John Mellencamp is not interested in pandering to his audience.

In a new interview with The New York Times, the singer-songwriter discussed his decision to play smaller, more intimate venues, plus his current set lists.

"I could do a whole show of hits if I wanted to, but I don't," he said. "That's one reason I quit playing arenas and playing outdoors. It wasn't about music — it was about being a human jukebox." The comment falls in line with an incident that took place at Mellencamp's concert in Cleveland in May, where he warned the audience that if it didn't "shut the fuck up," he would cut the show short. "Look, guys, if I wanted to play in this type of drunken environment, I'd play outside or I'd play in an arena," he said from the stage.

Still, the passing decades have given Mellencamp a different perspective on some of his hits, like "Hurts So Good," which was released in 1982. "I quit playing it 25 years ago," he said. "But I've been playing it on this tour, and it has a whole new meaning to me. 'When I was a young boy, I said, "Put away those young boy ways."' I was a kid when I wrote it, but as an older gentleman, it makes sense."

Watch John Mellencamp Perform 'Hurts So Good' in 2023

Mellencamp also spoke about his raucous reputation from back in the day. "I punched the blond-haired singer of the Cars," he said, presumably referring to the late Benjamin Orr. "I fought all the time and lost all the time." This included live settings, where Mellencamp was booted from tours with Rainbow, REO Speedwagon and Kiss.

"I got kicked off every tour I was on," he said. "My band and I were terrible, but we were better than Kiss. I was a young kid, full of energy, and the reviews said, 'John Cougar blew the place up last night.' Gene Simmons would look at me like he wanted to kill me."

Mellencamp is currently on tour in North America until late June. His new album, Orpheus Descending, comes out on June 16.

2023 Rock Tour Preview

Reunions, farewells and long-awaited shows are on the horizon.

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