Take a listen to "Nuthin' Changes," a cut from Uncle Kracker's new "Midnight Special" album, and you will hear a reference to a famous singer named Williams. But, it might not be the one you're thinking about. Sure, the Detroit native is a Hank Williams, Jr. fan -- that was his first country concert, after all -- but he's also a fan of the artist known as "The Gentle Giant," Don Williams.
"He's one of my all-time favorites," Uncle Kracker told Billboard. "All of his songs were a big influence. I could listen to his greatest hits for days. Songs like 'I Believe In You' are why I tend to gravitate towards being so laid back. There's a certain magic with his records. Not many people made records that felt and sounded as good, with the quality of writing."
"Midnight Special" is the first release for Uncle Kracker on Sugar Hill Records -- also Williams' home.
The first single from the project is the infectious "Nobody's Sad On A Saturday Night," which he had a hand in writing -- along with each of the other ten cuts on the album. He relates the songwriting process is something he feels very passionate about.
"As an artist, I just really feel like it is important," he said. "I'm not saying you have to. There's plenty of people who don't (write), and they make great records, but I just felt like I needed to be a part of it. I think too much to not be involved in the process."
"Midnight Special" also marks Uncle Kracker's first studio effort with veteran Nashville producer Keith Stegall. He says the two mixed very well together. "He's like a viking in the studio. He's all business -- not like a numbers business, but in terms of a positive feel. I've worked with a few different producers, and not taking anything away from of any of them at all, but I just had the greatest experience working with Keith."
Growing up in the Motor City, Uncle Kracker is proud of the fact his sound includes influences from multiple genres. After all, that's what he grew up on. "It wasn't until I got older that when they started putting only one form of music on the stations where I grew up. I would hear a R&B song, followed by a pop song, and then, maybe a jazz song. Maybe that was disc jockeys having a little more control, but it sure made radio feel so good."
"Midnight Special" features the incomparable Sonia Leigh on "It Is What It Is," and he had high praise for the songstress. "I toured with her for a few months, and by the end of it, I told her 'I need to get you on this record,' and we decided that would be the song. I love her. She's a great girl."
Of course, it's not the first time he has collaborated. In the past, he has recorded with Kid Rock, Dobie Gray, and Kenny Chesney, with whom he topped the Country Songs chart in 2002 with "When The Sun Goes Down." What is it like sharing a stage with Chesney?
"Kenny is a blast. Being on tour with him is like being on vacation. He's a fun cat to be on stage with. There's nothing he won't let you do. Everything is up to you. It's a great environment."