John Mellencamp's new single, "Our Country," will be on his next album, but he tells Billboard.com it's hardly indicative of what the rest of the album will sound like. "It's pretty interesting," Mell
John Mellencamp's new single, "Our Country," will be on his next album, but he tells Billboard.com it's hardly indicative of what the rest of the album will sound like. "It's pretty interesting," Mellencamp says of "Freedom Road," due in January via UME/Universal Republic. "It sounds very 1966, but it sounds now. 'Our Country' is the most John Mellencamp-sounding record on it. I think people are gonna go, 'Wow!,' or they're gonna go, 'What is he trying to do?'"
Mellencamp, who wrote and produced all 14 songs on the album, says he and guitarists Mike Wanchic and Andy York have been working on "Freedom Road" for nearly a year, recording at his Belmont Mall studio in Bloomington, Ind. When he says 1966, Mellencamp means the garage rock side of things, and to get the flavor right they actually recorded in the rehearsal room of the studio, which is, in fact, a garage.
"We tore apart ... every song from 1966, 1965," Mellencamp says. "We listened to all that music, then we learned it, we listened to it, we examined it -- 'How did they do that?' We were inspired by it, we copied it, we stole it. We did everything we could from that era."
Among the songs is "Jim Crow," a duet with Joan Baez, as well as a track called "Cigarettes" that Mellencamp says Pat Boone "could sing in a second."
"Freedom Road" also brings Mellencamp back to his first recording home -- kind of. All of the labels the artist recorded for early in his career are now under the Universal Music Group umbrella, which Mellencamp signed to after a two-album stint with Columbia.
"I didn't even want a deal," says Mellencamp, who's selling "Our Country" on digital resale sites and has licensed it to Chevrolet for a truck commercial. "[Universal chairman/CEO] Doug Morris has come forward and I like Doug; he's an old school record guy. So I'm very happy to be putting this album out on Universal, but I'm dealing with ... guys who care about music and care about the artists."
Mellencamp plans to tour in support of "Freedom Road" after its release.