John Mellencamp is planning "something I've never done before" to promote his forthcoming 25th album, "No Better Than This."
The Indiana rocker tells Billboard.com that the shows on his fall theater tour -- which kicks off Oct. 29 with a hometown show at the Indiana University Auditorium in Bloomington -- will start at 6:30 p.m. with "It's About You," a Kurt Markus' documentary about the making of the new album.
"It'll be like Alan Freed, like the old Moondog shows," Mellencamp says. "When you went to see his shows, there was a movie, like 'The Girl Can't Help It' or something, and then three or four bands played."
Mellencamp says he and his group will substitute for those multiple bands, however, with three different musical set-ups during the night. "I'm gonna come out and play with upright bass and cocktail [drum] kits and a lot of acoustic instruments," he says. "I'll play for, like, 40 minutes that way. Then the band will leave and it'll just be me with an acoustic guitar for 40 minutes, and then there'll be 40 minutes of rock 'n' roll. You'll get three different types of John Mellencamp, and you'll get a movie."
Mellencamp has confirmed 16 Midwest dates for his tour so far, including five in Indiana (with two different venues in Indianapolis) and a two-night stand at the Chicago Theatre. Tickets start going on sale Aug. 14, and more dates are expected to be announced soon. He's also slated to receive the Americana Music Association's Lifetime Achievement Award on Sept. 9 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, during the annual Americana Music Festival and Conference.
Meanwhile, Mellencamp is gearing up for the Aug. 17 release of "No Better Than This." The album was recorded during the summer of 2009 with a reel-to-reel recorder and a single microphone at historic locations such as Sun Studios in Memphis, Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio -- where Robert Johnson made his first recordings in November of 1936 -- and in the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Ga., the inaugural black church in America. Its producer, T-Bone Burnett, is also working with Mellencamp and Stephen King on a companion album for their stage musical "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County."
Mellencamp says he knows that some fans were be disarmed by the lo-fi recording approach of the 13-song set, but he's confident it will win over those who take the time to listen. "It has a quality that technology has taken away from us over the years," Mellencamp explains. "It's what we loved about all those records. James Brown's records had that on there. Those first five Rolling Stones records sounded fantastic. Those early [Bob] Dylan records...You listened to those, and you felt like you were sitting next to them. You just don't get that today. Everybody uses the same echo, the same drum machine. It's all the same. This is the lowest common denominator...180 degrees from where pop music is today."
Here are John Mellencamp's tour dates:
Oct. 29: Bloomington, Ind. (Indiana University Auditorium)
Nov. 1: Cincinnati, Ohio (Music Hall)
Nov. 3: Nashville, Tenn. (Ryman Auditorium)
Nov. 5: Kansas City, Mo. (The Midland by AMC)
Nov. 6: St. Louis, Mo. (Fabulous Fox Theatre)
Nov. 8: Indianapolis, Ind. (Clowes Memorial Hall)
Nov. 11: Indianapolis, Ind. (Hinkle Fieldhouse)
Nov. 13: South Bend, Ind. (Morris Performing Arts Center)
Nov. 16: Fort Wayne, Ind. (Embassy Theatre)
Nov. 17: Cleveland, Ohio (Palace Theatre)
Nov. 19: Detroit, Mich. (Fox Theatre)
Nov. 20: Pittsburgh, Pa. (Heinz Hall)
Nov. 22: Minneapolis, Minn. (Orpheum Theatre)
Nov. 23: Minneapolis, Minn. (Orpheum Theatre)
Nov. 26: Chicago, Ill. (Chicago Theatre)
Nov. 27: Chicago, Ill. (Chicago Theatre)