With his latest album Sweet Southern Sugar just out, Kid Rock acknowledges that he’s “not sure what the repercussions” will be from this year’s faux-but-polarizing U.S. Senate tease. But he makes no apologies for the prank, either.
“It might be one of the dumber things I’ve ever done, but it was a fuckin’ riot,” Rock tells Billboard with a laugh. “Man, some of the shit that went on was unbelievable. It started to become real, which got a little scary; I mean I just don’t understand who looks at Kid Rock and goes, ‘Yeah, I see a senator there…’ But it was still a lot of fun in a lot of ways.”
Rock says his “campaign” was inspired by media reaction to a Michigan state legislator’s public suggestion that he run for Republican nomination for one of the state’s senate seats in 2018. “The press started having their little laugh with it, like they always do,” Rock recalls. “This time I thought, ‘Y’know, I’m gonna fuck with them a little bit.’ We said, ‘Alright, we’re gonna run with this,’ and of course I’m not running for Senate. We were leading everybody on.” That included social media pronouncements, campaign merchandise and faux speeches during his concerts. “Man, we had a blast. Every time we’d do something, just watching the press losing their shit over it was hilarious. There were times we couldn’t stop laughing.”
The story took on a life of its own, of course, leading to public media commentary and charged protests outside Rock’s concert opening Detroit’s new Little Caesars Arena in mid-September. “I mean, even people in my family or close to me were like, ‘Are you serious?'” Rock says. “Even one of the people who was part of the whole thing, and there were only a few, about two and a half months into it called me and went, ‘Dude, are you seriously gonna do this?’ And I’m like, ‘What the fuck are you talking about? You were in on it when we set this whole thing up! You were one of the designers of the plan!’ People just took it seriously, and the climate was ripe, no doubt, with what happened with Trump. I just saw an in and I said, ‘I’m gonna fuck with motherfuckers.’ But I wouldn’t tell anyone to take offense; I’ve pretty much fucked with motherfuckers from day one.”
Rock says he did feel bad about those who genuinely jumped on board to support him. “There were calls and letters that came to me from all over that wanted to help me out, that really believed in me that I could get there and make a change,” he says. “There were governors, there were the highest levels from the White House down to local leaders and neighbors and things like that.” And while he’s an acknowledged conservative, he was also angered by portrayals of him as ultra-right and racist, and stories dredging up the Confederate flag stage prop he stopped using at concerts several years back.
“I knew politics are polarized and dirty and I knew what I was opening myself up to, but I didn’t expect to come out at the end labeled as the Klan Wizard, to be honest with you,” says Rock, who was also taken to task for a visit to the White House with Ted Nugent, including a photo opp with President Donald Trump. “That was kind of a shocker to me. This Confederate flag shit had already been addressed and I got an NAACP Award and haven’t talked about it since. People just need to calm down. I guess I didn’t help by stirring the pot, but I really didn’t think people were going to take me that seriously.”
Rock says he remains a fervent “news junkie” and interested in politics, and he supports Trump. “I do like a lot of things he’s doing in office,” he notes. “Do I agree with everything he says or his messaging? No. I don’t think anybody does. But that’s who he is. That’s what got him there. But I’m definitely going to try to give him a chance, just like I did with Obama, to see what he can change here.” Rock doesn’t rule out his own run for office at some point, but he’s put all that aside to focus on Sweet Southern Sugar and his Greatest Show On Earth 2018 Tour, which kicks off Jan. 19 in Nashville.
“I’m just having a good time now, and you can’t let that shit really wear on you,” Rock says. “There’s been periods of times throughout my career where the shit would get me down, and the highs would be really high and the lows would be really low. Now I’m like, ‘Fuck that. Let me get rid of these Google alerts.’ We just sold out Kansas City for New Year’s Eve — let’s look forward to going there and not worry about that other shit. That’s what I’m looking at now, and fuck all this other shit.
“But that doesn’t mean I’m not gonna fuck with people if the opportunity presents itself.”