Oh, darn. Or should I say, “oh, durn.”
Every time I start to write this story about Colt Ford, I have to go do some more “research” online, as in watching one of his music videos. “Chicken and Biscuits” and “No Trash in My Trailer” are two of my favorites. “Waste Some Time” is my absolute favorite. In fact, I think I'll go watch it again …
… OK, I'm back. Ready to write now.
Colt Ford is one of the acts coming to CountryFest at Headwaters Park this Saturday, along with Lee Brice, Dustin Lynch, Jana Kramer, Due West, Maggie Rose and headliner Montgomery Gentry. Actually, had it not been for my daughter's friend Hannah, I probably wouldn't have known who Colt Ford was, but it turns out Hannah's a big fan.
He's not the kind of guy you'd expect an 18-year-old to get excited about. He's 41, has two teenagers himself and is — uh — a big man. I didn't understand why she is such a big fan until I listened to his music, talked to him over the phone and watched his videos online.
Actually, I was familiar with Ford's songwriting before I ever heard his name. He co-wrote “Country Must Be Country Wide” with another “good old Georgia boy,” Brantley Gilbert. He and Gilbert also co-wrote and individually recorded the country-rap song “Dirt Road Anthem,” but it wasn't until Jason Aldean covered it that it shot to No. 1 in 2011 on the Billboard Country chart.
Ford's style is country-rap — at least that's what he does on every song I've listened to — but don't tell him that. He hates that term.
“I don't consider myself a country rapper,” he said by phone from Harrisburg, Pa., where he was out on tour. “Frankly, I can sing a little bit but I don't think that's how I best deliver the song. If I could sing like Luke Bryan, I would. … My biggest problem when they say country rap it turns a lot of people instantly off.”
Even though he does — let's call it “rhyming spoken word” on his recordings, so as not to offend him — Ford's songs steer clear of controversial socio-political lyrics.
“I don't promote violence. I don't degrade women,” he says. “I'm a country artist. That's it.”
He says he's about “God, family, friends and America.” After listening to his music and watching his videos, I'd have to add beer, chicken, trucks, pretty girls, cowboy boots, cowboy hats and havin' a good time to that list.
He and his friends always seem to be having fun in his videos — how can you not have fun with a homemade slip and slide? I've watched the appropriately named “Wasting Some Time” video so many times I'm beginning to think I was there. Or wishing I was there.
Ford's style of mixing country and rap may be unconventional, but the genre-blending works. “When you look at the numbers, you can't say it doesn't work,” Ford says, referencing “Dirt Road Anthem's” 3 million downloads.
Yet Ford hasn't yet been able to break through in radio. He's never had a Top 40 song. “I'd give anything if they'd give me a chance to be heard on the radio,” he said.
As to why he's not, he can only speculate. “If I could give you a definite answer, I'd give it to you,” he said. “I'm very different, and some people are afraid of different and afraid of change. I feel like I've earned the chance to be heard.”
Because he hasn't yet had that breakthrough, he spends a lot of time on the road, building his fan base that way. He played about 220 shows last year, keeping him away from his family and home in Athens, Ga.
Ford's new album, “Declaration of Independence,” drops Tuesday, and a single from it, “Back,” featuring Jake Owen, is already blowing up on Twitter (Follow him at @ColtFord.)
Maybe it's destined to be his first Top 40 hit. It's way more introspective and personal than his other songs, focusing on how important home and family are to him. Think poignant, rather than party.
The list of artists who perform on “Declaration of Independence” reads like a Who's Who of country music: Jason Aldean, Jake Owen, Kix Brooks, Darius Rucker, Montgomery Gentry.
“Every person you just named is a friend of mine,” he said.
Ford has high hopes for “Declaration of Independence.”
“There’s not one single song that sounds like the next song on this record,” he said. “I think this is going to be a big record for me.”