Kid Rock Talks Guns, Hunting and Rock 'n' Roll
June 20, 2016
His real name is Robert Ritchie. Which sounds normal enough. And if you ever make it down to Pike County, Alabama, you might realize that he's just that'¦normal.
He can be found doing any number of redneck activities, including but not limited to shooting wild hogs from his truck. A simple Southern guy doing what comes natural: playing music, hunting, cracking jokes, and drinking beer.
His stage name is Kid Rock. That's the guy who isn't so normal. He's partied with Axl Rose, played cards with Lionel Richie, rapped with Eminem, dated playmates (several), and drunk whiskey with world leaders. He's turned in sweet duets with Sheryl Crow and played many sold-out shows with Hank Williams Jr. and Willie Nelson, among others.
Somewhere in the middle between the American Badass/conqueror of all things music and the self-professed redneck who prefers the simple life is the man we all want to know.
His friends call him Bobby.
As I found out, you're never quite sure what you're going to get. In fact, when the Hunting crew hooked up with Kid in Jupiter, Florida, to do the photo shoot for this piece, he was in no mood to mess around.
Ben O'Brian Interviews Kid Rock
"I don't dance for photos," he said. "I play music."
That's the Rock we all love'¦straightforward, honest, uncompromising. It was no different when the Detroit rocker and I sat down for this one-on-one interview about hunting, life, and what makes a real badass.
Ben O'Brien: I'll start with a softball. How'd you get into hunting?
Kid Rock: Nobody in my family ever went hunting that I knew about. I think my dad might have done a little trap shooting. I always loved guns, but we never really hunted. When we were kids — man, we were dumb — we used to put on masks and take pellet guns out in the woods and shoot each other. Just idiotic stuff like that, which I'm sure a lot of kids did. I never really seriously hunted at all, though, not until I met Hank [Williams Jr.].
He got me into it, and I finally got the itch. I got the bug. The more time I spent with Hank, well, he just doesn't do much other than hunt, collect guns, and make music. Going to visit him in Tennessee and Alabama was what hooked me. I have to give all the credit to him.
Nowadays, we share a property with him down there [in Lower Alabama]. We've got a few thousand acres together, and that's really been a godsend. Such a great place to go and get away from it all'¦hunting, fishing, and enjoying the outdoors.
BO: When you were hanging out with Hank in those early days, was there something about the hunting experience in particular that hooked you?
KR: I always loved the outdoors. Growing up in Michigan, I mean, there was obviously a ton of hunting going on. I went fishing here and there, but I wasn't too big on going out and freezing my ass off in a deer stand. When I met Hank around 1999, he just started me from ground level. He taught me how to shoot rifles. He taught me how a scope works. How to gut a deer. How to kill one.
He'd sit in the blind with me years and years ago and would let me work a turkey call. Sometimes he'd fall asleep, and I'd just keep working it. Every level of the game, from the beginning, he's turned me on to all of it.
And he was able to help my son get into hunting, too, which has been awesome to see. Being with him when he killed his first deer'¦nothing better.
BO: Did meeting Hank and going hunting change your public persona at all or the way you see yourself as an artist?
KR I've never really thought about it too deep, man, but you're probably right. Hunting is something that I've gotten into more and more. As much as I enjoy the hunt, I just dig the environment around it. The people that I've met through it are just salt of the earth. You spend time with them in preparation before and having drinks after. Planting food plots, setting stands, and living the lifestyle. I love that as much as anything.
Honestly, I have little patience for sitting in the blind. A lot of times I'll bring my iPhone and pad of paper and write songs while I'm waiting for the action. Hell, sitting there by myself is probably healthy for me and dangerous at the same time.
BO: Did hunting come into your life at the right time then?
KR: It really did. At the time hunting came along, my career was just starting to blow up. I think I was about 28 or 29. It kind of gave me another perspective on life. In my business there can be a lot of ways to escape, and a lot of them are bad ways. I tried all those ways'¦with drugs and things like that. This took the place of a lot of that stuff. The relationships that were formed and having that release. Time to sit with yourself and just think.
I'm getting rid of my house in Malibu now'¦or at least trying. I want to buy more hunting land.
BO: I know you kill it and grill it. How much is wild game meat a part of your life? How do you feel about its value as opposed to store-bought meat?
KR: I love Alabama 'cause we've got a great processor down there. Shout out to Pine Level Deer Processing. I don't do much of the dirty work, but I'm always in for backstraps and turkey breasts.
Everyone nowadays has a cancer story. We can say that the chemicals and additives in store-bought meat play some factor in that disease. As I've gotten older, and now that I have kids, I think about health a whole lot more. So eating organic wild meat is a no-brainer.
BO: You're a self-described outlaw. People love you because you're willing to call out BS. What do you think about America's current view of hunting, how it fits into our modern society, and where it's all headed?
KR: I like win-wins in life. I like things that are all positive. To me, that's hunting. You form bonds with other hunters, you eat healthier, and you become better at, well, life.
I see hunting as an American tradition. It's a rite of passage to me. There's so much family and friendship involved that it's really just the backbone of this country.
The lack of this kind of shit across the board has torn this country apart at many levels. Hunting brings people together. You see it when you bring inner city kids out in the woods.
Dude, I've gotten the biggest gangsters in Detroit, my friends from way back, to come to Alabama and go hunting with Hank. They absolutely love it, and next thing you know, they're wearing camo and shopping at Bass Pro.
The people that aren't into it? That's fine. Don't get your panties in a bunch and start a bunch of fights over it. I have my opinions, and I want to express them, but I'm never going to bring it to a level where I hate somebody. I mean there are people out there making death threats to hunters? Silly. Just shut down social media. It's a joke, in my opinion. There's a ton of ignorance out there about hunting. But let's face it, there's a ton of ignorance in everything in life.
BO: When your friend and fellow Detroit rocker Ted Nugent shared a photo on Facebook of a mountain lion you killed it became a "controversy," sparking some outrage within the anti-hunting community. Do you care about the negative reaction?
KR: That was maybe the most fun night I've ever had. I had a glass of whiskey and I was just reading those comments as people were posting them, and thinking, "This is great." I was laughing my ass off.
I've hunted with Ted. I know that you don't want to try to match wits with him on anything. You're going to lose. And those anti-hunters sure did on that one. He knows his stuff. I just kind of enjoy the rhetoric, and I think Ted has a little fun with it, too. But I'm not going to argue with someone who's made up their mind and doesn't want to hear it. Those kinds of people I keep out of my life. If you have an open mind, we can have that conversation, and I'll have one with you.
I see this in music. There's a lot of bands whose songs I just don't like. That doesn't mean we can't get along. Maybe even have a beer or break bread.
BO: When you think about hunting in its simplest form what do you picture? Where would you be? Who would you be with?
KR: My life is full of travel. So I'm not thinking about the next far-off hunt for elk or caribou. I'm thinking about staying put and developing my property in Alabama and Tennessee.
It takes a long time to get a hunt camp going, so right now it'd be spent working there. Then we'd be killing some big whitetails, turkeys, and hogs. I'll be developing my own land. I've been blessed to be successful, and I have the money to afford to go to all these great places around the world, but I'm really a proximity guy. It's all about being close to home.
I'll tell you what, my girlfriend is out there with me, too. She's into it. I don't think there's a guy out there that wouldn't love that. You know you got a great girl when she jumps in and guts your deer.
BO: Is there something that Kid Rock today would tell your 18-year-old self about how to approach life, career, and family?
KR: I always wanted the shock value to get people to notice me when I was young. Now I know that honesty can create just as much shock value as anything you're looking for in life. Now I know the importance of focusing on your talent and forgetting all the other bull.
BO: Will you ever retire from the music business? What will your life look like when/if that day comes?
KR: I got it in my head that when I'm 50, in five years, I'm going to put it in cruise control. That being said, if there ever comes a time when people don't want to hear my music, I won't try to jam it down their throats. I will tip my hat and say, "Thanks for the ride."
From there, my life looks pretty good. I'll be hunting, fishing, golfing, enjoying family, and living it. I'm not a big vacation guy. No beaches and fruity cocktails. I'll sit at my place and keep it simple.
BO: What is the most badass hunting gun ever made?
KR: Damn. I'm thinking a lever-action .30-30.
BO: Coolest car ever made?
KR: I've got a V16 1930 Cadillac, which was the first year they brought the V16 off the line. It's my prize possession. And, no, there will never be a deer in the trunk. It doesn't go off-road. That's American history and American craftsmanship at its best.
BO: Are you voting for Donald Trump for president?
KR: Hell, yes!
BO: What does it mean to be a redneck?
KR: Hardworking and unapologetic. Someone who knows how to work, but damn well knows how to have a good time.
BO: Describe what the typical Kid Rock fan looks like in 2016.
KR: It's all over the map. We do sell more XXL women shirts than any other act out there.
BO: What do you love most about the music you're making today?
KR: I just love seeing how people react to it. Helping people have a good time. I'm an entertainer. There's a lot of people that are more artistic and make music for themselves. I do my thing for other people.
BO: What do you hate most about the music business?
KR:What I actually like about it would probably be the shorter answer. There's a lot of scumbags in this business.