Nickelback Reflects on How Far They’ve Come: ‘We Just Didn’t Quit on Ourselves’
It’s been over five years since Nickelback released a new album, but one of Canada’s biggest rock exports has finally returned with Get Rollin’ — and its ’70s-styled album cover with a beach-bound van and spray-painted title certainly belies the classic-rock touches within the grooves.
Whereas the quartet’s last album, 2017’s Feed the Machine, embraced a heavier musical direction, the new album (out Friday, Nov. 18) contrasts bombast with many moments of contemplation and introspection. Working once again with producer Chris Baseford, Nickelback brings its trademark swagger to tracks like “San Quentin” and “Vegas Bomb,” while “Steel Still Rusts” and “Tidal Wave” take more melodic and even haunting turns.
“San Quentin” hit No. 9 on the Mainstream Rock Airplay chart (dated Nov. 5), where the band has had eight No. 1 hits and 20 total in the top 10. Seven of its 10 albums have reached the top 10 of Billboard 200 albums, including the diamond-certified All the Right Reasons peaking at No. 1 in 2005. According to Luminate, in the United States alone, Nickelback has earned a combined 31.6 million equivalent album units, and its catalog has tallied a combined 4.89 billion on-demand official streams.
Brothers Chad and Mike Kroeger (frontman-guitarist and bassist, respectively) sat down with Billboard to discuss Get Rollin’, their maturation through the years, unexpected cover songs and a forthcoming band documentary. Chad also has recently been correcting the perpetual mispronunciation of the siblings’ last name — it actually sounds like “Kruger.” (A different gaffe regarding the band generated some lighthearted headlines earlier this year.)
Some songs here indicate a bit of heartache, like “Tidal Wave” and “Standing in the Dark,” and then “Steel Still Rusts” and “Horizon” give the vibe of searching for something and feeling displaced. Are these related to people whom you know?
Chad Kroeger “Horizon,” to me, just feels like unrequited love. When you’ve got those feelings for someone, but you’re not sure if the other person is willing to leap at the same time because you’re such good friends – that’s where that one comes from. I’ve definitely been stuck in the friend zone and wanted more out of a relationship, and realized that the other person wanted to stay friends … It’s really tough to stay friends after you’ve put your feelings out there. There’s this [feeling of] “I just really kind of want to crawl under a rock right now and hide.” (Laughs.) It’s something I think a lot of people have gone through, and it made for great subject matter on this record.
Was “Steel Still Rusts” inspired by a specific person that you know?
Chad Yeah, 100%. Our first bodyguard. Him telling us these stories about being in conflict overseas and missing the birth of his children and all of these different things. Some really, really unpleasant things that would keep you up at night. Then, coming back, he remembers standing on the corner — I think he was in San Diego — and he looked down and still had sand from the desert on his boots. He was still wearing his fatigues. He said just looking over to Starbucks and then looking down at what you just brought back from a war zone that’s still on your feet is a little bizarre.
It was the stories that he would tell me … and [him not getting] the best treatment when he got home. And I’m not talking about Vietnam, but just trying to get help from [Veterans Affairs]. Just a ton of nightmarish stuff … It was eye-opening and jaw-dropping at the same time.
Mike Kroeger You did a really, really good job with that song, Chad. The lyrics and the way you wrote that — it still gets me every time I listen to it, really. Honestly, it’s a real gut punch for me because I know the guy, I know that story, and you put it so well.
Chad Thank you.
The band wrote a lot more party-hearty and decadent songs back in the day, and that has diminished over time. In the setlist now are fewer songs concerned with sex, and more songs like these new tracks we’re discussing. Was this a conscious choice?
Chad When you’re in your twenties and you’re standing onstage, singing some of the stuff that, I think, is hilarious — I mean, we got to start a song with, “I like your pants around your feet.” I think that’s absolutely hilarious, and they played it on the radio. We have a song where the hook line is, “You look so much cuter with something in your mouth.” And they played that on the radio. That’s “Weird Al” [Yankovic] to me. I think it’s the funniest thing, and the fact that you can listen to that and think that we take ourselves seriously is in itself laughable.
But yeah, you get to a certain age where … I’m 47 years old, and there’s certain things that you just don’t want to see a 47-year-old dude sing onstage. So the subject matter has definitely changed. There’s moments where I look over at [guitarist] Ryan [Peake] when he has to harmonize with certain lines. He’s got a daughter, and I just watch him squirm. He gets so squeamish when he has to sing some of this stuff, and I just think it’s so funny.
You did a shredding cover of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” in 2020 with guitarist Dave Martone, and last year, you collaborated on a sea shanty rendition of “Rockstar,” complete with a sailor-inspired TikTok clip. Who was doing what drugs when you came up with these ideas?
Chad The shanty thing came through our band assistant, Brad, and he found these guys called The Lottery Winners on TikTok. I think it was just the guitar player initially. … Brad’s like, “Dude, we have to reach out to this guy and just say, ‘Would you be interested in doing this with all of us?’ And really lean into this and have some fun with it.”
I wasn’t going to go to the level I went to until I saw Ryan standing in profile, looking out at the ocean on the rocks [for the TikTok video]. That’s literally 40 steps from his living room because he was living right on the water in West [Vancouver]. He just went out there and he put on a knit cap, and he’s just looking very sailor. He started singing this thing. He’s all serious. I got his footage first, and I was like, “I have to pull the boat around.” I went down by the barn I’ve got back there, and I pulled this boat up into my front yard. Brad got a lighting package and he lit me up, and he’s on the back of the truck. I got this sailor’s hat and put on this jacket, and then we were just so committed to this thing. It’s like, “Don’t half-ass it, just go all the way and be silly with it and have fun.” It was just so lighthearted. I love that stuff.
Mike “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” we had sitting around as an idea for a while that didn’t get fully finished and was just waiting in the wings. When we decided to go for it, before we moved forward with it, we reached out to Charlie Daniels himself to send him the rough idea to hear it and get his approval. And he actually did approve of it. He heard it and said he liked it. He was alive when we did it, and he passed [in 2020] before we released it, so he didn’t get to hear the final version of it, unfortunately.
Mike, your family moved from Hawaii to Los Angeles before the pandemic. Your son wants to make music. What was it like to make that transition?
Mike At first, I was kind of curious how it was going to go. Because when we lived in Canada, we lived in the country, way out in a place not unlike Chad’s place. It was not a short drive to everything. You’re apart from everything. Then when we moved to Hawaii, we lived in out-of-the-way country places, too. So, moving to the Hollywood Hills, I was bracing for some kind of culture shock because it is Hollywood. It’s still weird to say that I live here.
Yesterday when I walked my dog, I saw a deer from my house, so it’s not exactly the concrete jungle. We got coyotes, we got deer, we got owls. We got all that stuff here. I think it’s awesome. We’re in this little pocket of nature that’s really nice, and we can just shut the door and hide out here, and if we want to see what the big, scary world looks like, we go out there.
The band has been working on a documentary for a few years. How is it going to differ from what we’ve seen from you in interviews and onstage? What types of revelations can we expect?
Chad We go back to our hometown, and you can see the house that Mike and I grew up in.
Mike The house that we didn’t grow up in. (Laughs.)
Chad Yeah, that I was rarely at. I think I left when I was 14 and moved out for a while. But we go back to our hometown [of Hanna], and then we play a gig there, and we filmed it. But it’s with our old singer, Scott [Holman], and then we got up and played like three songs. It wasn’t really supposed to be about us playing Nickelback songs. It was about us being back in the old iteration of the band in the early ’90s. We just had a camera crew follow us for about four and a half years and film all kinds of stuff. I think they did a really good job.
Mike There’s some really cool moments of frankness in there that you’re not going to get in this interview. (Group laughter.) I’m sorry.
After being in this band and living this life since 1995, is there any major life lesson you can impart to fans? Any motto you have?
Mike If I can be indulged to speak on behalf of Nickelback here, I think the motto is that the experience that we’ve had, our best move was just to never stop. The thing we did that I think has brought us to this point is that we just didn’t quit on ourselves, and I think that’s something that a lot of people do. They give up on themselves and quit on themselves. I don’t know if our fans just started to like our music or if they just gave up because we just kept pounding until they were going to like it.
Chad You’re going to like us, goddamn it! Whether you like it or not, you’re going to like us!
Mike One thing they call it in Canada is stick-to-itiveness — just keep staying on the path, keeping your eyes down range, and don’t stop moving forward.