Uncle Kracker  is headed to Nashville this week to start recording his fifth album and follow-up to 2009's "Happy Hour."
"I'm kind of excited -- actually, the most excited I've been in a long time," the former hype man in Kid Rock's  Twisted Brown Trucker band tells Billboard.com. He's written "about 20" songs for the sessions and describes the tunes as "a little more Americana. I don't want to say rootsy, but I think it's more 'me' than the last record was. The overall goal this time was to go in and have fun."
Uncle Kracker (real name Matt Shafer) says he's also buoyed by "Happy Hour's" enduring run thanks to the hit first single "Smile" and to the collaboration with Kid Rock on "Good to Be Me," which was released as a duet for the 2010 EP "Happy Hour: The South River Road Sessions" and is nominated for the Academy of Country Music Award for vocal event of the year.
"I've never really been in the process where I had a second single still at radio and I started writing to record [another album]," he explains. "It's pretty calculated, I guess, probably the most organized I've ever been. Me and organized in the same sentence -- that's weird."
The ACM nod also strikes Uncle Kracker as "weird," he says. "It's awesome, but it's definitely a surreal feeling -- only because I don't know any other word to describe [it]," he notes. "But I love it."
Uncle Kracker collaborated on the new songs with J.T. Harding and Shane McAnally, who co-wrote Kenny Chesney's  latest country chart-topper, "Somewhere with You." Keith Stegall will be producing. And Uncle Kracker says the as-yet-untitled project is under the gun to record quickly, in order for him to hit the road supporting Chesney starting March 17 in West Palm Beach, Fla.
"We're both pretty laid-back cats, and he's just such a great dude, so we do well together," says Kracker, who's hoping to put a single out in April or May with a late summer release for the album. "He's just a great guy and a lot of fun to be around, and I'm a pretty fun person. The last thing you want is to be out on the road with some miserable group, just putzing around. I've been on plenty of tours where there's no interaction between bands at all. But when you're out with Chesney, all day every day, there's something fun happening."
- News