Jerrod Niemann has the sort of hard luck tale common to country
singers who have been kicking around the margins of Nashville for a
while. Only worse: Niemann had at least one failed record deal, two
unsuccessful albums and almost a decade of struggle under his belt
when he ran into his newly famous longtime friend Jamey Johnson, who encouraged the singer to strike out on his own.
The result: One hit album ("Judge Jerrod & the Hung Jury"), and an
even bigger hit single ("Lover, Lover"). On the phone from Los
Angeles, Niemann, who opens for Miranda Lambert at the 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore Thursday night, talked about how it feels to be country music's longest overnight sensation.
You're making a new album. What can you tell me about it?
We've just now finished it up … I went in and made it with my friends
and it's fun because there's really no creative obstacles. We're just
hanging out, and that's good enough.
It's the first album you've made that you know people will pay
attention to. Is that weird?
You can probably freak yourself out looking at the pressure and things
like that ... For me, the one thing I didn’t expect to feel is a whole
new level of inspiration to be better. You know that a lot of people
are counting on you to do good. I made this album for the people who
were kind enough to pay attention to the first one.
You may be the longest overnight sensation ever.
Well, I'm not sure about that. But I can say that it was a very long night.
Was it tough to keep the faith all those years?
Faith is an amazing thing. When you're in a town with all these people
who could change your life and they're not doing anything about it,
that's where faith comes in. And yes, it's frustrating, but I felt in
my heart my whole life [that I was] drawn to Nashville, even as a kid.
I figured I'd kick around until they kicked me out or gave me a
chance. You get your hopes up at different times, and it kind of just
drags you along. In misery.
Do you think you're handling success differently than you would have when you were younger?
Yeah, and that's why I realized things happened for a reason. If I
would’ve had those opportunities my first time around, I would’ve
[ruined] things with my late-night antics.
Maybe I'm not as nice as you, but if I had a friend like Jamey Johnson and he got famous and I didn't, I would hate that.
Jamey's one of my best buddies, and he's so talented. The cool thing
about Jamey, is he made his album and had all that momentum and he was so busy, but he pulled me aside and said, “Man, you haven’t been
yourself lately. You look like [expletive]. Why don't you go into the studio and make an album like I did? It changed my life. Not the accolades, but it made me happy.” So a couple weeks later I went into the studio, but just took a completely different turn. I know people think Jamey's album was real dark, and I didn’t want anybody to think I was copying him ... To me, when I'm feeling like crap I'd rather have something cheer me up, that hopefully someone would listen to it and smile a little bit. But Jamey has always left an open door as a friend to try to help you along. Instead of jealousy, I kind of looked at it as, “If he can do it, why can't all of us do it?”