"I met somebody ... it's been nice to have somebody else in my life that's very compatible," the country singer tells PEOPLE

By Brianne Tracy
November 12, 2020 03:45 PM
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Jerrod Niemann
| Credit: Ryan Hamblin

Art imitates life on Jerrod Niemann's latest project, LOST & FOUND.

Inspired by the "lost and found boxes we had at school growing up," the project — which is a collection of ongoing music releases — serves as a representation of what the country singer-songwriter has been through in recent years and where he is now.

"I thought it'd be a cool name for a project, for all the things I've lost, tangibly and intangibly," Niemann, 41, tells PEOPLE. "And then all the things that I found by putting myself back together again and putting on a new coat of paint."

Newly divorced and newly independent after leaving his former record label, the "Lover, Lover" crooner admits the road here hasn't been easy — but the music has helped him through.

Written in the midst of his divorce from wife Morgan Petek in February 2019 after four years of marriage and 13 years as a couple, Niemann's song "The Blame," released earlier this month, highlights the "lost" chapter in LOST & FOUND, as it finds him reflecting on a love gone wrong.

"When you get to that point of divorce, you're in a toxic cycle," he says. "You're reacting to each other's behavior and you play the blame game. The old Einstein quote about how insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results — you get caught up in that. Some people stay together because of their children and fight through it. We didn't have any kids, so luckily, for me, I just realized after the dust settled that from 2013 to 2018, deep down, I wasn't very happy. I think it just caused a downhill spiral for me personally and professionally."

"When you've been through four record deals, what goes up must come down," he adds. "At the end of the day, I was glad to have been able to reflect and try to be a person that someone else deserves."

Jerrod Niemann
| Credit: Ryan Hamblin

Niemann similarly gets vulnerable on his song "It Won't Be Me," which was released in tandem with "The Blame."

"'The Blame' was right when I was going through my divorce, and then 'It Won't Be Me' is about when you realize splitting up is inevitable and you're the one that's still holding on," he says. "It's the last-ditch effort of not wanting to turn the page, but it's already been turned for you."

Before "It Won't Be Me" and "The Blame," Niemann released his LOST & FOUND songs "Tequila Kisses" — an a cappella track which he recorded 50 vocal parts on — and "Ghost Rider," both created in his home studio, also known as the "Red Room."

"When I moved into my house about 10 years ago, the basement looked like it was from the set of Saw," he says. "It was pretty scary. My wife at the time was like, 'You can do whatever you want with this room, I wouldn't even know where to start.' I wanted to do something a little crazy, so it has red carpet, red walls, a red ceiling, a red chandelier and red lights. It neutralizes the outside world so no matter what's going on, I can get in my own headspace."

Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Niemann found solace in his "Red Room," writing and creating.

"Before COVID, I hadn't been off the road for nearly a decade," he says. "So I hadn't written a whole lot of songs. I think I finally carved out my own sound more than ever before."

After leaving his record label, Niemann found he had boundless freedom to create like in the early days of his career.

"My [2010] album Judge Jerrod & the Hung Jury I made with some buddies in a similar fashion, and then Sony picked that up from me," he says. "Basically, there are two types of people in the country music industry: suits and boots. If you're wearing the boots, you're a good hang. If you're wearing the suit, you're usually not. When you have 50 cooks in the kitchen sometimes it's tough to stay true to yourself and your art and your music, but when it's just you and you're around people that are all positive and creative, it's just so inspiring. I like the new venture and being able to do what I want to do."

Now that he's "over the hump" of his divorce and "finally in a good spot," Niemann says he's "laughing harder than I have in a long time."

"I met somebody," he says. "So it's been nice to have somebody else in my life that's very compatible. That's tough to find when you're younger because you just think someone's good looking and therefore you think that you're attracted to them. But there's a lot more layers to the cake. You live and you learn."

In addition to dropping new music from LOST & FOUND every few weeks, Niemann recently released two Christmas songs, "White Christmas in the Sand" and "There's No Need for Mistletoe," and plans to release two love songs for Valentine's Day 2021. Next spring, he'll also put out a new EP called Lake and Bake Music. 

"The love songs will represent the turning of the tide," he says. "And then Lake and Bake will definitely be less vulnerable and more hangover-esque, party songs."