Lots of people are excited about Jerrod Niemann's upcoming Dodge City Days kickoff concert, but one person in particular may be the most excited of all.

     Lots of people are excited about Jerrod Niemann's upcoming Dodge City Days kickoff concert, but one person in particular may be the most excited of all.
     "I just can't wait," Niemann said from Nashville in a phone interview Thursday.
     Niemann grew up in southwest Kansas and lived in Dodge City two years. He attended Northwest Elementary and the 6th-grade Center and his dad started the Shoppers Weekly.
     "I remember going to the Dodge City Days concert and seeing people like Alan Jackson and Jeff Foxworthy up on that stage and getting up there myself is pretty much a dream come true," Niemann said.

     Niemann's stop in Nashville will be brief. He played a concert in Beatrice, Neb. the night before and headed out as quickly as possible after the concert to avoid approaching thunderstorms.
     Niemann had to be back in Nashville Thursday night for a special commitment.
     "I'll be down at the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital with some of my friends. It's part of a program called Musicians on Call. We go from room to room and visit kids, play some music and try to bring some smiles," Niemann said.
     It's something Niemann tries to do as often as possible in various cities.
     "When you see the strength some of these kids have, it makes you think about how small your problems really are," he said.
     Niemann and his crew will hit the road Friday to make their way to Dodge City.
     Being on the road now involves two buses and a trailer.
     "Well, we added a horn section to this tour and some more crew, so one bus wasn't enough," Niemann said.
     The horn section and other technical elements came about on Niemann's sophomore album, Free the Music, which is set to release on Oct. 2.
     The opening song, "They Should Have Named You Cocaine," an over-the-top production, includes a space-age theremin, reminiscent of the Beach Boys or an old horror movie, and just a touch of Electric Light Orchestra.
     On another track, Niemann himself sings all nine vocal parts — the low bass part accomplished only after a night of "for-the-cause" medication of his vocal cords. On tour, the guys in the band provide eight of the nine parts.
     "They really nail it," Niemann said. "They all used to be lead singers with bands in their hometowns. They probably should've been on the record."
     As for reproducing the song live on stage, Niemann says "We don't do anything in the studio unless we can do it live."
     "Two of my goals for touring are to make it sound like the record and to not be boring."

Ups and downs
     Niemann's career has been the usual Nashville roller coaster.
     After penning a number of hit songs recorded by the likes of Garth Brooks and Blake Shelton, a couple of record deals fell through and Niemann found himself at rock bottom.
     "I had a horrible depression. I ran off a girl I was dating — she moved clear to India. I gained 60 pounds, so I looked like the Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. I didn't write a song for almost a year."
     A friend suggested he should cut a record.
     In the year it took to record the album, Niemann recovered.
     "It's amazing how doing something that you love can change your inner self and your outer appearance," he said.
     Niemann took the finished album to his publishing company, Sea Gayle Music. They wanted to shop it to Arista Nashville but Niemann boldly insisted on one condition: not a note of the album could be changed.
     Arista Nashville agreed and "Judge Jerrod and the Hung Jury" took off.
     Niemann stretches himself a little farther with his second album and fans are anxiously waiting for its October release.
     Meanwhile, Niemann and his crew stay on the road connecting with fans.
     After they leave Dodge City, they play a schedule typical for a country band tour: Aug. 2 — Philadelphia, Miss.; Aug. 3 — Lincoln, Ill.; Aug. 4 — Ostego, Minn.; Aug. 5 — Washington, Mo.
     Then they get a night off.
     And it's a safe bet that Niemann will still be smiling about the night they played in Dodge City to kickoff Dodge City Days.