Jerrod Niemann Eyes Summer 2012 for 'Groove-Driven' Next Album

Chart-topping country singer/songwriter Jerrod Niemann has targeted the summer of 2012 for his second major label album -- the follow-up to last year's "Judge Jerrod & the Hung Jury" -- and he promises that it's "definitely going to be another concept record.

"I'm challenging myself," Niemann -- who scored hits like "Lover, Lover" and "What Do You Want" after writing for other artists such as Garth Brooks, Jamey Johnson, Neal McCoy, Julie Roberts, John Anderson and others -- tells Billboard.com. "I'm going to take more chances musically, just instrumentation and textures and some of these things I'm working on, clear down to the microphone we use. There's going to be a lot of vintage instruments and things like that." He adds that the set will be "harmony driven and groove-driven, a lot of partying stuff on there, too."

And even though next summer seems a long way off, Niemann notes that, "I never quit recording, whether it's just with an acoustic guitar or a piano...I'm always recording stuff. I have several songs started already and a lot of ideas I'm looking forward to working on."

While he's doing that, of course, Niemann will be continuing to promote "Judge Jerrod & the Hung Jury," which also hit No. 7 on the Billboard 200. He's preparing for the early June release of the album's third single, "One More Drinkin' Song," which he says stems from a challenge issued to him a few years ago by his publishing company.

"I was just playing all these bars, so I kept writing these partying songs," Niemann recalls. "The lady who runs my publishing company sent me an e-mail that said, 'all these songs are cute,' or whatever, 'but no one else is recording that kind of music right now, so maybe you can dig a little deeper for subject matter.'

"She was looking for something for one of the female acts, but for a while there I couldn't think of anything," he continues. "So I wrote 'One More Drinkin' Song' and e-mailed it to her. I never got a response; the next time I saw her I asked if her server was down..."

And while Niemann acknowledges that the song was "the farthest possible thing" for the artist in question, it's become "a crowd favorite for us. Even people who haven't heard it fall in, 'cause it's simple, easy to sing along to."

Fortunately, Niemann's success means he can spend more time writing for himself rather than others now, although he still enjoys collaborating with pals such as Johnson, Lee Brice and Randy Houser. "I still write with them," he notes. "We kind of know at the beginning whose song it's going to be. If Randy says, 'Hey, I have this idea. Would you help me finish it?' I know it's his song and I just try to help finish what he has to say. And he does the same for me. But mostly I'm just going to hang on to stuff now. You never know if it could be the song that elevates your career or sustains it, so you don't want to just give it away anymore."