After an almost year-long search and several weeks of negotiations, Bishop’s Mule Days Celebration has secured country artist Jerrod Niemann as its 2013 concert headliner.
Following in the footsteps of past Mule Days performers such as Blake Shelton, Chris Cagle, Neal McCoy, Uncle Kracker and the late Chris LeDoux, the 33-year-old up-and-comer will perform for residents and visitors during the event’s annual Thursday-night concert.
This year’s event is set for 8 p.m. Thursday, May 23 in the Mike Boothe Memorial Arena at the Tri-County Fairgrounds. Tickets for the concert and all 2013 Mule Days events go on sale Friday, Feb. 1.
According to Executive Director Monica Allen, event organizers are especially pleased to have Niemann in the Mule Days lineup this year.
“We’re really excited that he’s coming,” she said. “He’s a great act to see live.”
Concertgoers can reportedly expect Niemann’s most popular numbers, including the No. 1 hit “Lover, Lover,” the Top 5 single “What Do You Want,” and the live sing-along number, “One More Drinkin’ Song,” as well as more recent material from his latest album, “Free the Music” (2012).
According to Mule Days Public Relations Chair Barb Laughon, the process of selecting a concert headliner, for all intents and purposes, begins almost immediately after the last Mule Days is in the books.
The Mule Days Executive Board begins talking about the concert during its retreat in July, she said, and by October, Concert Chairman Randy Van Tassell and his committee begin the search in earnest for an entertainer who can put on a great show for a broad spectrum of people – and for the dollars Mule Days has to offer.
“In December, Randy usually has a selection made and begins the negotiating process, which can go rapidly or it can drag on,” Laughon said. “We’ve experienced both. Either way, we try to announce the artist by mid-January.”
According to Laughon, Van Tassell and the Concert Committee nailed it this year.
“We feel Jerrod Niemann will please everyone. His work reaches out to youth as well as the more traditional country fan. Concert reviews we’ve studied indicate he puts on an energetic live show that goes above the expectations of both the event and the audience,” she said. “We’re really looking forward to working with him.”
While Niemann is a 10-year veteran of the music industry, according to the biography provided by Mule Days, it has only been in the last three years that his career as a singer and performer has been embraced by the mainstream.
Niemann started out as a songwriter, penning numbers recorded by such country artists as Lee Brice, John Anderson, Jamey Johnson, Julie Roberts, Flynnville Train and Zona Jones.
In what Laughon conceded is a bit of a “Six Degrees of Mule Days” pedigree, other artists Niemann wrote hits for were Shelton and McCoy. He also co-wrote several songs with Garth Brooks, including Brooks’ tribute to LeDoux, “Good Ride Cowboy.” More recently, while on tour, Niemann has shared billing with Cagle and Shelton.
According to Mule Days, it was only after the release of his debut album, “Judge Jerrod & The Hung Jury,” that Niemann began touring and enjoying a successful singing career.
The coast-to-coast concerts and generous radio play have built for Niemann an audience that includes college-age fans as well as listeners of more traditional country music.
Laughon said Niemann’s music itself is a masterful blend of the traditional and the cutting-edge – an homage to the past and a glimpse of the future, which is exactly what Mule Days itself strives to be.
“He’s an interesting artist,” Laughon said. “He’s very respectful of the history of country music, but adds a little spice through technical aspects which, I think, brings a joie de vivre to his music.
“Think of his music this way: You’re traveling down the road of traditional country music with the steering wheel aimed at dead center. Then you turn the wheel to the left about 15 degrees and then straighten out,” she continued. “You’re still on the road, but you’re not on the beaten path and that’s Jerrod Niemann’s music.”
Niemann has cited country music “outlaws” Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson, considered progressive traditionalists, as inspirations for his latest album.
The Bishop Mule Days concert is presented by Justin Boots and Tony Lama Boots, and is co-sponsored by KIBS-FM, 100.7.
The Mule Days ticket office, 1141 N. Main St., Bishop, opens at 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 1.
For more information about Jerrod Niemann, visit JerrodNiemannOfficial.com. For more information about Bishop Mule Days, visit MuleDays.org or call (760) 872-4263.