For Niemann, who majored in Performance Art Technology at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas, such experimentation is nothing new. After all, his breakthrough No. 1 single “Lover, Lover” had a distinctive doo-wop vibe, while the Top 5 follow-up “What Do You Want” punctuated its breakup pain with Latin-flavored percussion.
“First and foremost, I would never want to be considered anything other than a country artist ... but there's nothing wrong with challenging people to listen a little differently,” he said.
While he looks up to game-changing country music legends like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Garth Brooks — he co-wrote the Oklahoman's smash “Good Ride Cowboy” — Niemann doesn't want to mimic their singular styles.
“Here's the deal: You gotta be somebody, so you might as well be yourself,” he said.
“It's OK to look up to ‘em and say, ‘Hey, you know what, I'm gonna do this differently and we'll see what happens.'”
Despite the chart and critical success of his major-label debut, Niemann didn't fret about the sophomore slump over the two years he spent making its risk-taking successor.
“You know, the sophomore slump in my mind doesn't even exist. I mean, if we sold one album and my mom bought it, then that would be fine, just because I made the music that I love,” he said.
“I remember when I was lucky enough to do ‘Good Ride Cowboy' ... I had a guy say, ‘Man, how're you gonna top that: a No. 1 hit with Garth Brooks?' And I was like, ‘Man, I really don't have to top it.' It's about adding to what you're trying to accomplish.”