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© Darrin Dickerson
It ought to say something that Jerrod Niemann’s official fan club is called the Dehydration Nation. We’re not talking about canteen-packing wilderness survivalists here; these are folks more likely to demonstrate feats of endurance while partying hard. Small wonder, then, that the Kansas-bred country singer had his most recent number one with the amped-up, EDM-influenced tune Drink To That All Night. It was the lead single from High Noon, his third album on Arista/Sea Gayle, and it’s recently been given a second life with a remix by Latin pop-rap act Pitbull.
Amidst the daytime revelry at the CMA Music Festival the first week of June, Niemann’s current single – the equally danceable and far jokier Donkey – was being plugged all over downtown Nashville on everything from hand-held paper fans to “Ride it!” ads on the backs of pedicabs for hire. And the song is apparently already quite the attention-getter live.
Lest you get the impression that Niemann is one-dimensional, behind these two singles are a singer, songwriter and producer with broad tastes, a good ear, a vivid imagination and a healthy sense of humor, whose compositions have been cut by the likes of Garth Brooks and Blake Shelton, and who knows how to build tracks that don’t sound quite like anybody else’s.
A lot of the country party songs I’ve been hearing lately take themselves surprisingly seriously. But Donkey has a ridiculous sense of humor. What appealed to you about the combination of danceability and humor?
“I love double entendre. That song, lyrically, kind of reminded me of For Everclear or The Buckin’ Song on my first album or Real Women Drink Beer on my second. And I just wanted something for the third album that some people would think was funny, hopefully. I didn’t have any songs that I thought would make people smile like that.
“I had Donkey on my iPod for a year when we were rolling around on the bus. We’d stop in all these different cities, and it’d come on randomly in the playlist. And no matter where we were or who we were with, people would always say, ‘What is that?’
“I’ll watch movies now that I saw when I was a kid that have so many double meanings when it comes to adult stuff. So what’s funny is everybody around me that’s been reacting to Donkey is, like, my 3 year old, my 5 year old, my 8 year old love this song. …So I don’t know if that’s good or bad. And the crowd, while Drink To That All Night was at number one for two weeks, there were people yelling out Donkey during the whole show every night.”