"You don't want to bring that up around the band members, I can tell you that," Kroeger tells Billboard.com with a laugh. "Everyone's at a really comfortable stage in their lives with their relationships and...kids. They're just enjoying life, y'know? Instead of always being on the road or in the studio or shooting videos, it's nice to just kick back and be able to go Trick-or-Treating with your kids. So they're going to want me to focus my creative juices in a different direction, I'm sure."
Nevertheless, Kroeger predicts a likely spring start for the follow-up to 2008's "Dark Horse," which sold 2.91 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. He has "about four tunes" that could be ready to go if the quartet hit the studio tomorrow, but Kroeger says it's too early to discern a direction from any of them."
"The rockers tend to come while we're in the studio. Just noodling around, you wind up with rock riffs," he explains. "It's the other ones that are harder to craft, the ones you sort of pine over a little bit more...We've got so many of the 'How You Remind Mes,' the 'Somedays,' the 'Far Aways.' We've got a couple of the 'Photograph'-type things and a few of the 'Rockstar' and 'This Afternoons.' The record company always wants to push the more accessible material, but it's always a concern [whether] we have enough rockers in the set when we play live. You've got to save room for the 'Burn It to the Grounds' and that kind of stuff."
Kroeger expects to start writing in earnest around February and says he'd like to work with "Dark Horse" co-producer Mutt Lange again, but most likely "only in a writing capacity." Kroeger has been traveling to Nashville as well for songwriting sessions and is featured with Zakk Wylde and Ludacris on "Porn Star Dancing" by My Darkest Days, a Toronto band that's signed to his 604 Records imprint.
He's also banging the drum for Gibson USA's Blackwater Les Paul, a new guitar he designed that features a unique pickup system that he says "has everything I need there in one guitar. When I've got clean parts in the song I've got this ghost Piezo pickup that makes it sound exactly like an acoustic guitar, and then when we get into the dirty, distorted parts, that's there, too. It's pretty exciting." Kroeger even has his eyes on his next model, a seven-string similar to the Gibson Explorer he plays on "Burn It to the Ground."
Meanwhile, Nickelback, which has sold some two million tickets while touring to support "Dark Horse," is in the midst of a third and final U.S. run that wraps Oct. 30 in Las Vegas. "We did one last ['Dark Horse'] single, 'This Afternoon,' and it did well for us and there was demand there, much to my surprise," Kroeger says. "I was concerned about wringing that rag a little too hard, but they said, 'No, get out there. People want to see you,' and here we are. Again."