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LAKES JAM: Get ready to 'Smile' as Uncle Kracker is coming to Lakes Jam

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Irvine with Kid Rock 2013. Photo by Paul Joyner2 / 2

Uncle Kracker plays a wide-genre of music from pop to country — with his Top 10 country hit “Smile” to his pop hit “Drift Away” to his rock Top 5 hit “Follow Me.”

Uncle Kracker also co-wrote “All Summer Long” with Kid Rock and did a duet with Kenny Chesney on “When the Sun Goes Down.”

This summer Uncle Kracker will be busy on the Under the Sun Tour with Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth and Blues Travelers – but he plans to make a stop to perform at Lakes Jam in Brainerd.

Uncle Kracker will perform at 8 p.m. June 28 at Brainerd International Raceway. He said he has never been to Brainerd before, but the city reminds him of Michigan. He said Brainerd fans should expect an “awesome” show, so they should come out and see him.

Uncle Kracker — whose real name is Matt Shafer — said his nickname was Kracker growing up in Detroit and after doing some records with Kid Rock, they decided to put “Uncle” in front of it and that is how his name became Uncle Kracker.

Uncle Kracker said his passion for music began as a child. He recalls listening to the radio in the vehicle and loved music, listening to James Taylor and BJ Thomas.

“I loved it and I saved my money to buy my first 45 (record).” Uncle Kracker said. “I bought ‘Pac-Man Fever’ and ‘Cats in the Cradle’ from the Harmony House. I remember all the excitement in driving there and picking them up. Taking it out of the sleeve and saying ‘I earned this.’ The feeling is indescribable. I remember the day in and out, from what the weather was like and all the memories (the music) would bring.

“I feel bad for the kids today, they will never have that feeling ... And that is sad.”

When Uncle Kracker was 10 he watched music videos of the Fat Boys and their Jail House Rap and Run-DMC on public television and that is when he became a big fan of rap music. He began writing and he got his first record deal at age 15. He said he never finished the album, but had about 20 singles.

Uncle Kracker said he was a DJ/vocalist for Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker Band, which helped his musical career. And in 2000, he got his big break with his album “Uncle Kracker” that features his top hit song “Follow Me.”

Uncle Kracker’s albums include “No Stranger to Shame” in 2002; “Seventy Two & Sunny” in 2004; “Happy Hour” in 2009; “My Hometown” (single) in 2011; “Nobody’s Sad on a Saturday Night” (single) in 2012; and “Midnight Special,” in 2012. All his albums are under Sugar Hill Records.

“My music has seen a lot of maturing over the years,” Uncle Kracker said with a chuckle. His music has stayed the same, but his style and writing has matured over the years. He has always used different instruments, such as the banjo, in his music.

“You get in the studio and think it was time well spent, but it’s weird what inspires you each day,” said Uncle Kracker. “You do things that make you feel good.”

Uncle Kracker said he has followed his own path of his music style through his 14-year music career.

“When I did the duet with Kenny Chesney people were like you should make a country record,” he said. “That is not how it works. It’s not like I can just say where is my cowboy hat and boots and let’s make a country record.”

His latest album “Midnight Special” has incorporated his own country musical style.

When asked to describe his music, Uncle Kracker said, “Awesome.”

Uncle Kracker said he is looking forward to touring with Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth and Blues Travelers that will take up most of the summer.

“I can’t wait,” he said. “I’ve known them like forever. They are my best buddies. I’m anxious to see what they are up to.

“I’m also doing a lot of shows on my own in between the tour dates, like when I come to Brainerd.”

Uncle Kracker has three daughters, age 14, 13 and 9. He said it is tough traveling and being away from his family, but at the same time it is all his family knows as he has been a musician for all of his children’s lives.

He said, “I’ve always made the best of it and they now know (as they are older and understand more) the amount of work and sacrifices I have made for them, for our family.

“All three of them love music and have their own niches ... I love opinions from them on songs.”

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow on Twitter at