Jerrod Niemann released "God Made a Woman," his brand-new single, on Friday (March 17), and the hitmaker believes that the song is the kind that only comes along once in a lifetime.
"It's one of those songs that I feel like when you move to town, everybody is trying to put something out fresh and current. It's hard to do stuff that hasn't already been done," he tells Billboard. "As time goes on, we all look back and hear these classic songs, but in their moment, these songs were fresh and unique and groundbreaking."
The ballad struck a chord with the newly married singer. "I just thought, 'What a cool and powerful message for all of us guys who are lucky enough to have a girl that makes us a better person? Maybe she would like to hear that song.' It's hard to find a song to play for someone that you care about." He says that he really tried to get out of the song's way in the studio and let the lyrics tell the story. "Going in there, it was with a 'less is more' mind-set. We took a very simple approach in the production and just dressed it up in the background and made it try to be the best vehicle for the song that it could."
The singer says the first time he heard the song, he knew it was special. "There's a thing in Nashville where all the publishing companies get together and they hang out and play a bunch of songs. Usually it takes me a long time to gravitate toward a song. There are a few like 'In Color' or 'Paint Me a Birmingham' that are pretty instant. This one was like that -- the first listen. I'm glad I didn't write the song because I got to feel the impact. I wanted to be the vessel of the song. I wanted people to feel that when they heard the song. I'm very thankful that I got to do the song first."
The song's lyrics pay tribute to the romantic influence a woman has in a man's life, but Niemann says he also thought of some of the great female artists that have been a part of the format over the years. When asked about some of his favorites, he didn't hesitate. "I always say Dolly Parton. She is such a mega-superstar, but taking her down to just her voice, and she's just incredible. I also love people who built this town like Loretta Lynn, Kitty Wells and Tammy Wynette, of course. Patty Loveless would be another one, and Pam Tillis and 'All the Good Ones Are Gone' would be another. Alison Krauss and Lee Ann Womack both fit in a similar world to me. You can tell they listened to a lot of Dolly Parton," he states.
"God Made a Woman" is the debut solo single for Niemann on Curb Records, after three albums with Arista Nashville. He says he feels he's at a place that will be nurturing to his creativity. "I'm very grateful to anyone who has ever given me an opportunity, but I do feel that people fit in different scenarios better. Some labels are like giant assembly lines. When you come in with something like 2010's Judge Jerrod & The Hung Jury, where it's got some different flavors, people go 'Where do we put this?' So, with Curb being more of a boutique or a mom and pop shop kind of label, where you get everybody's attention, they also want to know your vision. They're not trying to fit you into their box, they are trying to create a space for you and help you grow as an artist. For me, it's been unbelievable."
But he says the environment doesn't look completely different at Curb. "A lot of people who were on the promotion team at Sony are now at Curb, so I have so many friends there that I'm working with, and that's great. Of course, having Lee there is great, and he holds his music up to such a high standard, as do Jon Stone and everyone else there, that I feel it breeds a healthy competition and makes you want to rise to the occasion and outdo yourself. You have cheerleaders there that are people who just want to see you succeed."
Niemann knows that he tends to go against the grain with his music at times, and he says that Curb offers him an atmosphere where he can simply be Jerrod Niemann. "I've always said that if you got to be somebody, you might as well be yourself. All of my favorite artists are people who rose to the challenges -- Hank Jr, Willie, Waylon -- all of them started out clean cut but when life throws you some curve balls, you have to either give up or grow as a person and an artist and be yourself. I think that for me, once I realized that every door in my face had been slammed and locked, and I decided to make Judge Jerrod & the Hung Jury independently, it was so much fun to stumble on to different sounds and things. I challenged myself to do something that was creative and unique. Once you do that, you don't want to ever not do that. It's hard to go back to the same old-same old. I just think that I would not enjoy it at all if I were forced to be like everyone else."
Since he first hit with 2010's "Lover, Lover," Niemann says the business looks vastly different from the model he sees today. "It's completely changed. Technology is a big part of that because you can do a studio at your house. If you have a computer, you can have a studio."
Is that a pro or a con? Niemann says, "I think it's a pro like with anything, if you have every tool in the shed, you don't need to pull out the biggest saw you got, if you can pull it off with something else. I think that for me, I can record and try stuff, put it on the drive, and take it into the studio with someone like Jimmie Lee Sloas, and we can dial it into realistic borders. When I first moved to town, it was intimidating to go into the studio with all these A-list guys, and anytime you had an idea, you felt that people would look at you like you were stupid. When you're at home, you can try anything and explore with nobody to judge you. I'm sure people abuse it, but it works well for me."