Nickelback’s Mike Kroeger Offers Up Wisdom for Young Bands: If You’ve Got the Chops, “Nothing Else Can Stop You Except Yourself”

Rock and roll bands usually earn their stripes through the school of hard knocks—touring for little money, dealing with hecklers and naysayers, signing dubious deals, and navigating the various con games and manipulators that come their way. If they’re smart, budding rockers learn about those who came before them and even seek out their sage advice to better understand what they’re getting themselves into.

Videos by American Songwriter

A good place to start is the recent Nickelback documentary Hate to Love, which charts the band’s career arc from their humble beginnings in Hanna, Alberta—how they roughed everything from the brutal Canadian weather to financial insecurity—to their rise from a small indie band into one of the biggest rock groups of the last 25 years.

Nickelback bassist Mike Kroeger has certainly been through a lot himself. He managed the band in its early days and beyond, experienced their collective share of ups and downs (including the inevitable backlash to massive success), and survived a stroke in his early 40s. People don’t realize how much blood, sweat, and tears it took for the band to make it. Now Kroeger is passing on his experience and knowledge to another generation.

“Give Them All You Can”

“I do mentor some younger people and help them try to make sense of this journey,” Kroeger tells American Songwriter. “Realistically, you have to find out if people [in the audience] are feeling what you’re doing. If they are, keep giving it to them, give to them all you can. And if they’re not, maybe you should adjust what you’re doing. Because if people aren’t feeling it, it’s not going to work. People have got to feel this. What it comes to is just learn how to communicate with your people, and then super serve them—give them all you can and they’ll stay with you. There are some artists who don’t care to do that, and in that case, it’s like, ‘OK, so what you’re saying is you play music for you.‘ And a lot of times that’s way simpler. That’s great, perfect. You have an audience of one, and it’s you. You can enjoy that. It’s far more difficult to make a living at it, but it can be just as rewarding as an artist to just create only for yourself, if that’s what you want to do.”

But that was never what Nickelback desired. They sought to draw in the masses and play big rock shows. “Thankfully, we got that,” Kroeger acknowledges. “But there’s some people that just aren’t moved by that. They don’t require a whole bunch of mentoring—just do what you’re doing and have fun. But the overarching message to everybody I’ve talked to you that’s young is once you decide to do this, and you develop your skill to the level that’s undeniable, at that point it’s only a matter of when you decide to stop. Because nothing else can stop you except yourself.”

Now that he is in the position of being in that multi-Platinum, arena-packing group that he and his bandmates dreamed about, Kroeger has also contemplated how he has let go of the reins to some aspects of the Canadian band and let others lead the way. Just as he has words of wisdom for up-and-coming artists, he says he has also learned a valuable lesson for himself that some peers could benefit from: Some situations will never be in one’s control so are not worth fighting. When he lived in Hawaii, Kroeger spent a lot of time in the ocean, and he said it taught him life lessons he has applied to his own situation in Nickelback.

Finding Humility in the Ocean

“If you need to learn humility, getting in the ocean is the place to get it,” Kroeger elaborates. “I don’t care how strong you are, how powerful you are, how accomplished or rich—that ocean deals with everybody the same way. And nobody gets to impose their will on her. No one. I can move that into more of a life perspective. If you struggle against the ocean, that’s the people you hear about who have heart attacks and die. If they just relaxed and let it happen to them, they would have been fine. But they fought against something thinking that they could take control of that ocean, and that’s simply not going to happen. You’ll kill yourself trying to fight against the ocean. I think you’ll kill yourself trying to fight against life.

“In the ocean, you have two choices—you could be a swimmer, or you could be a cork,” he continues. “If you want to be a swimmer and fight against the current and fight against the waves, you could do that. You might not survive it. But if you just think you’re just a cork, you’re just a thing that’s floating under the power of that really powerful thing, just relax. I’ve just learned how to be a passenger in this life sometimes. I can’t control this thing, or maybe there are even things that I can control, [but] let somebody else control this moment in my life. I don’t have to stage-manage every second of my life. I can leave it up to whatever you call it—chance or other people. It’s fine. I have no problem with that.”

Taking the Long View

The veteran bassist admitted that he “was a really nutty control person early on” in the evolution of Nickelback. He managed the band when they started, but even after they acquired a manager he was still very hands-on. The COVID pandemic changed his perspective, and after the lockdowns ended he called up his bandmates to announce a big change.

“I said, ‘Listen, all that management work that I’ve been doing for 25 years, I’m not doing it anymore. If anybody has any questions, call our managers. That’s who’s doing this now,’” Kroeger recalls. “I’m not micromanaging Nickelback anymore. I’m macromanaging Nickelback. The 20,000-foot view is what I’m interested in now.”

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Leave a Reply

4 Underrated New Wave Bands of the 1980s

The War and Treaty Express "Anger and Sadness" After Cotton Plant Found in Dressing Room

The War and Treaty Express “Anger and Sadness” After Cotton Plant Found in Dressing Room