John Mellencamp didn't sell out. He bought in. That's not a bad thing.

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It ain't easy being John Mellencamp. He's sold a bushel of records, yet he often finds himself on the critical end of the music critics' rants. He's quick to let his political views be known - he's an American liberal if there ever was one - but he gets harassed for it in the Southern Indiana town he's called home for nearly forever. He decided to lend his first big-time single in five years, "Our Country," to a Chevy commercial (something an endless list of artists have done) and was called a hypocrite and a sellout. The man can't win. But all that should change with his latest album, Freedom's Road, a career-defining take on back-road Americana that's set to a soundtrack of hope; it's his best album since 1987's The Lonesome Jubilee. It hasn't been easy, but somebody had to do it.

People have been giving you a hard time for your Chevy commercial, yet Jay-Z, not to mention others, sold his album almost entirely through a Budweiser spot. Do you think there is a double standard?
Don't forget that "Our Country" is two years old. It was just a John Mellencamp song. As I was making this album, the Chevy proposal came along, and, of course, I've never been for this type of thing. At the same time, Tom Petty had released a new record. I thought the single was great, but I never heard it. So it just clicked in my head: The days of having a song get on the radio based solely on quality are long over. If Petty can't get on the radio, nobody my age can. So I did it.