In 2008, a then 25-year-old Kevin Rudolf landed all over the airwaves with the hit “Let It Rock”, featuring rapper Lil Wayne. It went to #5 on the Hot 100 and garnered download sales of over 4 million copies in the U.S. alone. Though he had been in the industry for several years prior as a session musician, most notably on Timbaland‘s 2007 album Shock Value, “Rock” gave Rudolf his first taste of success as a solo act. Through collaborations with acts like Birdman and Jay Sean (“I Made It”) and Flo Rida (“You Make The Rain Fall”), he built up his name in the industry and on both the sales and airplay charts. He’s accumulated five top 50 entries on CHR radio to date. He was also behind hits for Cobra Starship, Lifehouse and Selena Gomez & The Scene, and the guy keeps on working at it as he should.
Although Rudolf originally brought a sound that mixed rock and R&B elements, that has evolved over the years. In 2012, he released the light and poppy “Don’t Give Up”, and though it wasn’t an overwhelming success, it did show another side to him. Now, he returns with the single “Here’s To Us”, co-written by Rudolf and Larry Nacht, a song reminiscent of offerings by the Plain White T’s (“1, 2, 3, 4”) and The Lumineers (“Ho Hey”). It may be familiar musically, but at the core of it, the song is a genuine reminder to live for the good times even in the worst of them. It’s an anthem for the underdog and the misunderstood. So far, radio seems to like both the message and the single: in the past three weeks, “Us” has accumulated adds at 18 CHR stations and currently sits in the top 100 at the format. I talked the him via email about his latest project and this fine change in direction — but don’t call it mellow yellow (as I did not so quite rightly.) Read on below:
PGTC: “Here’s To Us” takes you in a new direction musically, which is a lot mellower than some of your past material. What inspired the change?
KR: Things change; if you stand still, you die. Besides, what’s mellow about it? I mean, anything you play on an acoustic guitar’s gonna sound “mellower.” Or folkier. Or whatever. Nirvana sounded softer when they played acoustically, but it still kicked ass. It’s the words, the feelings, the whole idea – and if anything, it comes out more when you strip it down a little. That’s where the real power is. When you really listen, I’d actually say this rocks harder than anything I’ve ever done.
PGTC: Since you’re in the process of putting together a third album, is “Us” indicative the sound of it or is it more of a mix of genres?
KR: I let the marketing people figure out the genre. The sound is really dictated by whatever gets the idea across better, and that’s not really up to me either. I mean, I could craft a good song, but, to get the magic, you gotta just leave yourself open to it. I’m not thinking, “Is it hip hop? Is it rock?” etc. I’m thinking, “Is it true to me?” Whatever I gotta do to get at that truth, I’ll do.
PGTC: Most people know you as a singer, but you also produce, write and play the guitar. Which one of these do you like to do best?
KR: Wait, I do all those things? Then, I gotta get paid more, man. No, I don’t think of it that way. They all go hand in hand. If I’m playing a riff on guitar, I’m already producing it, ’cause I’m thinking about how I’m going to make this sound like what’s in my head, you know? So, yeah, I’m kind of a one-man band when I’m writing, playing and producing, but I don’t really separate it into different jobs like that. It all kind of happens simultaneously.
PGTC: This summer now marks 5 years since “Let It Rock” first made the airplay charts, which is amazing, but a lot has changed in the industry since it was released. Would you change anything about your career if you could go back and fix it?
KR: A lot’s changed and nothing’s changed. It’s still about doing a good song and getting it listened to. It’s still about trying to reach a lot of people with your message. There’s just a lot more ways to do that now, and that’s cool. “Rock” was massive, which is why we’re talking about it. Luckily, there were quite a few other hits that I either wrote or produced, plus a few more of my own. So, that paid the bills and I’m able to do what I want on this album. I wouldn’t change anything. I’m quite happy where things are.
PGTC: Alright, last question, since everybody seems to be fixated on it at the moment. Weigh in: the duel of the divas. Katy Perry’s “Roar” vs. Lady Gaga’s “Applause”. Which one are you liking better?
KR: Well, Gaga was just starting when I had “Rock” blowing up. She actually went and bought it at the time. So, I kind of owe her.
So, he might live for the “Applause”, but he also lives to entertain, as he’s doing on his new single. Thanks to Mr. Rudolf for his sense of humor and for willing to do this! You can watch the video for “Here’s To Us” and download it below. Plus, keep looking for more interviews and music news right here on PGTC!