Nelly is no stranger to collaborating with other artists. And he’s proving that once again with another epic release. The legendary rapper’s newest single is called “High Horse,” and it features fellow artists Blanco Brown and BRELAND.
“High Horse” is featured on Nelly’s upcoming EP, Heartland, which is set for release later this month on August 27, 2021. A summary anthem, “High Horse” brings entirely new energy into music with its funky dance groove, twang guitar riffs, electric bass walk downs, and Nelly’s signature rap. The song also pays tribute to the country lifestyle with words like “honky tonks” and “blue jeans.”
“Get up off of that high horse / Get up off of this train / Get up off of that high horse / And put that thing on me / Get up off of that high horse / Get up off of this train / Get up off of that high horse / And put that thing on me,” the artists sing in the repeat-chorus, making the song a perfect one to chant along too.
Nelly recorded the majority of his forthcoming EP while in Nashville. And, it’s a good thing he did, as “High Horse” might not have come together the way that it did. Nelly tells Music Mayhem that he has known Brown for quite some time, but he met BRELAND during his stay in Music City. That opened up a window of opportunity for the three to collaborate on a song together.
“I went over to write with the guys. Blanco met me over there, and we met with BRELAND. We did a couple of records that day. We did one called ‘Grits and Glamour,’ which is pretty dope, and we did ‘High Horse,’ which was like the last song I recorded at the end of the day,” Nelly said. “I was having so much fun… And, it was just different, man. It was really different from what I was doing at the time. It took me ‘til the next morning to understand what we had created with ‘High Horse.’ It took me ‘til the next morning to be like, ‘Holy Shit’… This thing is jammin… I was like, ‘Whoa, this is kinda crazy.’ So, yeah, man, just trying to create that energy. I just wanted this project to be about energy, and I think ‘High Horse’ captures the energy of what we were trying to do.”
Just like “High Horse,” Nelly’s forthcoming project features a variety of epic collaborations, including the recently released “Lil Bit” with Florida Georgia Line, which came out in October of 2020. The EP also has Nelly teaming up with country superstar Kane Brown for “Gritz & Glamour” and little brother from the hip hop group St. Lunatics, Lavell Webb, famously known as City Spud. Fans will recall, Spud was previously featured on Nelly’s 2001 smash hit single, “Ride wit Me.”
Spud is not known as a country artist, but Nelly says the majority of Heartland will pay tribute to his love of country music, telling Music Mayhem that he was born in the South but raised in the Heartland. He also says he discovered country music by way of his late uncle, who introduced him to all different genres of music.
“My uncle played a lot of music and wrote a lot of music, but he was a huge Lionel Richie fan, and I got turned on to all things Lionel Richie, including songwriting,” Nelly, who has dabbled in country music over the years, even toured in both 2017 and 2019 with FGL, explains. “Once I found out that Lionel Richie used to write all these great songs, not just for his genre of music, not just for pop, R&B, and things like that, but he was writing country for Kenny Rogers and a host of other people, I kinda got turned on to country music.”
“With this project, I like to call it a lot of country club bangers,” Nelly added of the upcoming country-influenced release. “Nelly is not a country artist… but I call it ‘country influenced’ because this is music from Nelly that is influenced by country. It’s my appreciation for country music. It’s my thanks for country music, the whole world of country music, for allowing Nelly to be a part of it, for allowing Nelly to be. So, this is what Nelly’s bringing to a side of country music that other people probably couldn’t write. And not be able to mesh the two. So yeah, I like to call this a bunch of country club bangers, man. And I think this project is the perfect summer anthem, not just for Nelly fans, not just for country music, but just music period. And it’s all influenced by country [music], but it’s a Nelly project.”
So, obviously, you’re no stranger to country music, and you were actually one of the first hip hop artists to break the barrier and cross over into the country genre, back when you released the Tim McGraw single, “Over and Over.” So, could you tell us how it feels to be one of the first out of genre artists to cross over into country music, and then, not only crossover, but make waves doing so, and continue to make waves in the country music genre?
Yeah. Well, that’s a blessing as well because I’m a firm believer that music transcends all boundaries and genres. I mean, you know, if you could make something that people can really emotionally connect with on different waves, I think we can all come together. I firmly believe that music and sports are the two things, no matter what background you’re from, no matter where you’re from, that you could come together for a common cause and feel good about it from the inside out.
As long as you work at it. And, yeah, man, that’s just always been my goal since I came out musically, period, was to come out different, was to do things different, was to try to create something that could be a staple almost. You know what I mean? Like, I always believed, if you could be first, you could be first at something, I feel like you have a better chance of lasting forever, so to speak. People remembering you, I mean, that’s kinda like what we all want to do is just be remembered and all, have an impact and contribute to whatever profession that you’re doing in a way that you’re helping make history.
And I remember when I wanted to do “Over and Over,” obviously, everybody wasn’t happy about it. You know, it was at a peak in my career, where I mean I’m just coming off of Nellyville, you know what I mean? Yeah, I’m coming off “Hot In Herre” and “Dilemma” and my next project. I was like, yo, I wanna do something different. You know, and everybody was like, are you sure this is what you wanna do? And shout out to Tim McGraw, because I mean, he took a chance as well. I mean, here we’re talking about 2004, 2005, Tim McGraw is like, what, the biggest country star in music at this time, if not one of the two. And he took a chance with a rapper and understanding what I was trying to do and create something, so as much as I’d love to take credit, I’ve got to give credit to Tim as well because he stepped out there on that limb as well and was able to help make something that people talk about to this day, and hopefully has started, you know, something new.
I mean, definitely since you’ve broken that barrier, you’ve definitely started something there. I mean, there’s been smash records across genres, like, I mean, Keith Urban and Pink and Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X. I mean, you definitely made a difference there and a huge impact in the country, and definitely started something else.
You’re gearing up to release your new single, “High Horse,” with Breland and Blanco Brown, which is pretty epic. I mean, I just listened to the song this morning. The chorus is just so catchy. I feel like you got like a really big summer anthem on your hands and maybe like your next chart-topper. Can you tell us how that collaboration came to be, how did you meet the guys?
Well, I’ve been knowing Blanco [Brown] for a while, and I actually met Breland while I was working on this project, and I was in Nashville recording, I was in Nashville finishing up records for Heartland, and I went over to write with the guys and Blanco met me over there, and we met with Breland. And we actually did a couple records that day, we did another one called “Grits and Glamour,” which is pretty dope too. That’s for my project. We did “High Horse” and “High Horse” is one of those songs, and it was like the last song I recorded at the end of the day, so to speak. And I was having so much fun. I think I recorded like two, three records in different sessions before I got there, so I was pretty lit by the time I got to… because I mean, you know, we were having a lot of fun with these sessions, and the music was just so great. So, I was coming up from, and like “High Horse” was like the last song that I got to. And it was just different, man, it was really different from what I was doing at the time, so it took me like til the next morning to understand what we had created with “High Horse.” It took me til the next morning to be like, Holy Shit! You know what I’m saying? Like, this thing is jammin. You know what I’m saying, like?
And I had to call the guys. Breland and Blanco was like, yo man, I think it was like the next day, and I was like, yo, I think I was kinda sleeping on this record, bro, I think this is, this record is retarded. You know what I mean? Like, it’s like, yo, this is banging, bro. And they were trying to tell me that night, him and Blanco, and they were trying to tell me that night that we were recording it, it was like, boom, but, you know, I was just in a different space, I didn’t hear it right away. But the very next morning, I was just like, whoa, this is kinda crazy. So, yeah, man, just trying to create that energy. I just wanted this project to be about the energy, and I think High Horse captures the energy of what, you know, of what we were trying to do.
Do you feel as though this new EP was kind of written with the live music aspect in mind, like kind of bringing the high energy of live shows onto a record? Can you tell us how the EP came to be?
Some years back, I went to my first CMT awards. I went to some CMA awards, and all that, and after the awards, we would go to the after-parties. And all of the after-parties would be just like any other regular after-parties. And when you walk in, they’re not really playing country music at the after-parties. You go to the after-parties, I mean, they’re basically playing the same shit that you would hear if this was the MTV awards.
If this was the BET awards. They’re playing all the hits, and I think, I’m like, damn, I was like, yo, this is something, like, it struck me, it was just like, yo, everybody loves to turn up and have fun the same way. No matter what the music is, this may be your music, but when you come to partying, it’s partying the same way, and I was just like, well, why isn’t there any music in this genre being made for this situation? You know, and it kinda, I was just like blown away, and that kind of put a light bulb. So, with this project, I like to call it a lot of country club bangers. You know what I’m saying? So, you know, it’s just got that… You know, obviously, Nelly is not a country artist… but I call it country influenced because this is music from Nelly that is influenced by country. It’s my appreciation for country music. It’s my thanks for country music, the whole world of country music, for allowing Nelly to be a part of it, for allowing Nelly to be. So, this is what Nelly’s bringing to a side of country music that other people probably couldn’t write. And not be able to mesh the two. So yeah, I like to call this a bunch of country club bangers, man. And I think this project is the perfect summer anthem, not just for Nelly fans, not just for country music, but just music period. And it’s all influenced by country [music], but it’s a Nelly project.
Yeah, so I mean, on the topic of your EP and the country-influenced EP, it’s coming out later this year in the summer, and it’s called Heartland. Can you tell us, like, who else is gonna appear on the EP, and what led you to the decision? Other than, I know I just spoke on that, but maybe just talk about the EP a little bit?
Yeah, well, we’re still tightening it up last minute, well, obviously, you know Blanco, Breland and FGL are on there. I actually got my little brother, City Spud, on there. I know he’s not country, like that, but, you know, City was on “Ride Wit Me.” He actually was a part of this as well. My brother Kane Brown, and I got another. But until I have the physical song in my hand…. I know he’s working on it, but until I physically have it in my hand, I got an OG on here, who I’m a huge fan of, you know what I’m saying? And he hasn’t quite laid the lick on it yet, but, yeah, we’ve talked several times, and he’s gonna nail this for me, but you know what? I would feel better coming back and talking to you once I had it in physical form, and we’re able to look each other in the face, man, I’d love being in the studio with you rapping about it, and things like that, and we can hammer that out.
So, going back to the topic of the EP, you’re obviously gonna have some solo stuff, but also some collaborations…What else can we expect from the EP, and could you tell us maybe a few of the country artists that have influenced your career, or maybe the project, specifically?
Yeah, man, well, I’ve been, like I said, I was raised in St. Louis, obviously the Midwest. I was born in Texas, so born in the south, raised in the heartland, you know what I mean? So kinda like the country thing was probably gonna be inevitable for me not to escape. But I got turned on to country music through a different source than people might suspect, because my uncle, who is no longer with us right now, is the person who really got me into music. Him and my father used to do a lot of music. They used to have these little groups and things. My uncle played a lot of music and wrote a lot of music, but he was a huge Lionel Richie fan, and I got turned on to all things Lionel Richie, including songwriting, and once I found out that Lionel Richie used to write all these great songs, not just for his genre of music, not just for pop, R&B, and things like that, but he was writing country for Kenny Rogers and a host of other people, and I kinda got turned on to country music through Kenny, you know. And then once you find out about Kenny, you know, obviously, you start doing your research… George Strait, you know, Hank [Williams], Reba [McEntire]… You start listening to all that… Charley Pride, you know what I’m saying? And you start just, you know, running through your list, man, and just paying attention to a great genre of music, and seeing how you can relate to a lot of it because it’s all great music once you listen to it. And, you know, the thing about, I wouldn’t say that it inspires my writing, it more or less inspires my feelings, because if you listen to a lot of the music, even if you listen to Lil Bit, it’s still Nelly doing Nelly on the music.
You know what I’m saying? It’s a different pocket with a different feel, and that’s what I like to say that it’s two generations of each music type, I like to say. You have your traditional generation of music, and you always got your new wave generation of music. And each genre of music has it. You have hip hop, you have the hip hop purists that don’t like the new hip hop (laughing), because they want the hip hop to remain there. And it’s the same thing, it’s like R&B, you got the new R&B, you have the old R &; B. It’s the same thing with country. You have traditional country, but you also have young country, and I don’t think you are able to find a country artist or a country fan that’s 50 years or younger in age that doesn’t have some type of affinity or appreciation for hip hop somewhere. They like some type of hip hop. Even though country music is their heart, it’s their love, it’s what they do, they like some type of hip hop. And I just think that energy, that hip hop brings, and that only hip hop brings, is what’s allowing the blend of what’s going on right now. So I’m just doing Nelly and just trying to incorporate the true feeling of what being from where we’re from as far as the country, and not just also grass roots country, because you know, you just don’t have, you know, you got Nashville in the backwoods, you got downtown Nashville as well. You know what I’m saying? Like, I’m more of a downtown Nashville kinda guy, you know what I mean?
I mean, don’t get it twisted, I go kick it, you know, I ride, I’ll do whatever in the trees as well, but I’m more of a downtown Nashville kind of guy. You know what I mean? So I just think that country music is the country music like that I think “Lil Bit” is speaking for on this album.
Cool. So, I mean with a stacked lineup coming on this EP, are there any country artists that maybe you wanted to collaborate with that you didn’t get a chance to on this EP?
You get asked that, yeah, you get asked that dream collaboration thing all the time, you know what I’m saying? And mine would have just been, mine would have been just like the GOAT, man, mine would have been Hank. If I could have got Hank, if I could have got the OG, if I could have got the OG on there, man, I think, you know, I put out an all-points bulletin, you know.
Have you ever tried reaching out to any of those iconic acts?
You know, I just, I put it out in the air, and if it manages to catch wind, to shoot through Hank’s window or something like that, then by all means, but I truly understand a lot of what’s happening, and what I’m trying to do, so I don’t know if it’s a great thing, I don’t even know if Hank even knows Nelly exists. You know what I mean? Like one of those types of situations, but I understand that’s who he is, but yeah, that would be a dream collaboration, man. I think Hank is off the chain, man, and If I could get Hank, if you know Hank, man, call him for me…. I wish I did, man. I’ll leave you my number, you know what I mean? Like, tell Hank to get at me.
So, I know recently fans were freaking out, and the rumors spread throughout the internet, and Morgan Wallen commented on one of your posts recently, asking to listen to your EP, and now there’s rumors all over the internet about him possibly appearing on this project. Have you maybe tried to work with him on this, or anything?
Not for this project, yet, man. I mean, you know, Morgan, he is a friend, he’s a friend that made a terrible, terrible mistake and, you know, hopefully he’s learning from it. He’s gotta walk his line, but you know, we all do things that hopefully somewhere down the line we get forgiven for, but what I do know is that that’s not the Morgan I know, and you know, he’s gonna walk his walk, but he’s not on this project.
There hasn’t been a collaboration yet that you’ve put out. I mean, your own things or with other people, that hasn’t been like just a straight-up hit, so I mean, you recently worked with artists like Kane Brown and Brett Kissel, Jimmie Allen, and so many others… Can you talk like, what it means to you to be able to lend your vocals and platform to work with some of the best up and coming superstars in country music?
You know, the thing about it is I’ve been, you know, I get asked all the time, and one thing I never want to take for granted is the love that the country music world has shown Nelly, so I do kinda, I am pretty selective a lot of times on things that I, because I never want to take it for granted. I never want to take it for granted, man. I truly appreciate when you are doing something that you feel in your heart is genuine from your perspective, that people are allowing you to express your feelings in their world. I get that, and I never want to take that for granted, man, but so, yeah, I mean, you know, I try to do what feels right for me, and I try to do what I think feels right for the situation as well.
Do you have any ballads on the EP, or is it just like all party anthems?
Country club bangers, country club bangers, I guess. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, yeah, the tempo on this EP, it’s pretty much. Not really any love songs, but definitely a few relationship types of scenarios. You know what I mean? But like, not really love songs, I would say. Not really love songs.
So, was your EP recorded in different places? Like did you record your vocals in one place, the other artists did somewhere else. Is that how this went due to the pandemic?
No, a lot of it was recorded in time. We had a few songs that were here and there that we pieced together since some of the stuff was recorded separately, but the majority of it was while I was in Nashville. I was in Nashville for like three different trips, two weeks at a time, a week at a time, another week at a time, and things like that.
Finally things are returning to normalcy, somewhat, so you’re gearing up soon to hit the road, hit some festivals this summer. I mean, you’re performing at Bonnaroo, Shutterfly, Summerfest, like the list goes on and on. So, what are you most looking forward to at those festivals, and can fans expect any of your like collaborations to pop up at those events?
Yeah, you know, the thing is, just being back out there, man. I think the energy, I think, I know I love performing. You know, I think all artists do. I think that’s one of the enjoyments that we get out of being in this profession, it’s getting a chance to be out on stage and performing for the fans. So, I just think that that energy, you know, that participation, being able to see the people firsthand and right up front. I think it’ll be a little different now because yeah, I’m going out, and I’m displaying my music. I’ve never had to deliver an album in this environment, so to speak, and I’m happy that I’m being able to, that’s why this project got pushed back so long, because I wanted to be able to be out. I didn’t want to be able to just put this out over the internet. I don’t know how to, I don’t know how to do that quite effectively. But shout out to my team, because I mean, you know, they’ve been working their ass off to do the best that they can, and I think it’s hard when you’re working with an artist who loves to be hands-on, who loves to be out in front of his fans. And I think, you know, we’re getting to a place like that. So yeah, just being back out there, being able to present the music. I think the shows will be exactly how Nelly shows are, just a lot of energy. Hopefully, we pick back up where we left off.
What else do you have coming up other than your new album? Do you have music videos in the works for any of the songs?
Yeah, we’re about to, we’re about to get ready to shoot another for the “High Horse” video here in a bit. We got the “Lil Bit” out now, and yeah, just continuing with the project, man. We’re confident about the energy. I’m excited that people are excited. Hopefully, we get a chance to continue to make history with this thing, cause I really think we have something special here that we possibly could create new energy, just new energy in music, and you know, that’s always good. Any time you can create new energy in music in a genre that has had so many different arrays of ideas. To still be able to do something new.