“There’s a big void to fill in country music, to be more country, or traditional.
You can’t be too soft, and you have to have some attitude.
I just like the fiddle and the steel and guitars all working together.
This is not like a throwback, just a different era of traditional.
So, you know, this is what I do; this is me.
I love a good beat, good lyrics and a good melody.
Put a bunch of great country sounds around that, and it’s pretty awesome.”
To hear Jon Pardi talk, it’s pretty simple. Country music is fiddles, steel and Telecaster guitars; but if you’ve listened to country radio, hearing those things in the realm of synth patches, 808s and hip-hop breaks is like steer horns on a Lamborghini. Yet, the emergent California country star, who not only won the 2017 Country Music Association New Artist of the Year but scored a Single of the Year nomination for the thick-treaded “Dirt on My Boots,” only knows one way.
“You know ‘Head Over Boots’ was one of the countriest songs off California Sunrise,” the affable young man points out. “And it was one of our biggest singles, so it led us to feel like we could go in this direction. My label was like, ‘Don’t be afraid to be more traditional. The ball’s in your court, man. We’re perfectly fine with this!’”
And so, Jon Pardi dug in, slung low and came back with Heartache Medication. An unrepentantly Bakersfield juke joint/Texas ice house proposition, it’s a cocktail of vintage Brooks & Dunn, stone cold Haggard, a strong shot of the smoothest and swinginest Strait, a long pour of Alan Jackson and equal measures Buck’n’Dwight. From the unapologetic lope of “Old Hat,” a declaration of the good ole boy code of honor, to the quick banjo-trimmed blessing “Starlight,” honoring loved ones who’ve passed, the 34-year old writer sought to re-establish as many classic idioms as possible.
With the twin-fiddle/Telecaster grounded title track, Pardi expands the sweeping “Fool Hearted Memory” classicism into a bar-stool coping strategy, while the turbo-thumping post-rockabilly “Me & Jack” recalls the humor-steeped hijinks of Cash or Waylon and Willie at their wittiest. There’s the fiddle-soaked “Call Me Country” with its ascending guitar solos, the mariachi horns of “Tequila Little Time,” the torch truth of “Don’t Blame It On The Whiskey,” with Lauren Alaina at her most aching, and the steel-stitched promenade turning high-test swing “Tied One On” offering a breadth of style that’s pure ‘90s octane.
“That kind of country was always stompin’ boots,” Pardi concedes, also recognizing the camouflage it contains. “I think a lot of these songs and the feeling of this whole record is moving on, dealing with something maybe sad, but knowing the music is going to make you feel good. That’s one thing old country had, that attitude of no matter what was going on, people still want to feel good. I don’t want to be sad and lonely, so let’s go out and have a time, party like it’s gonna fix everything.
“You gotta do something to get out of the trap, which is why we called the album Heartache Medication. I wrote that song a few years ago, but, you know, it’s that feeling, we’ve all had and remember. Why do we love ‘Mis’ry & Gin’ so much? Because we’ve all been there, but it’s beautiful and sad, so it makes you feel better.”
While his third Capitol Nashville album explores the various phases of moving on, the emphasis is very much on feeling better. In Alan Jackson’s world where “sometimes the cowboy don’t always get the girl,” Pardi embraces all the colors of lonely, whether the tables turned ache of the slow ramble “Ain’t Always The Cowboy,” the dumb boy reckoning, Dixie Chick-feeling “Nobody Leaves A Girl Like That” or the Pig Robbins’ piano shuffle/John Huey steel puddle of a random (re)encounter “Old Times.”
“I don’t like writing all the time; it burns me out. I don’t want to just be showing up, looking for an idea or a melody,” he says of the process. “I did go through a struggling time, and I do think a lot of the feeling of this record is moving on, dealing with something sad. But songs – even sad songs – make you feel good. So, this was someone saying, ‘I still want to feel good. I don’t want to be sad and lonely. I want to go out and get to feeling better.’ Because, sometimes music is the one thing that can pull you through.”
Music, for some, is both the final refuge and starting point for getting back in the game. No wonder if Eric Church and Miranda Lambert were going to let anyone have “Don’t Blame It On The Whiskey,” written late night on a tour bus, they were going to give it to someone who understood.
“Brian (Wright) is friends with both of them, and he had this work tape – and it was just the best thing. I wanted that song so bad, that Eric Church melody and how real they were being about the fact it’s never the alcohol, it’s everything else. I couldn’t believe they let me have it, but man…
“And Lauren, who’s a friend. I figured out when we co-hosted the ACM Honors that we have so much vocal chemistry. She can sing anything, and people don’t think of her like this, but dang, it’s just simple and straight, you can hear every last drop of the emotions.”
For an upbeat guy, there’s no shortage of love for the hard stuff. Just as he’s never one to let a little heartbreak bring him all the way down. Even the is-she-or-isn’t-she-gone of Dean Dillon’s “Love Her Like She’s Leaving” walks the line between utter devastation and the unstoppable will to get her back. The George Strait-evoking hanging on to the last shred of maybe is the songwriting legend at his finest.
“Dean was playing the Nashville Palace, and he played ‘Miami My Amy,’ ‘Tennessee Whiskey,’ then ‘Is It Raining at Your House,’ and I was dying. Then he played ‘Homecoming ’63,’ never mind all those George Strait songs. He understands that place where guys struggle; this guy has put whatever his demon is in the past, and he’s really going to try to be the right guy. Cause he’s not gonna lose this girl.”
Pardi laughs when he says this. Living in honky tonk bars, whether coming of age or finding his way with a little band, he knows the struggles between the sexes, the way love is what everyone’s looking for and how coming up short has been as central to country music as Don Rich’s guitar-playing, Porter Wagoner’s suits or Waylon Jennings’ back beat.
He doesn’t just love it, he exults in what can happen when players meet songs. “I truly love watching great players play. In the studio, they work so hard to get those tones, and the amps. With our road gear, if we brought that in, you’d have a loose bolt, something vibrating, so instead we have the very best players – and some of my road guys – getting the absolute best sounds. If fiddle brings out your inner hillbilly, and steel just melts with the track, it gets a sound that’s just iconic. That’s what we wanted.
“Whether it’s that Tele sound that’s the Rolling Stones, but it’s Buck Owens’ Don Rich, or the Gibson 335, which was on a lot of Motown stuff and gives you a lot of big sounds for rhythm, it all just comes right at you. The Telecaster is that rock & roll country, while the 335 offers a bit of soul.”
Pardi laughs, knowing how he sounds. Almost apologetically, he explains, “I’m always in work mode. I’m not the artist, sitting back and saying, ‘Isn’t this amazing?’ I’m more, ‘Can we get more guitar in there?’ I’m always listening for ‘Can we do this? Should we stop that?’ Because when it’s all done, that’s when the magic happens – and I don’t want to fall short of that.”
Across 14 songs, co-produced with longtime collaborators Bart Butler and Ryan Gore, Pardi delivers an homage to what he was raised on without ever seeming like an archivist. Whether bringing the energy hard or slowing things down to a buckle-polishing simmer, Pardi knows the difference – and figures if he can share the things he loves about old school country with a contemporary shine, he can turn people onto the roots by making the tracks feel current, the emotions feel real and the vocals feel true to the heart.
“There’s a lot of sneaker country, a lot of people just trying to be hip,” Pardi concludes. “For me, ‘Call Me Country,’ that’s my stuff. Boots, straw hats, saying, ‘Ma’am,’ that’s not a thing of the past for me. It’s a fun, old school song, with some phaser on it – and just some of the stuff I loved about Waylon and Merle, and Willie, who’s still here. There’s that line about being ‘a ghost on the radio,’ but maybe with these songs, that kind of country can live again.”
Kacey Musgraves has recorded a cover of Elvis Presley’s 1961 song “Can’t Help Falling in Love” for the soundtrack to the upcoming Elvis biopic, directed by Baz Luhrmann. The film will premiere at Cannes Film Festival later this month and will hit theaters nationwide June 24th.
Carrie Underwood and Jon Pardi are among the artists scheduled to perform at the Grand Ole Opry as the famed institution kicks off its CMA Fest week with a pair of shows on Tuesday, June 7th. Highlights of the shows, which also includes performances by the Oak Ridge Boys and more, will air on Saturday, June 11th as the Saturday night Opry Live on the Opry’s television broadcast home, Circle Network, Circle All Access Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Travis Denning will hit the road on Jake Owen’s Up There Down Here Tour this fall.
Jon Pardi takes a denim-clad, neon-lit stroll through Las Vegas in the “Last Night Lonely” music video, out now. Making its official premiere on Facebook yesterday, the clip follows Pardi for a night on the town, picking his guitar at a roadside motel before dancing down the iconic Vegas strip to the fiddle and steel-drenched track.
Praised as “hit bound” and “country all the way” (MusicRow) with its “90s honky-tonk vibe” (Billboard), “Last Night Lonely” is firing up the Country radio airplay charts, now Top 25 and climbing. Standing as one of Pardi’s fastest rising singles to-date, the song is written by Joe Fox, Jimi Bell and Dylan Marlowe.
“Last Night Lonely” is the first glimpse at Pardi’s highly anticipated forthcoming studio release, following his critically acclaimed third album, Heartache Medication, that garnered Album of the Year nods by both the CMA and ACM, and was named one of the best albums of 2019 by Rolling Stone and Los Angeles Times.
Next up, the multi-Platinum singer/songwriter is headlining high-profile fairs and festivals before kicking off his AIN’T ALWAYS THE COWBOY TOUR this summer. Beginning July 14 in Irving, TX, Pardi – along with Lainey Wilson and Hailey Whitters – will hit the stage in major markets coast to coast before wrapping up with an October 1 show at Nashville’s Ascend Amphitheater. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit jonpardi.com/tour.
Jon Pardi’s AIN’T ALWAYS THE COWBOY TOUR Dates:
7/14 | Irving, TX/ Toyota Music Factory – Texas Lottery Plaza
7/15 | Belton, TX/Bell County Expo Center
7/16 | Oklahoma City, OK/Zoo Amphitheatre
7/22 | Sacramento, CA/Golden 1 Center
7/23 | Bend, OR/Hayden Homes Amphitheater
7/24 | Airway Heights, WA/Northern Quest Resort & Casino – Pend Oreille Pavilion
8/4 | Inglewood, CA/YouTube Theater
8/5 | Santa Barbara, CA/Santa Barbara Bowl
8/6 | Las Vegas, NV/Red Rock Casino
8/19 | Lampe, MO/Black Oak Amphitheater
8/20: Terre Haute, IN/ The Mill
8/25: Raleigh NC/Red Hat Amphitheater
8/27: Sharpsburg, KY/Barnyard Amphitheater
9/8: Rochester, MN/Mayo Civic Center Park
9/9: Milwaukee, WI/BMO Harris Pavilion
9/10: Sterling Heights, MI/Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre
9/15: Bridgeport, CT/Hartford Healthcare Amphitheater
9/16: Big Flats, NY/Summer Stage @ Tags
9/17: Huber Heights, OH/Rose Music Center
9/22: New York, NY/Pier 17- the rooftop
9/23: Gilford, NH/Bank of NH Pavilion
9/24: Boston, MA/Leader Bank Pavilion
9/29: Southaven, MS/Landers Center*
9/30: Huntsville, AL/Von Braun Center*
10/1: Nashville, TN/Ascend Amphitheater*
*Hailey Whitters Not Appearing
Mother’s Day is on Sunday, May 8th, and some of your favorite country artists are celebrating the mothers in their lives this weekend. In 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day, held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers.
Alan Jackson (song for mother)…really, really sweet. :51
“I think one song on there, especially I wrote my mama died three or four years ago, four years ago maybe. I don’t remember now. But I wrote it for her funeral, that’s “Where Her Heart Has Always Been.” And I really love that track. It’s just really – I tried to write it in a way that I know she would appreciate it. And then after we had cut it and we were just about to finalize the record, my sister sent a recording of mama reading from the Bible for a Christmas story or something from a few years ago that I hadn’t heard, or I don’t remember if I had ever heard it. And I thought that would be cool to put that on there. So, we tried to pick a little piece of that that didn’t sound so Christmasy and put on there on the front end and that made it really, really sweet.”
Carrie Underwood (Mother’s Day traditions) OC: …even more so. :38
“We don’t really have like any Mother’s Day traditions. I feel like I remember me and Dad making breakfast for Mom like once as a kid. I’m pretty sure we just made a giant mess in the kitchen and we never did that again, so. Being on the other side of things, I obviously don’t expect anything, but my husband’s really good at getting presents from quote unquote Isaiah. It’s really sweet, because he likes to bring me things. He’s such a sweet little guy, and anytime he’s outside, he’ll pick me flowers and things. So, I’m like, ‘You’re learning. You’ve already got me wrapped around your finger, and then you do stuff like that, and it’s even more so.’”
Caylee Hammack (Mother’s Day) 1 OC: …love fully. :53
“I love that my Mom is a no-nonsense woman. I love that she always speaks her mind and she’s super stubborn, because she handed it down to me and it’s come in handy, to be honest. She’s a great cook. I wish I was half the cook that she is. She’s obsessive about Tupperware and plates, which I used to hate, but now as an adult whenever I break a dish or something, I just call her, and I know that I have one on standby. I love that she loves random things so that I can squirrel them away and take them to Nashville sometimes. And I love that she loves big. She either gives all of her heart or nothing at all; she always gives all of her heart. She loves, you know, she has a bleeding heart, and I think that’s just one of the most beautiful traits in the world is to love fully.”
Darius Rucker (favorite memory of his mother) OC: …my Mom’s song. :34
“Oh goodness! A lot of great memories of her, but probably one of my favorite memories, I was a young kid, probably eight or nine, and she was in the kitchen cooking and listening to the gospel station and Shirley Caesar’s ‘No Charge’ came on and she was singing ‘No Charge.’ I just remember I ran into our living room which was adjoined to our kitchen and I just sat there and I just listened to her sing that song, and I remember thinking, ‘Wow! What an amazing voice.’ That’s just always a memory I’ve always had, and that song still to this day when I hear it just moves me because that was my mom’s song.”
Darius Rucker (Mother) OC: …in my corner. :44
“My mom was just always great. She worked a lot. She was a nurse and she worked a lot. She took a lot of overtime and stuff to make sure we could live basically, but she always just so supportive, ever since I was a kid. I was always a music kid. Growing up in an African-American neighborhood, I was never that guy who was gonna be pigeonholed to let people say I could only listen to this and I could only do this, because I was African-American. She always supported whatever I wanted to do, whatever I wanted to listen to, wherever I wanted to go, she always had my back. Going to college and everything, she was my biggest supporter and never let my brothers and sisters knock me down or try to tell me I can’t do this or that. All of my success comes because my mother was always in my corner.”
Dierks (Mother’s Day) OC: …for sure. :20
“When it’s your actual mom, you know, there’s some slack there, but when with your wife – any touring husband, anyone who tours who has kids and a wife back home, it’s tough man. It’s a lot of work. So, I definitely need to step up to think of something great to do this Sunday, for sure.”
Eric Church (Mother’s Day) OC: …as a man. :57
“My mom, even though my dad won’t like this, my mom is by far the toughest person that I’ve met. She’s tough. One of those people that’s been through a lot in her life, adversity wise and never complains, always really resilient with anything that’s happened to her. And it’s just that attitude, the positive attitude, regardless of what has happened that I think is the one thing that I got from her. With career, she’s always been a person that’s been really positive through times that I couldn’t find a positive streak, [laughs] and she was always really positive, and very much believes in tough it out, keep working hard, and that’s her motto with stuff like that. I’ve always been impressed with that stuff. Then musically, she’s where I get my talent from, musically. She sings great, always has, her mom sang great. I owe my musical chops to her. And she still sings some. So, career-wise, I owe her everything. And just in life-wise she’s given me a lot of the qualities that it has taken for me to get me where I am. Not only as a musician, but as a man.”
Jon Pardi (Mother’s Day) OC: …worrying about me. :29
“My mom’s always been there for me. First of all, she’s a great mom. She’s an angel. She takes care of people that aren’t even in the family. She’s always been like that, and she’s a great mother. She’s always proud, and she’s always there supporting and being a great mom. She’s just a good human being. There’s not one mean bone in her body. And she cries about every time I talk to her. She always worries about me. I have to tell her, ‘Stop worrying about me.’”
Jordan Davis (Mother’s Day) OC: …Mother’s Day. :30 [laughs]
“I’m a Mama’s Boy. I love my Mom, and it’s the way she finds the good in everything. With my Mom, as opposed to finding anything negative, she’s gonna find something positive first. That’s something I really hope I can be more like her on; one of the many things I wish I could be more like my mom on. My mom, she loves flowers, so we’ll get her flowers or take her to, we’re slowly getting her into sushi, so we love to take Mom out to sushi spots on Mother’s Day.” [laughs]
Keith Urban (Nicole is extraordinary mother) OC: …to see. :45
“She’s an extraordinary mum, she really, really is. Those girls are very, very lucky, and I feel very lucky that the children I should have in this world happen to be with Nic. I don’t know anything about raising kids and Nic does, and that comes in extremely, um, it’s really made for an experience I wouldn’t have had without that. Her patience, her recognizing them as people and not just little kids is really extraordinary. Her attention to honoring their feelings and listening to them right from day one – really being attentive to that is not how I was raised at all, so it’s really beautiful to see.”
LBT (Mother’s Day) OC: …for my mother. :34
“Being a mother is a life-long dream for me. When I was a kid, that’s what I wanted to be is a mama. It took a long time. I wasn’t ever sure that I would be, but I am now, and it’s the greatest gift of my life. And as I’m a mother now, I see what my mother gave up and her sacrifices and her love and how she made us the most important thing in her life, and that’s what I strive to do for my little girl. It’s the most important job I have, and it’s the most responsibility that I have, and I try to live up to a great example that I had for my mother.”
Maddie & Tae (Mother’s Day-Tae) OC: …was so fun. :25
TAE: “To this day one of the best surprises I’ve ever pulled off was on Mother’s Day three years ago. ‘Cause my mom’s birthday always tends to fall on Mother’s Day Weekend – it’s coming up – and my mom and dad were coming into Nashville and I was like, ‘Okay-this has got to be a big weekend. It’s Mother’s Day, her birthday and the weather was going to be beautiful, so I planned this awesome surprise where we would drive first – she wouldn’t know where we were going, and then we ended up going canoeing down the Harpeth River [located south of Nashville], and it was so fun.”
Maddie & Tae (Mother’s Day-Maddie) OC: (Maddie) …everything’s okay. :51
MADDIE: “She is so good at balancing is what I’m trying to say. My Mom is such a great balancer, but as I’m coming into our adulthood, and all that kind of stuff, she’s very conscious about when I’m trying to be perfect and have everything in order with everything. And she’s like, you can’t. You can’t do that. Life, you have to figure out how you’re going to deal with the curveballs that are thrown out you. Are you going to catch them and whine out about it or are you going to catch them and move on? Like you have to just go with what’s thrown at you. And my Dad’s been a really, really good supporter on just not letting life’s trials bring you down and letting them just be learning tools and all of that. But, most of the time, a Mama hug can really fix anything.” TAE: “Ahh…it’s the best.” MADDIE: “If my Mom hugs me while I’m crying, everything’s okay. There’s just something about it. I’m grown, but, my Mom, if she hugs me, everything’s okay.”
Parker McCollum (Mother’s Day) OC: …those from her. :20
“I mean, she’s just a fantastic woman who went above and beyond for us as kids to always make sure, probably even when we weren’t able to have things, she still made those happen. Everybody says I look like her. She’s just an incredibly caring and very, very sincere person, so I would hope I got those from her.”
Sam Hunt (Mother’s Day) OC: … with my mom. 1:10
“I knew I had a great mother, and I was blessed and lucky to be born into my family, but until I got out into the real world, I didn’t realize how unique and rare and how much I really hit the lottery with her. She’s raised in the South, and she is all the things that a lot of Southern women are, the good things, but selfless is the word that comes to mind right off the bat. Her life has been devoted to me, my brothers and our family for as long as I can remember her. So, her life revolved around us and that was something that the love that she showed us through those sacrifices has been, I know, a huge part of my ability to go out into the world and cope with all the things that come my way. I’m standing on firm ground, I know, because I grew up in a loving household and that started with my mom.”
Shania Twain (joy to be a parent) OC: …means everything. :14
“It’s such a joy to be a parent. So, I relate to all the mums out there who are getting all their love and appreciation from their kids, and I hope, when you’re a kid, a child of somebody, show your mum you love her, because it means everything.”
Travis Denning (Mother’s Day) OC: …like crazy. :29
“You know, my favorite thing about my mom, especially as I get older, is realizing how much me and her have in common. I just love that she’s passionate about music. She loves it. I mean, she’s turned me on to a lot of artists, but at the core like she’s still Mom. She reminds me to do things and does these things which that I couldn’t live without. I love that we get to be friends, we get to be best friends, but at the same time, she’s still Mom and she still loves me and my sister like crazy.”