wrote with Lee Brice.

Niemann called his new project a concept album because of the way it was recorded and because of the use of modified acoustic guitars and horns — something that certainly isn’t new to country, but isn’t all that common in today’s music.

“Everyone was kind enough to support the first record, so I thought while people were paying attention for the first time, it would be exciting to continue doing what we did,” he said. “We definitely made a concept record, but it still has a little bit of everything that we’ll always do.”

But like his own music career, Niemann has tried to evolve as a singer/songwriter, never afraid to take risks and chances that could land him another No.-1 hit like “Lover, Lover.”

“You’re always evolving, and the world around you is evolving. . . I try to let different influences in because at the end of the day I want to make something unique and different and fun or something that has an emotional response,” said Niemann, who has written songs for Garth Brooks and Blake Shelton. “I prefer to have snapshots of where you’re at in your life. And sometimes you’ll hear a song somebody else wrote that is exactly what you wish you could have said. You just never know what is going to influence you as a writer.”

Finding time to write these days has become more difficult for Niemann, though, as demands on his surging career have reached new heights. So, Niemann improvises, often recording the initial melody on his phone and even writing new music in his head when he’s on the road.

“I usually try to come up with the melody, will record it on my phone and then try to forget about it,” he said. “But if it sticks in my head and I can’t get it out of my head, then hopefully everybody else will feel the same.

“I really don’t have a lot of time alone, and when I am, I’m on a bus and people are within ear-shot,” he said. “Or I’m in a hotel room and it’s late at night, so I can’t really be jamming out on a guitar. So, I’ve had to really adapt to writing songs inaudibly in my head, which has become a nice tool, because if you do play a piano or a guitar, it can box you in. Sometimes I won’t even touch an instrument until I’m through.”

It’s seemed to work out just fine so far.

“After the last year we’ve had, it just feel so much excitement for what’s to hopefully come,” Niemann said. “I don’t feel pressure, really, but a motivation to keep doing what we’re doing and hopefully provide people with music they’ll continue to enjoy.”

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