NEW YORK -- Uncle Kracker is one artist who refuses to be pegged.
Since the former DJ made his debut in 2000 with "Double Wide," his songs have ranged from hip-hop to rock to soul to pop. Lately, he's injected a country twang, having collaborated with Kenny Chesney on the recent hit "When the Sun Goes Down." The two artists are touring together through September.
Not bad for a guy with no musical training. Uncle Kracker, whose real name is Matt Shafer, became the DJ for Kid Rock's brand of rap-rock when he was a teenager, filling in for someone else and learning on the job. Kid Rock then made it permanent, and over the years the pair has become close friends and musical collaborators.
Today, Kracker's musical skills are not in doubt, and the singer-songwriter continues to garner kudos for his varied work. His new album is titled "72 & Sunny."
AP: What's changed for you on this record? How have you developed as an artist?
Kracker: I've just grown fonder of traditional songwriting. I've definitely grown, I think I've just matured. I've had a couple of kids and it's been a few years ... I think I'm a little more mature this time around, not by choice but just you grow up pretty quick after a couple of daughters.
AP: How many kids do you have?
Kracker: I have two daughters, 5 and 4, and they absolutely keep me on top of the world and they keep my on top of my toes. I guess they are on my toes.
AP: Do they inspire you as an artist?
Kracker: They're very inspirational. It just seems like you never want them not to have grilled cheese and peanut butter and jelly so it is an inspiration if not motivation.
AP: You went through a rough patch in your marriage, right?
Kracker: I did go through a rough patch but I think everybody does. It's probably not the last of the rough patches ... you learn to balance I guess as you go. I wish there was a handbook or something like that, not that I'd follow it anyway.
AP: How was it working with Kenny Chesney on "When the Sun Goes Down"?
Kracker: I met Kenny about a year ago ... he had this song. He played it and I said, "Man, I'd love to get on that song." Two months later it was getting in the top 10. It was very very very fast.
AP: Talk about the single "Last Night Again."
Kracker: "Last Night Again" took me about 12 minutes to write. I just like the whole concept of "I can't believe it's last night again."
AP: What's your songwriting process?
Kracker: When I grew up my old man listened to all Motown, everything was Motown, Motown, Motown. If it wasn't Motown it was Patsy Cline or George Jones or something along that line. ... When it came down to write solo records, the only approach I knew at songwriting was these old songs that I as a kid remembered. It's that old, "Don't bore us get to the chorus" type thing.
AP: What does the title of the album mean?
Kracker: "72 & Sunny" is more or less like it's a good day, but it's not a great day. When somebody asks somebody how they are doing and they say "hunky dory," you don't know how to really explain hunky dory and I guess I don't know really how to explain "72 & Sunny." But for some reason it always stays "72 & Sunny" - like no one day is greater than the next."