Shooter Jennings doesn't see his current rock-savvy album, Electric Rodeo, as contrary to the country scene. As he recently insisted to Interview, "I like to classify [my songs] wholly as country music, because country is not defined by the way it sounds, but rather as a culture."
And he's not envisioning a particular audience for his music, either. While talking to Xpress from a hotel room on his tour route, he steps away from the phone to chat up room service.
"You must be from that band everyone's talking about," says a voice that sounds like it could belong to the musician's grandmother.
He invites her to the show.
"Rock right now -- rock radio, rock music -- isn't in line with what we do," Jennings reveals when his newest fan has left the room.
Not that he's exactly treading uncharted territory. Rodeo is, in many ways, a throwback to the '70s Southern sound: roots rock in its heyday. The music no one makes anymore, but that everyone turns up when it comes on the radio.
So, despite the obvious nods to bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Marshall Tucker Band, Jennings' music doesn't suffer for its lack of originality. Instead, it benefits from a self-assured, well-controlled mastery of that grungy, emotive, larger-than-life sound. This is cigarette smoking, beer swilling, heavily amped, drumset-bass-and-two-guitars rock -- the soundtrack for drunken all-nighters, bar brawls and cross-country jags in muscle cars.
"That's kind of my favorite era in time," the musician reveals, pointing out that while his band excels in vintage sound, they update it with "a lot of modern equipment."
After growing up on the tour circuit with dad Waylon and mom Jessi Colter, Jennings cut his teeth around LA rocking out with his band Stargunn and partying with Guns 'N Roses before heading back to his country roots. "I realized that all those old country songs about getting your heart broken and drinking to forget -- I was living those songs," he admitted to Relish. "I rediscovered country -- my way."
His way involved his 2005 debut, Put the O Back in Country. "The 'o' is for 'outlaw,'" the musician explained to his Walk the Line costar Joaquin Phoenix in Interview last year. "Country music is at a time right now like it was in the 1950s and 1960s, where it needs somebody to come in and be like, 'Yo, I'm a loose cannon and I might blow my head off at any moment. So, listen to this because this is f***ing country music!' I want to be a part of that."
His next album will be a return to outlaw country. "It's basically a record I did with my dad 10 years ago," the musician notes. As soon as his band comes off their current tour, they'll hit the studio.
Shooter Jennings plays the Rock n' Kiss Stage at Coxe Avenue 9-10:30 p.m. on Friday.