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John Mellencamp reinvents himself for tour

Veteran rocker keeps shows interesting by changing things up
/ Source: The Associated Press

Unlike other veteran acts who have been performing for years, John Mellencamp doesn't just dust off his set list from the previous tour when he starts a new one.

Instead, his band rearranges and reinvents his old songs. That's one reason the rocker is still relevant 29 years into his recording career.

AP: Is it hard trying to reinvent yourself each time?

Mellencamp: No, it's fun. You take a song a like "Paper in Fire" for example, which is really a rock song. I'm performing that thing sitting down, and we're playing bottlenecked guitars, violins, accordions, standup drums, so the song takes on a whole different vibe.

AP: Do you have any diva requests for your dressing room backstage?

Mellencamp: I realized a long time ago that all that stuff backstage I pay for. So I don't have that kind of stuff. When I walk in my dressing room, I have a couple of cans of pop, some water, some juice. I'm paying for it. Why do I want to demand a bunch of crap and pay for it? I'm way too thrifty to waste my money on that crap.

AP: What do you do to wind down after a show?

Mellencamp: The older I get the worse flier I become. I don't like getting on an airplane at 2 o'clock in the morning in a thunderstorm and fly. So after a show, we would just get on the bus, talk ... it's quite a relaxing way to go on tour, rather than the stress of getting in car, getting to the airport, getting on the plane, flying for two hours, checking into a hotel at two o'clock in the morning.

AP: Do you have any must-have reading on the road?

Mellencamp: There's not really much down time. Because I get up, I have to go work out, and that means I have to go to a different location, go to the gym, have lunch, do a soundcheck ... It's pretty regimented, every day is the same, it's just a different location. When you fly on airplanes, you have a lot of time to do that, but when you're on a bus you don't have any time.

AP: Do you have a must-have gadget that's not your iPod?

Mellencamp: Not really. My wife. The first 20 shows, I took my 11-year old son (Hud).

AP: What kind of adjustments do you have to make for kids on tour?

Mellencamp: Kids like 2 or 3, it's harder because they're a little more disruptive. But my kids are older. It's great, I love my kids on the road. You know, touring has changed so much from when I was a young guy with a leather jacket and the earrings. ... We were living that lifestyle. (Now) we try to make it as normal is possible. Having the kids around is great. And Hud learned how to string a guitar, he learned how to hook up amplifiers, also cleaned the stage. He did a good job. ... When it was done, I said, "Do you want to change jobs on the next leg of the tour?" and he said, "No, I like the one I've got. As a matter of fact, this the most fun I've ever had in my whole life."

AP: What's the chance you'll hang out in the local bar in the city you're playing?

Mellencamp: The chances are zero. I haven't been in a bar, unless it's a bar-restaurant, I bet you in 15 years. I just don't do that stuff. There's nothing in a bar for me. I don't drink. And so, what's the point of me going to those places? Only trouble awaits John Mellencamp in a bar.

AP: Where do you think you fit in today's music world?

Mellencamp: Oh, I've never fit in in any music world. I've always been an outsider. I mean, the fact that I live in Indiana — I live in a fly-over state. Do you know how many millions of times I've been asked by people, "Why do you live in Indiana? What are you still doing there? Why don't you move to where there the action is?" Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm not running away from anything, that's the problem. Most people go to cities because they don't like where they come from.