T.I., Sheryl Crow, Zac Brown and Trace Adkins featured on Kid’s Rick Rubin-produced new album.
By James Montgomery
Few contemporary artists have embraced all things American quite like Kid Rock. Muscle cars, hip-hop, Bob Seger tunes, getting drunk on lakes in northern Michigan — he’s in love with them all, and has fashioned a rather impressive career out of melding them together, sometimes even on the same song.
So when it was announced last month that his new album would be called Born Free, with the title track serving as the first single, many assumed that it was just the next logical step in his progression as an artist — not to mention perhaps the most extreme example to date of his obsession with all things red, white and blue.
But, according to Kid himself, that’s not necessarily true. Because while “Born Free” is a patriotic song, he didn’t write it solely for American audiences. Instead, he hopes its message will be heard by people the world over.
“I think that song already has kinda gotten a little bit construed that it’s just this big, patriotic American song, which it is in its own right, but it first came to mind to write something like this when I was on one of my trips to Afghanistan, Iraq, playing for our soldiers,” he told MTV News. “I started to just think about no matter where somebody was born in this world, how lucky you are just by the grace of God to be born free.”
But still, Born Free (which hits stores November 16) is Kid Rock’s most “American” album to date — a hard-rocking, hip-hop-free thing (aside from a cameo by T.I.) that features collaborations with Seger, Sheryl Crow, Zac Brown, Trace Adkins and Martina McBride. It’s most definitely a down-and-dirty, blue-collar affair, though Rock said that wasn’t how he planned things to go.
But thanks to producer Rick Rubin and a studio band that included Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, Los Lobos singer/guitarist David Hidalgo and Chavez guitarist Matt Sweeney, Born Free quickly became rough hewn and no frills. This was a pretty new experience for Rock — for the most part.
“[Rubin] kinda pulls out of the artists he works with. … He has this vision of where he thinks you might be heading, or want to head, and really pulls that out of you and keeps you focused on that,” Kid said. “And, for me, he kind of took me out of my element, which was a little bit weird. I got a pretty good comfort zone: made all my records in Detroit, right by my house, and it’s worked out pretty well so far. And to be pulled out of there, and go to L.A., and record this whole record there with these phenomenal musicians in a studio [was different].
“I’d play the song on acoustic guitar, we’d chart it out, we’d sit in a room as a band, play it three, four times, listen back, come out, play it three, four more times — done,” he continued with a smile. “We got the record recorded in two weeks. … I didn’t know what to do with my free time. I didn’t get a lot of positive things done in that off time.”