The Untold Truth Of Uncle Kracker

At the start of the new millennium, Matt Shafer found massive success with the help of a simple chorus. He sang the words "follow me" long before it became a social media invitation years later. And his stage name, Uncle Kracker, would forever evoke an era of good vibes thanks to that 2001 crossover country hit of the same phrasing. The single stayed true to the artist's personal philosophy (via his official website): "I really subscribe to this mindset of just having fun. ...The way I feel is if I'm enjoying it, it's really worth doing." 

Shafer's career has been full of highs and lows. For example, his big breakout came thanks to a famous childhood friend. And you'll never guess what his first role in the music industry was. But one thing that has stayed consistent over the years is his signature look. Fashion wise, Uncle Kracker keeps it casual, and loves rocking a trucker hat slightly tilted to the side.

It's time to find out what he's been up to since the most famous song of his career. Early aughts music fans, grab your first generation iPod and headphones for a closer listen to the untold truth of Uncle Kracker.

Uncle Kracker's famous childhood buddy

"I met Kid Rock when I was probably 12 or 13-years-old and we quickly became best friends," Uncle Kracker revealed to Buzzfeed in 2014. Then, as Kid Rock started to build a music career, Uncle Kracker became his on- and off-stage helper. "I started DJing for him back in like '90 or '91. We wrote a lot of songs together," he remembered. Kid Rock ran into issues with an earlier DJ, so he called up his friend. Uncle Kracker confessed to MTV, "[Kid Rock] put me behind the turntables, and I was there more or less as something for people to look at, because I didn't know what the hell I was doing." The novice record-scratcher was "barely 16" at the time. His on stage duties consisted of "backup vocals" to lighting effects to "working the fog machines — basically everything that you can stick behind the tables."

By 1998, Kid Rock landed a big studio contract with Atlantic Records. The two guys from Detroit worked together to release Kid Rock's debut album, Devil Without A Cause, via Buzzfeed. Even though both men went different ways in their solo careers, they remained close. Uncle Kracker told Buzzfeed that he and Kid Rock "talk every other day" and occasionally still get together. "It's always fun to reflect and just be thankful that things turned out the way they did," he said.

How did Uncle Kracker break into the music industry?

When he was only 15 years old, Uncle Kracker had a taste of the music stardom to come. He told Pop Culture that as a teenager, he "signed [his] first record deal" and "made a rap record." But, sadly for the young man, "It didn't come out. The label folded." Luckily, his buddy Kid Rock was starting to grow in popularity, sometimes for controversial reasons. And once Kid Rock hit the big time, Uncle Kracker felt his solo career could "piggyback" off his friend's career. "And it proved to be a little tougher than we thought it was gonna be, 'cause he sold, like, 16 million [records]," he explained. But the associative effect worked. And while Uncle Kracker admitted he didn't quite reach the heights of his friend, his career was "spawn[ed] it off of [Kid Rock's] thing."

At that point, Uncle Kracker had established himself as a songwriter with a gift to create hits. According to the artist, his writing credits for Kid Rock caught the attention of a record company. This was enough to land Uncle Kracker his own contract for a solo record in 2000. After his first solo record, Uncle Kracker's career took many twists and turns, including "the indie route for an album in 2009," according to Buzzfeed. But in an amazing full circle moment in 2014, he was re-signed by "the guy that signed me and Kid Rock 15 years ago," he told the outlet. 

Uncle Kracker succeeded in crossovers

How exactly does one classify Uncle Kracker's music? His debut album features the artist rapping over rock riffs, similar to his buddy Kid Rock. But it also includes the breezy and country-like single "Follow Me." And this mixture of genres continued throughout several more albums and singles. According to Pop Culture, "Uncle Kracker has charted songs in almost every genre, including rock, pop and even Christian." But according to the artist, "I've been really lucky with country music." Even though his country side may have brought him many fans, Uncle Kracker admitted his background helped form his eclectic set of styles. "I just like all kinds of stuff," he said. And as a former DJ, he would listen to many things and is open to "whatever sounds good at the time."

In an interview with SW News Media, Uncle Kracker explained why he ended up switching from the harder "rap-rock sound" into mainly country. "Country had its own thing going on — it's kind of the last place where you can write a song from front to back," the singer explained. He added that more mainstream radio didn't fit into his creative passion, and that as "more of a songwriter than a musician," country music was the best genre to express his thoughts.

How does Uncle Kracker spend his free time?

For a guy that subscribes to an easy-going vibe and other comforting country music themes, it's hardly surprising how Uncle Kracker relaxes. In an interview with SW News Media, Uncle Kracker revealed that while touring, if possible during his days off, he seeks a mix of adventures and culture. "If there's an ocean, I'll put my toe in it. If there's a casino, I might put some money down on a table. If there's a museum, I'll go see it. I try to soak up a little bit of everything," the "Drift Away" singer told the outlet. Uncle Kracker's love of the water is a common theme in his leisure activities, as Pop Culture also noted in 2019 that "in his downtime ... he likes to spend his time out on the lake in his boat with his fiance and some friends." 

Uncle Kracker also enjoys his adult beverages. He admitted that beer isn't his favorite drink of choice. Instead, the singer revealed that he likes to keep plenty of tequila and whiskey stocked up for fun times. And while much of the world was under lockdown due to COVID-19 restrictions, Uncle Kracker released a song to show fans how he likely spent part of his days. In his song, "No Time To Be Sober," the artist sings about going to the store to "stock up on spirits."

Follow Me changed everything for Uncle Kracker

Uncle Kracker was unknown to just about everyone in 2000. He released his debut album, Double Wide, to little success. But after "its first 30 weeks in stores," the album exploded in popularity off of its biggest single, "Follow Me," via MTV. The album would go on to reach double platinum status, jumping into the top on Billboard's 200 chart, and turned the singer into an overnight success. "It gives you that kind of 'I told you so' feeling," Uncle Kracker remembered of his big moment, "because I always knew the record was good." The single skyrocketed to number one on Billboard's Adult Pop Airplay list in 2001 and number five on the Billboard Hot 100

Though upon a closer look, "Follow Me" sticks out on the album, as the rest of the tracks are more "aggressive" and "confrontational," per MTV. Uncle Kracker to the same outlet in a separate interview that the song started as a "doo-wop/Motown song" because he came from Detroit. "And this song was supposed to have that, but after we recorded it, I was like, 'Man, that could be something for radio,' so we switched it back," he remembered. So, what do the lyrics actually mean? "I've heard some people think that I'm talking about drugs, or some people think I'm talking about cheating. I guess it's kinda both," Uncle Kracker revealed.

Uncle Kracker is a big family guy

While Uncle Kracker may be associated with Kid Rock, the artist also has plenty of other kids in his life. He spoke with Buzzfeed in 2014 about what it's like to be a proud father of three girls. "It's nerve-racking, and annoying and it's everything. It's like they're the biggest blessing and the biggest nuisance all at the same time," he admitted. The singer also explained how his daughters all had wildly different musical interests. One loved rap at the time, including Lil Wayne and Drake. Another preferred boy bands One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer. And his youngest, was into Sam Smith and John Legend. "Once in awhile I'll catch them playing my songs," Uncle Kracker added.

He also explained that his children helped influence his music career. As he told Chicago Music Guide, "It's pretty bad when your own kids won't listen to your records. Your own kids!" The singer explained that his daughter didn't appreciate that most of his songs were too relaxed and slow. "I can't really dance to any of your songs," he remembered her saying. As a result, he worked on "more upbeat and positive" songs, which "ended up" on his album Happy Hour.

After his three girls, Uncle Kracker continued to grow his family, adding two boys. And while he was excited to welcome his newest kin, Uncle Kracker confessed in a June 2020 interview with Sam Alex that after kid number five, "the kitchen's closed."

The time Uncle Kracker scrapped a completed album

With all the success that Uncle Kracker found through an infectious single and knockout debut record, he admitted to Pop Culture, "I've been lucky." He said to reach those peaks, "All the wheels gotta be spinning at the right time" and throw in some luck, too. Because despite the highs, the singer also remembered "plenty of tanks" in his career. And the lowest time may have been when he created plenty of enemies in the music industry.

After finishing his fourth album in 2007, Uncle Kracker wasn't satisfied with the end product. "It just felt like I was kinda beating a dead horse and I wasn't having as much fun as I thought I should be while writing, while recording, while anything," he told Buzzfeed. So, instead of releasing the album, he decided to start from scratch. According to the singer, "everything was done," including the album artwork. Looking back, he recalled that his action caused quite the "debacle." And while this might have been a noble artistic approach, Uncle Kracker admitted that not everyone involved in the development approved of the decision. "It didn't go over good," he remembered. "It gets cold over there when you bail on s*** like that. People get mad and your phone calls don't get answered as much," he confessed.

A serious charge still haunts Uncle Kracker

Everything was not alright when Uncle Kracker aka Matthew Shafer found himself in trouble with the law and made national news. In 2007, the singer pleaded guilty "to misdemeanor assault on a female" at a nightclub in Raleigh, North Carolina, via WRAL. The unnamed victim claimed that after Shafer allegedly groped her under her skirt, she "turned around, Mr. Shafer was standing behind her, they exchanged some words, and she slapped him, at which point, he slapped her back." Originally "charged with felony second-degree forcible sex offense," Shafer copped what is known as "an Alford plea," or what WRAL says "allows a defendant to plead guilty while still maintaining his innocence. It acknowledges that there is evidence against him for a judge or jury possibly to convict him." Shafer ended up with a sentence of one year of probation, with his attorney explaining "that he didn't do anything intentionally" and ultimately "regrets the entire situation."

Looking back at the arrest, Uncle Kracker remembered the "absolute nightmare" situation, he told Buzzfeed. He explained how relieved he was that the entire fiasco ended because of the strain it put on his wife, kids, and "everybody involved." The singer also discussed how years later, he still feels restricted in what he can and cannot say about the incident. According to Uncle Kracker, he never got to fully explain his side of the story and "it definitely wasn't what everyone thought it was, that's for sure."

Uncle Kracker spends time with his buddies from the aughts

In the summer of 2013, fan finally got to stop wondering whatever happened to Mark McGrath, when the Sugar Ray lead singer announced a dream reunion. He combined forces with other "nostalgia-baiting" artists, including Smash Mouth and Vertical Horizon for the Under The Sun Tour, via Spin. A year later, Uncle Kracker joined the super lineup for all fans of late '90s and early aughts music. According to Uncle Kracker, McGrath called him up with the opportunity about a "summer thing," he told SW News Media. Uncle Kracker remembered, "I didn't even bat an eyelash. It's 2014; none of us need the money, it's just fun." Reflecting on the tour, the "Blue Skies" singer felt it was "like a high school reunion." He explained, "Back when my first records were coming out, we did a lot of shows together and have kept in touch over the years."

The singer also loved how the audience reacted to seeing all their favorite artists on stage. He recalled "mellow and fun" crowds who "sung along to it years ago and now they sing along to it too." But this nostalgia also created another realization for Uncle Kracker: his age. After seeing fans bring their children to listen to music from their childhood, he told Buzzfeed, "It makes me feel old even thinking like that." 

How did he come up with the name Uncle Kracker?

How did Uncle Kracker get his name? The singer earned the moniker at age 13 from his childhood pal, Kid Rock, before both men became famous musical artists. Matt Shafer said that when the two were teenagers, "somebody wanted to call Kid Rock" by the nickname "Kracker." Shafer recalled to Rolling Stone that while his occasionally shady buddy Kid Rock knew what the derogatory term meant, "I didn't, so that's when it started."

Shafer's friend and others started referring to the teenager as Kracker and the name stuck with him for years. But as his popularity grew in the music industry, at least one group objected to the name. According to the article, there was already a rock band at the time with the name Cracker. Unsurprisingly, the group "objected" to Shafer's version, so to avoid any issues, Shafer added the label "Uncle" in front of his nickname.

How much is Uncle Kracker worth?

Although he's released five studio albums, Uncle Kracker had only two big hits, "Follow Me" and his remake of Dobie Gray's "Drift Away." But thanks to years of touring and his songwriting credits from early in his career, it all adds up to a sizable net worth: an estimated $5 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. And what exactly does the artist spend this money on? During COVID-19 restrictions, Uncle Kracker released a self-recorded music video for his song "No Time To Be Sober." In the video, which was "directed, shot, and edited" by his daughters Madison Blue Shafer and Troy Averie Shafer," fans got a glimpse of his waterfront Michigan home, which includes a fire pit and Golden Tee Golf-style arcade game. In an interview with Sam Alex, the singer said his children convinced him to film the video on his smartphone. 

When he's not at home, Uncle Kracker likes to spend some of his money on traveling. He told The Boot that as a fan of the ocean, he's been to "Kenny [Chesney's place] in the Caribbean a couple of times. It's nice down there ... that's a lot of water!" He added that he'll always be happy "as long as I can look out on the ocean," because "there's something calming about the water."