Recently I conducted one of my longest and the most entertaining interview with a recording artist. Jeff McCool of Moccasin Creek let me pick his brain for redneck revelations and the scoop on Moccasin Creek’s new album, Hillbilly Rockstar.
Moccasin Creek has a new album coming out late March called Hillbilly Rockstar. This album is their first with Ronnie Davis, new co-vocalist and guitarist, who has taken over for Charlie Bonnet III. McCool has recently dropped a single on January 20th with Megan Rüger (of The Voice) titled, “Walk Away”.
AndiHHM: I saw on Facebook and Twitter that a couple songs from Hillbilly Rockstar got leaked. So you gave away two songs from the album basically. Then “Porch Honky” was already a single. I love that song, makes me laugh. I think it’s fun to poke fun at some of these words like honky and cracker.
Jeff McCool: Exactly! If we can’t make fun of ourselves and people can’t accept it as fun, then they’re too tight and don’t need to be here anyway. The ones that get it, get it. The ones that don’t, never will.
AndiHHM: Who collaborated with you on the “Hillbilly Rockstar” album?
Jeff McCool: We have Demun Jones, Big B, Big Chuk out of Arkansas. We manage him and book him; he’s more non-genre-lized. There’s a rapper from Florida, Hard Target, he’s on “Lawn Chairs and Cheap Cigars”. Ronnie Davis, of course, is the new guitarist and vocalist for Moccasin Creek.
A really cool band out of South Carolina, 3 and 20; they’re more Jamie Johnson-esque with some flair to them. They’re working on their first studio album. We work with these people and do shows and build relationships.
AndiHHM: You just released a song with Megan Ruger called “Walk Away”. It’s a terrific song that sounds different from the rest of your material. What was the impetus for writing “Walk Away”?
JM: It’s different. People perceive it as different, I don’t. When I’m in the studio, I can write just a complete country song, then turn around and write damn near a metal song, then I’m straight rappin’. It just depends on the mood.
Everybody knows what’s going on; Moccasin Creek is moving in a different direction. It had been going on for so long. I didn’t have a real vested experience in music. For four or five years I didn’t realize there was a passion there. It was just something I could do, and do it pretty decent and make a living at it.
I just realized that some things aren’t ever going to work out(Referencing the departure of Charlie Bonnet III). I was part of a group, I thought, “I don’t know that I can do this on my own. I think I’m going to either just get my teaching certificate here in Tennessee or real estate license; get back to the real world. But I wanna record one last song”.
I ran over to my studio, found that music laying around on one of my hard drives. I was literally over there 30-40 minutes. Daphne (Jeff’s wife)said, “I thought you were going to record a song?” I said, “I did.” I put it in and I was singing the hook before we even got Megan involved and she just broke down bawlin’. Daphne said, “You’re not quitting now.” I’m in this to make noise and I love what I’m doing.
On the appeal of “Walk Away”:
JM: It hits so many facets of life that it can really touch or relate to everybody. I think if so and so took it up, it could go up to number 1. I wouldn’t want anybody else to cut it. I wanted it to be mine. You can actually hear the passion in the words. Not something that someone else wrote that I’m trying to copy. When a song is filled with that much passion, it’s hard to recreate that.
HHM: How did you find Megan (Rüger of The Voice)?
JM: We put something out, we were being discreet. Any time we put something out we’ll get overwhelmed by everybody and their mom. She came up through a Moccasin Creek fan. She fit the sound. It was really great because now we have a relationship. Daphne books her now.
HHM: Who is your favorite “White Trash Fabulous” person, celebrity or otherwise?
JM: Man, that’s a good question. Hmmmm. Obviously Kid Rock. Gretchen (Wilson) comes to mind. This one’s funny because he’s so mainstream, so urban, so hip-hop: Eminem. He’s as white trash as it gets; he grew up in a trailer park. I’ve got to give a shout out to my Vegas buddy, Big B. He’s a white trash king.
That term actually came up when I was at my best friend Twan’s house. He’s a biker, builds choppers; he’s got nice cars and custom bikes in his front yard, I’m like “You’re damn near white trash”: and he says “This is ghetto fabulous”. I’m like, “White Trash Fabulous!” I’m like, “Oh, hand me my phone.”
There are people out there that came from that, they didn’t change; they didn’t reinvent themselves. I don’t think Kid Rock ever changed who he is.Yelawolf is as white trash as it gets. I could name several wrestlers right now that didn’t change. *Laughs*
“White Trash Fabulous”, that was one of the coldest videos we’ve shot. From the time we shot it and edited to putting it up was 6 hours. I’m assuming you know that we shoot all our videos and edit them. I’d much rather do the work on my own then spend $20-30,000 for effects. It’s all about the music anyway.
Daphne came out and shot me and Megan for about twenty minutes on a very cold day. The rest of the “Walk Away” video, I just set up my tripod and camera. We work and it’s tough.
HHM: So many of your lyrics are humorous or downright hilarious. Were you the “comedian” at school or in your family while growing up?
JM: Oh yeah, yeah. I was always the black sheep of the family. That term is used loosely. Most people regard the black sheep as the troublemaker; wait, well I guess that is right. *laughs*
I grew up in family of educators. My dad was superintendent of schools, my mom was a teacher. My sister and I both went into the school system out of college. I became a singer, she became a Diva. I was the class clown. I’ve been a seeker of attention, whether on the field or not. My friends said I should I do standup. It’s one thing to be witty, but a comedian, that’s hard.
JM: People find us on Kid Rock’s channel and Colt Ford’s channel; all over the place. This is kind of what sets Moccasin Creek apart; is that we fall into almost every category. That’s just me man, that’s how I grew up. I just love music. If it was catchy and I liked the beat, I was a fan.
On Nashville and the music industry:
JM: Don’t get me wrong, if the right deal ever came along… the right A & R, the right situation. I think you can “Sell out without selling out”. You get to a point where you can’t do it all yourself anymore. If you’re allowing people to help you go to the next level, that’s different. But the minute you walk in and say, “I need to get to the next level” and they say, “Ok, I need you to do this, this is what you’re going to talk about and how you’re going to do it.” I’m like, “Noooooooo! That’s not how I got here!”
If the right thing came along, I’m open. In the meantime, we’re going to continue to do what we do until one of two things happen: we can’t do it anymore because it’s gotten out of control or until Daphne (Jeff’s wife) kills me. She did just up my life insurance a few months ago… *laughs*
We did do quite a bit last year for an independent band. It’s by far toughest job I’ve ever had in my life. There’s no doubt about that, with all the work and what goes on behind the all glitz and glamour.
On his length of time in business:
JM: I recorded my first song in the studio five years ago. I had no passion for it, I had no experience in music. I used to sell carpet, tile, wood all over the Southeast. One night, a drunken karaoke expedition led into me going into the studio a week later. Some guy I didn’t even know said “You kind of sound like Colt Ford”. I was like, “Who?” This was when he was just getting started. I’m like, I can do that. So I did. I went to the studio and recorded my first couple of songs. I was young enough to try it, “I’m just gonna move to Nashville and do it.”
One of the first two songs I ever wrote was “Country Boy Friday Night”. It sat around and sat around for a few years. It never got put on an album until Daphne told me to put it on an album a few years ago. It’s been one of our best sellers ever. I think that actually helps not having all that time in the “industry” or this business. I sit here and watch people who have done it for a long time steadily try to reinvent themselves because they’re always having to keep up with something. Times change and I caught it right as the times changed. I didn’t really have to alter who I am or what I do much. I could just be me and I’m always will be me.
You might have a “I’m going to beat the shit out of you”, right-in-your-face, Southern Rock jammer. The next song is like “Hey, I just had a shitty day”, and “Walk Away” comes out.
If there were no social media, people wouldn’t know Moccasin Creek, the LACs, and others. That’s a bold statement, but I’m just being honest. We don’t get radio play. Without social media or the YouTubes of the world, how else would people see what you have? It’s changed. The internet has made mediocrity acceptable as well.
JM: I’m very blunt but I’m super humble and I’m very, very appreciative of everything I’ve got. I’m truthful and to the point. You don’t find that enough anymore. I’ve been around a lot of big names for the last ten, twenty years of my life and only a handful of them are truly humble. You can’t lose sight of that’s how you got there. My brother-in-law (The Undertaker) is probably one of the most recognizable faces on the planet and he’s one of the most humble people you’ll ever meet.
HHM: Tell me about being the big brother to WWE Diva, Michelle McCool.
JM: I was always the football guy, It was always “You’re Jeff McCool’s little sister”. Now it’s, “Oh, Michelle McCool is your sister?!
On being confined to a genre:
JM: I don’t care about that word genre. It’s so funny trying to hear my parents trying to explain. I’ll hear my dad trying to explain it to his buddies, “It’s kinda like, awww well, you just have to hear it.”
That’s like Kid Rock, he doesn’t fall into just one category. I’m hoping in five or six years people say that about Moccasin Creek. They don’t have a genre; they don’t fall in a certain category.
HHM: If you could collaborate with anyone who would you choose?
JM: If I had any choice on the planet and I could do a collaboration with anybody?
JM: If I could do a collaboration with anybody, I would love to remake “The Ride” with David Allen Coe. The one we’ve got worked up and written is bad ass. Jamey Johnson would be singing the hook. But I don’t know how he and Axl Rose would sound singing the hook together. I don’t know how the Beastie Boys would fit into that equation though. *laughs*
HHM: You might have to do a whole collaboration album.
JM: If I’m fortunate enough to do that. I’d like to do something with Molly Hatchet, or Cyprus Hill. Or Five Finger Death Punch. It’s crazy because my musical tastes are so broad. If I would’ve had the chance, Joe Cocker. I’m a huge Cocker fan. I’d love to do a song with Jamey Johnson. I’d like to a song with Uncle Kracker and one with Everlast. I’ve got a track I’d like to get Gretchen Wilson on. It’d be fun to work with a lot of these people.
I’m a Justin Timberlake fan. I know I’ll probably lose a bunch of fans, but let me explain this. I’m not a fan of his music per se. But I think he and Pharrell (Williams) from a production standpoint to a business mind are very smart. I’m a fan of their business sense.
On liking Prince:
JM: Of course I’m a Skynyrd fan, I grew up thirty minutes away from where they’re from, but I’m a music fan. I’m not stereotypical. I’m one of the biggest Prince fans to walk on the earth. Prince is a bad ass dude. He never gets mentioned among the greats, because he didn’t play rock and roll. People don’t recognize that he was a great guitar player.
HHM: It seems like it’s always the big dude in this genre who’s the rapper, why is that?
JM: Especially this genre. I guess we’re a bunch of corn-fed, country fat asses.
HHM: I don’t know about all that. I wasn’t going down that road. *laughs*
JM: Me and Clay (The LACs) are the tallest ones. I’m 6’3″ and he’s 6′ 5″ or something, we’ve got a little bit more to brag on. The rest of them are only 5’ 9 or so. Yeah, my mom said that a few years back, “Why’s everybody in your genre fat?” I told her, “Not everybody mom, just the lead singers.”
My whole family is the epitome of great fitness except me, black sheep. My whole family went and played at Florida State except for me. When I went to University of Cincinnati, I was in the Midwest. It’s not the same as in the South. People take football in the South more seriously.
Jeff McCool played football at Palatka High School in Florida, then for the University of Cincinnati, and later, Arena Football in Jacksonville, Florida.
HHM: I was amazed when I researched your history and found out you were a quarterback. I had figured you for a defensive tackle or a linebacker.
JM: I didn’t start putting on my weight until I started going on the road. It’s the lifestyle. You’re not exercising. You’re on the road for 8-9 hours at a time, eating junk food and bar food. You get done at 1 in the morning and then you’re at the Waffle House.
It just stacked on and stacked on and stacked on. I’m back in the gym. ( I talked to McCool the day after his MMA class) I’m taking strides to get back to where I was. I’ve always been big, but shedding 50-60 pounds will help a lot. Our show is pretty live and energetic. We have a couple songs where I’m clutching the microphone like doing “Run Again” or “Daddy’s Pride” where I can take a little break.
HHM: I haven’t really seen anywhere about how you got your nickname. How did you get your nickname, “Brahma Bull”? Is that like a high school football thing or college?
JM: If I’m not mistaken I think Smo actually started calling me that. I was always just McCool. I got a kick ass last name, c’mon. In college I was always Cooler or McCool. I can’t remember exactly what happened but there was some moonshine and Red Stag involved and a bunch of mountain oysters in Colorado. A fight broke out and a lot of things got broken, and I was the “bull in the china shop” that started it all. And it just kind of developed. I didn’t have a “rap name” anyway. I’ve embraced it now.
You realize how bad this sucks because of my sister being who she is and who my brother-in-law is and that I’m a big fan of The Rock (Duane Johnson). He’s been called the Brahma Bull forever. As brilliant and as rich as he is, he never trademarked the name “Brahma Bull”.
On his solo album from 2014, Leader of the Pack:
JM: I’m glad I did that album (Leader of the Pack) because it gave me the confidence that I can carry anything on my own as the front man. I’ve always written but I’ve just never really had the confidence to lead because I didn’t play an instrument, I didn’t sing, I hadn’t been in music that long. Doing that album gave me that confidence. To be honest, it’s under-produced but I’m very proud of it. It was the first album I ever produced.
HHM: Thanks for all the time you’ve given me. I really enjoyed Hillbilly Rockstar as well as “Walk Away”.
JM: You’re welcome. Looking forward to coming up there to play some shows in your area.
Moccasin Creek is out touring the South presently in support of Hillbilly Rockstar with dates in South Carolina, Tennessee, and McCool’s home state of Florida. More dates are planned for New Hampshire, New York, and the Midwest. Wherever the road takes Jeff McCool and Moccasin Creek, the fans will be in for a rowdy time with the Brahma Bull leading the pack.