"When I was a kid/Playing air guitar/Wishing I was a star/Just wanted a chance/To stand up here/And play a few songs for y’all” “Thanks for Listening”
Colt Ford is just an unassuming good old country boy from Georgia, a one-time pro golfer turned songwriter and musician who has struck a chord with his growing fan base. On Thanks for Listening, his fifth album on his own perfectly named Average Joes Entertainment label, he returns the favor, offering his audience a humble token of his appreciation.
With his groundbreaking blend of country music and hip-hop rhythms, Ford is a cultural force who is ready to go from cult status to a household name, from the mud trucker events where he started to arena stages, where he’ll next be seen sharing the bill with Toby Keith on his “Shut Up and Hold On” summer tour, where thousands of red solo cups will be raised in celebration.
The follow-up to 2012’s chart-topping Declaration of Independence, which remained on the Billboard Country Album chart for more than 58 weeks, Thanks for Listening features collaborations with such pals as Keith Urban (“She’s Like”), Duck Dynasty’s Boss Hog, Willie Robertson (“Cut ‘Em All”), Jerrod Niemann (“Crickets”), Randy Houser (“Washed in the Mud”), Justin Moore (“Farm Life”), Chase Rice (the first single, “The High Life”), Lee Brice (“Sip It Slow”), Walker Hayes (“Dirty Side”) and Daniel Lee (the title track).
“I think it’s the best record I’ve ever done,” admits Ford in a rare moment when he drops his characteristic humility. “It’s got a lot of the different elements that I do well, and I push myself on some other things. The idea is to try to grow as an artist and still be who you are, and not completely forget to give the fans that made you what they like. I’ve never been more excited by new music than this.”
From the unabashed rock ‘n’ roll kick of “Crank It Up” (where he sings all the vocal parts in a tour de force) and the country/rap hybrid of “Cut ‘Em All” to the celebration of “The High Life,” his description of a typical weekend in the country, complete with a description of a biscuit and fried chicken dinner, and his own candid self-assessment in “Workin’ On,” Thanks for Listening is a celebration of the things near and dear to Colt Ford’s heart – America, country music, hard work, celebrating life with family and friends and simply having a damn good time in the process.
“I’m just blessed to be able to play music,” he says. “Every artist who gets to do this for a living should thank their lucky stars, be humble and grateful.
“I just set out to make the best songs I can make, try to be honest and this is what comes out. I write about things I know about, things I’ve done or things someone else did while I was standing there… Like, hey, hold my beer and watch this!”
Ford compares his unique style to the spoken-word songs of country greats like Tex Williams (“Smoke Smoke Smoke that Cigarette”), Roger Miller (“Hot Rod Lincoln”), Johnny Cash (“A Boy Named Sue”) or C.W. McCall (“Convoy”).
“I certainly put my own spin on it, or take it to another level,” he says. “Country music keeps changing. That’s what makes music beautiful and great. It means different things to different people. I have fun playing, and when you see me having fun, you’ll have fun, too.”
In a world of racial barriers, Colt Ford brings two diverse cultures together, pointing out how close country and hip-hop can be. “They’re both about story-telling,” he says. “Talking about real life from a unique perspective.”
Thanks for Listening is just that, as Ford sings about good, All-American girls who don’t mind showing their “Dirty Side,” which, as he reveals, has nothing to do with the bedroom, and everything to do with liking to hunt, fish and play in the mud. “Outshine Me” is not just about bootlegging liquor, but fending off the competition, while “Sip It Slow” is a song for his 15-year-old son, a plea to stop and smell the roses, much like “She Likes to Ride in Trucks” from 2011’s Every Chance I Get, which he wrote to his teenage daughter. “Washed in the Mud” is like a baptism, a celebration of driving trucks through the dirt, a song he wrote with his fiddle player Justin David. The entire album features his crack touring band – guitarists “Bad” Brad Henderson and Spencer “Spanky” Basset, bassist Paul Chapman, drummer Tim Haines and Justin David, – a rarity in Nashville. It also includes some of the town’s most impressive session players, like keyboardist Jim “Moose” Brown and pedal steel veteran Bruce Bouton.
And while country radio – not to mention the Nashville powers-that-be – have been slow to embrace Colt Ford, the current party ethos of the music is now catching up to him. After writing #1 country hits for Jason Aldean (“Dirt Road Anthem”) and Brantley Gilbert (“Country Must be Country Wide”), Ford, currently collaborating with Brad Paisley, has more than one million Facebook fans, 100 million YouTube views, has sold more than one million albums and several million downloads.
“I’d like to let the fans decide about my music, rather than have some program director say they don’t think people will like it,” says Ford. “I’m just going to keep doing what I do.”
With Thanks for Listening, Colt Ford walks it like he talks it, forever grateful for the fans that have enabled him to do what he does so well, entertain them.
“The more people you can play in front of, meet, talk to and let hear your music, that’s really cool to me,” he says. “I will give them every single thing that I got every time I walk on that stage. I hope this record can open some more doors, open some more eyes and bring some different fans to country music. It’s just a cool record. Give them something real, don’t bullshit ‘em and you might just figure it out.”
“Crank up the beat,” he sings. “Put AC/DC on repeat… We’re about to turn this cornfield into a club.”
And above all… Thanks for Listening.