TRAVERSE CITY — It’s like a family reunion whenever Uncle Kracker comes to Ground Zero.
“He’s been here so many times, he’s from Michigan, and everybody feels like they know him,” said Doug Street, owner of the nightclub where the Detroit-area native will play Saturday for an estimated eighth or ninth time. “He’s almost like family. We like to call him ‘northern Michigan’s uncle.’”
The feeling is mutual, said Kracker, aka Matt Shafer.
“I love Traverse City. I never feel like I left my house very much when I’m there,” said the musician, who lives in his hometown of Mount Clemens. “It feels like being home. I’m lucky I get to visit so many different places in the past 15 years but Michiganders all have the same vibe.”
Shafer, best known for his friendship and collaboration with Kid Rock and for his hits “Follow Me,” “Drift Away,” “In A Little While” and “Smile,” is touring consistently all year — from fairs and festivals to clubs and benefit concerts. He just wrapped up recording his first album — on new label Lava Records, owned by Universal Music Group — since 2012’s “Midnight Special.”
“I just went back to having fun making a record,” he said of its genre, his usual blend of rap, rock and country. “I didn’t want to group it or lump it into one thing. Some songs are really, really pop-y, some more country than they should be. It wouldn’t make any sense for me to do anything that didn’t seem true to me.”
Shafer, 39, also recently signed on to a summer tour. He said he can’t divulge much about it or the bands playing on it. But It’s a safe bet that it won’t be like the $20-per-ticket Best Night Ever tour he performed on last year with Kid Rock.