Jerrod Niemann says there was definitely something that sounded familiar about “Blue Bandana,” his just-released new single.
“The label had told me they wanted to get something out, and I hadn’t been writing because we’d been on the road so much and hadn’t found any songs,” he told Billboard. “I just didn’t want to throw something out there. I wanted it to be right. I told the label that I wanted to find the types of songs that made me want to move to town. So far, we’ve recorded eight songs, and there’s a balance. ‘Blue Bandana’ has a very earthy tone like the first album. We just stripped it down. I told Jimmie Lee Sloas, who produced the record, that I wanted to get rid of all the effects and compression. We turned it all off and really deadened the sound like they did in the classic rock and Southern rock days. I feel that it really allows the record to breathe a little bit.”
Indeed, the new single does depart from the highly technical sound of cuts like “Drink to That All Night” and “Buzz Back Girl.” Just like those songs tended to go against the grain of what country radio was playing at the moment, the new single does as well — albeit in a more acoustic direction.
“I guess it’s just a character flaw in me,” he said. “If you are listening to the radio, and everyone is leaning in that direction, it’s my natural instinct to go the other way. It was fun to try out some different things and challenge myself in the studio, as a songwriter and producer, but this song is very much real-sounding with real instruments … and was something that was missing out there.”
The track was written by Ben Goldsmith, C.J. Solar and Andrew Scott Wills — each with their very first cut. Niemann — whose own career took a leap with Garth Brooks recording two of his songs for the 2005 album The Lost Sessions — enjoys giving new talent a break. “I have really enjoyed finding songs by some of the newer songwriters,” he said. “Nashville always has talent coming here, and that makes it so special, but there’s three writers on the song that have never had a cut. It’s so great to hear that fresh and untapped talent straight off of the bus.”
Niemann understands that though there have been tons of changes in the literal and creative landscapes in Nashville, some things — such as the daily influx of new singers and songwriters moving to town to roll the dice at a music career — remain the same. “Since I’ve been to Nashville, I’ve never seen it change at such a drastic pace. There’s pros and cons of everything, but I think it’s great to have Nashville have this feeling of excitement. At the same time, you don’t want to lose the history of what the town has been. Right now, there are kids who are practicing guitars in their rooms learning. In five or six years, they’ll move to Nashville and be better than everyone is now. It just keeps evolving.”
The singer said the new song is a tip of the hat to all his faithful fans who follow him — and other artists — all over the road during the summer festival season. “That’s one of the reasons I recorded ‘Blue Bandana.’ It reminded me of all those outdoor festivals, looking out in the crowd and seeing so many familiar faces. They could be wearing a Tennessee Titans jersey, and that would be their ‘Blue Bandana.’ The song symbolizes everyone who will go hit the road and enjoy some live music. It’s tipping the hat to those who spend their hard-earned money to let us follow our dreams.”
Does the weather — with temperatures at those festivals often exceeding triple digits — ever get in the way of what he does as an artist? “Once you get on stage, it’s all about adrenaline and being in a zone. You don’t notice much — unless it’s so hot that sweat is dripping in your eye. Take ‘Drink to That All Night’: It has so many lyrics that it can be hard to keep your breath if it’s real hot, but at the end of the day, I used to work at two different ranches in Kansas where it might be 108 degrees with no wind. It’s really nothing. The only thing about cold is that your fingers might get a little stiff and it gets hard to play, but if it’s moderate … you don’t notice much.”