Colt Ford’s Country

Sam Gazdziak | March 15th, 2010

colt-ford

Imagine a record filled with steel guitar and fiddle, with songs eating cat-head biscuits, downing a few cold beers at a local bar, dealing with cheating spouses and discovering life beyond the small town. There are guest vocals from John Michael Montgomery and Jamey Johnson. On paper, it sounds like a country music album. However, when Colt Ford begins rapping the lyrics instead of singing them, the line between “country” and “not country” gets very blurry–at least in the minds of some.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say I’m not country,” Ford says. “And when I ask them why, they say it’s because I don’t sing. Well then, Aerosmith, are they country? Is Pearl Jam country? They sing.

“No, it has nothing to do with that,” he continues. “It’s what the song is about, the story, the words.”

As a 40-year-old former golf pro who tips the scales at 300 pounds, Ford doesn’t look much like country music’s current crop of superstars, and he doesn’t sound like them, either. He has worked in the hip-hop world, but country music is his first love, and while others may debate the “country-ness” of his work, he considers himself a country artist, pure and simple.

“I wanted to make a country record, and just by the fact that I can’t sing too good, this is the only way I can make it,” he says. “I wasn’t necessarily trying to combine stuff; it just worked out that way.”

Regardless of his intentions, Ford has found an audience that’s extremely receptive to his brand of country music. His 2008 album, Ride Through The Country, was released on Average Joe’s Entertainment label, and its success has made Music Row take notice. The album, more than a year after its release, can still be found in the 30s on Billboard’s Country Album chart, peaking at #24. He’s sold more than 140,000 copies of the album, along with more than 100,000 digital singles. The album has been highlighted as a “Country Pick” at Wal-Mart, and Ford performed more than 200 dates last year, from country bars to sold-out arenas while opening for Jason Aldean. He’s planning on following up that success with two releases this year, the first of which, Chicken & Biscuits, will be released on April 20.

Ford recently took his act to the Grand Ole Opry for the first time, and he says he was blown away by the response.

“About half-way through “Devil Went Down To Georgia,” everybody in the place was standing up and clapping,” he says.

Indie Success

colt-fordThe melding of hip-hop and country has been tried a few times in the past, but never with any great or long-lasting success. Ford believes that his authenticity has allowed him to succeed where others have failed.

“I’m just an old fat boy from Georgia,” he jokes, “and I talk about what I know about, what I’ve seen and what’s around me, and I think folks relate to that. If you’re real and honest, and you are what you say you are and sing about what you know, people will figure that out.”

He also readily acknowledges the luck involved in having an indie album succeed in the country market, particularly without much airplay. Word-of-mouth has helped his audience grow, as his fans pass their CDs on to friends or family. However, he’s worked hard to create his own luck as well, through social networking and relentless touring.

“If people like [the songs], in this day and age of computers, people will find a way to get them,” he notes. Ford answers all of his Myspace messages himself, which helps to add to his “people’s champ” image. He also points out that he toured as much as any singer in country music last year, if not more, and he’s planning on doing the same in 2010.

As well as he’s done without the benefit of radio support, Ford would love to get played more on the radio, and he’s been frustrated about an inability to break through. He says he’s talked with radio personnel who love his work but are hesitant about playing it on their stations, yet they’ll play lesser singles from major-label artists just because they are on a major label.

“All I’ve ever wanted was a chance,” he says, “and if you play it and people don’t like it, I can totally deal with it.”

Having several well-regarded country singers like John Michael Montgomery and Jamey Johnson on his singles has helped raise his profile and garner some airplay. Ford says that he met those singers through mutual friends, and they liked his work enough to collaborate on songs. Montgomery duets with Ford on “Ride Through The Country,” while Johnson sings the chorus to “Cold Beer.”

“Jamey marches to the beat of his own drum,” Ford says. “He doesn’t do anything he likes, and he’s not a part of anything he doesn’t want to be a part of. For him to kind of endorse [“Cold Beer”] and be a part of it, that was a big plus.” The two also co-wrote a song on Ford’s album called “Tailgate.”

The guests on the album may gain some notice, but Ford believes that it’s the songs and the stories that turn casual listeners into fans, and they don’t mind the fact that he’s rapping the lyrics instead of singing them.

“If you look at the younger generation, all they’ve known is both [country and hip-hop],” he says. “If you go into most young country high school kids’ cars, they’ve got hip-hop and country CDs, and that’s just what they listen to.”

Many of the songs are good-time party anthems, similar to the songs from groups like Run DMC that got Ford interested in rap in the first place. (Ford says that today’s hip-hop songs are too graphic and demeaning to women, and he doesn’t listen to it.) Others, like “No Trash In My Trailer” and “Good God O’Mighty,” take a more humorous look at country living.

Then there are the surprisingly dramatic songs. “Waffle House” tells of a husband who has finally realized the truth of his cheating spouse and is contemplating just what action he should take. “Twisted” is about a high school football star torn between staying at home or going off to play at UCLA. The song, originally featuring Atlanta songwriter Cory Sellers, was recently re-cut with Tim McGraw and will be available this year. Ford says that when he performs the song at all-ages shows, he dedicates it to his younger fans.

“Realize that it’s okay to be country, and don’t worry about what TV is telling you,” he says. “There’s nothing wrong with being a country kid, and be proud to be from the country.”

Ford’s other ace in the hole when it comes to promoting himself lies in his concerts. Despite his non-traditional approach, he says that his audience is primarily hard-core country fans.

“I would say my shows are more country than 90 percent of the artists in Nashville. That’s the honest-to-God truth,” Ford says. “I put together, unequivocally, one of the best bands you’ll ever see on stage, from a national country touring act. I would put this band against anyone that’s out there, and we do a few things with shows that other people, quite frankly, just can’t do.

“It’s like a roller coaster, man,” he says of his live shows. “We’ll take you up and down, fast and slow, spin you around, and hopefully when you’re done, you want to get back in line and do it again.” So far, people have been doing just that; Ford has several fans who attended more than 25 of his concerts in 2009.

Ford keeps the costs of his tickets and merchandise at reasonable levels to make a night out more affordable for his fans, and he stays around after each performance to meet them and sign autographs.

“That’s the reason you’re playing music, for those folks, and I try to spend as much time with them as I can,” he says. “I feel sad for artists who don’t do that or kind of forgot about it.”

A Double Serving in 2010

Ford followed up Ride Through The Country with a live album and an EP/DVD combo. His next studio release, Chicken & Buscuits, features collaborations with Randy Houser, Luke Bryan, James Otto, Joe Nichols, Trent Tomlinson, Darryl Worley and many others, including rap legend DMC of Run DMC. Later on in the year, he’ll release Second Helpings, giving him about 25 new songs total to put out in the marketplace this year.

“I record songs that I like, and I didn’t cut them just for me to hear,” he reasons. “I wanted to make sure we put them out there.”

While Ford’s rapping may turn some people off to his music, he points out that what he’s doing is hardly new to country music. Recitation or talking songs have been a part of country’s past and have been done by everyone from Hank Williams to Alan Jackson.

“If you go back to “A Boy Named Sue” or even Toby Keith’s “I Wanna Talk About Me,” that’s exactly what I do,” he explains. While he notes that his songs have more fiddle and steel than many modern country releases, he also loves country-pop acts like Lady Antebellum and Taylor Swift.

“I’m a fan of that, but I just want me to have a place in there too,” he says. “I just want to do my thing. I’m not trying to get in anybody else’s way; I just don’t want to get them in mine.”

1 Ping

  1. [...] nor proficiency in, the art form. That’s not surprising, really, considering that back in March he told The 9513 he only became a rapper because he’s not strong enough of a vocalist to relea.... Still, his appropriation of the art form is blatant and borders on offensive; over the course of [...]
  1. Rick
    March 15, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Colt has a male lead co-singer with a fine voice and he does have a tight band. The only thing I don’t care for in Colt Ford’s music is, ummm, Colt Ford himself when he does his rap routine. That being said I’d rather listen to Colt’s music than most Nashvile Top 40 stuff these days, although in truth I prefer to listen to neither…

  2. James Otto Sweet Heart
    March 15, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Colt couldn’t have picked a better person to help him out on the “Chicken and Biscuits” song, I love James Otto SO much!!! (big smile)

    God bless you and him and James always!!!

    Holly in East Tennessee

  3. jason coley
    March 15, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Colt is awesome and i look forward to working with him april 23rd….jc

  4. Jim Malec
    March 15, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    OK, so let me get this right: He’s only a rapper because he wasn’t strong enough a singer to be a singer? Wow, now I know he must be authentic.

  5. t.scott
    March 15, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    seems as good a reason as any

  6. Noeller
    March 15, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    Not to be overly mean, but the worst part of every Colt Ford song is Colt Ford.

  7. Janelle
    March 15, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    Tyler Farr is that male singer with Colt’s band and is a great singer/performer! Heard that he’s getting an album out this year, too. We saw him perform (with the band’s fiddle chick – who is amazing, too!) before the Colt show and actually enjoyed that much more!

  8. stormy
    March 15, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    The big problem I have with “country rap” is that is so often seems to be an excuse for really bad rap. This might be because I am a very selective and snobbish rap tastes, but there is nothing appealing in a song like Ride Through the Country. Look at Changes by Tupac, “Its time to fight back, that’s what Huey said/Two shots in the dark now Huey’s dead” or Kayne’s Crack Music “You hear that? What Gil Scott was hearin/When our heroes and heroines got hooked on heroin.” These are songs that know their history and can track it. I don’t have faith that Colt can trace “Where the sidewalk ends” past Keith Urban to George Strait. To say nothing of Shel Silverstein.

  9. Amy Johnson
    March 16, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    I know I can tell you one thing about COLT FORD!!!! HE is BADA*$…. Stop and think about it.. It is stated that not everyone is going to like his work, does that mean you have to say anything mean?? He say’s the younger crowd, I’m 33 and LOVE his music. I grew up listening to country till I was old enought o learn that I like other types of music. I may not like some of the music, surely not going to say anything mean about the groups though. Listen to what his words are saying and then you might know someone, or know who knows someone that’s been or going through that exact song. I will go to every concert of his that is close enough to me, watch the same routine on stage and still go back fer more!!! BTW< Chicken & Biscuits is me, and prolly a whole lotts other "country girls" out there. ME… I'm Mud sling'n, Kuntry gyrl just do'n my thing'n!!! LOVE YA COLT!!

  10. Randy aka Billy Bob
    March 17, 2010 at 1:37 am

    I know Colt will have critics but who doesn’t. For what he and the band do for people of all races & ages is awesome. If your truly a hard core country fan or just like country music/life it’s not hard to relate to his music whether it’s sung or rapped. Thanks to all who support Colt Ford and almost all country music alike and the people who write and slap some beats together to make a song a song. By the way, if you havn’t been to a concert your truly missing out. I was born and raised in Texas and had a hell of a time watching Colt perform at Billy Bob’s in downtown Ft. Worth(The Stockyards). Also I agree with Colt in saying that today’s hip-hop songs are too graphic and demeaning to women. Colt, thanks for bein a fat boy from Georgia with a true talent.
    Your friend,
    A fat boy from Texas – Billy Bob

  11. Rick
    March 18, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Janelle, thanks for that bit of info. Its actually dumb for Colt to feature the more talented artists in his band to open his shows as I’m sure you are not the only one who felt that way. If Tyler Farr uses Colt as a springboard to his own career, then so much the better!

    PS – If Toby Keith ever makes another crappy “redneck country schtick” movie, Colt would make a great Buford T. Justice style Sheriff character!

  12. Johnny Red
    March 30, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Stormy… I’d love to hear how you can relate to either of those songs you quoted personally… Love it or hate it you have to admit he’s genuine, and he’s got y’all talking about him. What more could an artist ask for? Outlaw country got big for doing it their way, now Colt is doing the same. You may not like his style, but if it wasn’t for people like him you would be listening to the same formula songs that the major labels keep pumping into radio… Been to many of those artists shows lately? I’ll put a Colt Ford crowd up against any “up and coming” artist you’ve been hearing on the radio lately, both in terms of people and fun. If you don’t wanna jump on this band wagon thats fine, but I recommend getting out of the way, cause there’s gonna be a whole train of fans following right behind.

  13. stormy
    March 30, 2010 at 6:59 pm

    Johnny:
    1. If he is genunine, he is very shallow.
    2. I don’t know, how could a woman possibly relate to songs about struggling against prejudice? To quote paraphrase Tupac: “Thought it might seem heaven sent we ain’t ready to see a woman president.”

  14. Johnny Red
    April 3, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    Haha… I guess ignorance is bliss Stormy.. You still didn’t explain how you can relate to a friend being gunned down on the streets or one of you heros getting hooked on heroin… I love some Tupac too, but I’m not going to pretend like I know what it’s like to come from that lifestyle… I’m from the country, therefore I can identify with the stuff Colt Ford’s music… He’s about as genuine as it gets, I’ve met him several times, and I can tell you he is truly passionate about making real music for real people to enjoy, and loves the people who support him… Talk to him once and I bet you money he’ll remember your name and where you’re from… I’d really love a direct example of this shallowness you speak…

  15. stormy
    April 3, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    You don’t think that some of my heroines are musicians?

  16. REBELBOY01
    April 14, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    man colt ford is awsome as hell he mixes country with rap how great is that

  17. Trailer
    April 14, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    ^^ So not

  18. sean hammock
    August 2, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Hey I’m oneof yours bigest fan I like your songs 3 and 4 even 11

  19. Keely Kohlenberg
    September 10, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Colt ford is soo awsome so glad he made it into the big time. Im only 12 but i know alot about the world and what terror we are in . I LOVE colt ford!!!! I love country music!!

  20. jeremy angel
    November 17, 2010 at 10:53 am

    colt ford is the best singer i have ever heard of i have every CD he has ever made!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. jeremy angel
    November 17, 2010 at 10:54 am

    and im only 17

  22. Trish
    November 17, 2010 at 11:30 am

    The bottom line is rappers are just not good enough to rely on a singing voice. It does not
    require a whole lot of talent. Lets leave rap to the inner city hood and keep it out of country music. I want Johnny Cash and Alan Jackson, not Snoop Dog and Fifty Cent!!!

  23. stormy
    November 17, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Okay, this guy in no way deserves to me mentioned in the same breath as Snoop and 50.

  24. Barry Mazor
    November 17, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Funny, Trish, but to me “not good enough to rely on a singing voice” and “does not require a whole lot of talent” are almost completely contradictory, just to start.

    A voice that a lot of people like is something God gives you, or not.

    Singing –well, that’s something else, and it t takes talent–which is located in a whole variety of conscious and unconscious choices about how to go about it, with the instrument you were handed.

    If somebody really hasn’t been blessed with “a singing voice” as you seem to define it there, doing a good job with rhythm and drama, and reading the lyric and the like (where most singing talent lies anyhow)is even more of a talent–without that freebie of sounding nice to a lot of people. And rap demands all of those talents.

    (It never surprises me, btw, when trap or hip hope ares read out of country as beyond the pale, by some–which is very predictable, in the short run. As once were blues, swing, R&B, rock, soul, etc, etc. Until they weren’t any more. And by then people were saying they’d always been a part of country–to be defended vociferously, naturally.)

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