“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.”
Jon Pardi released his debut album, Write You a Song, seven years ago this week (January 14th, 2014). He has since exploded on the country charts with four No. 1 songs.
Write You A Song contains both of Pardi’s breakthrough hits—“Missin’ You Crazy” and “Up All Night”–as well as tracks that veer from pure honky-tonk and party songs to tales of love and romance. The bottom line, though, is pure, stage-worthy high energy.
“All I ever wanted to do coming to Nashville,” says Jon, “was to write rowdy, in-your-face, straight country music, and that’s what this album is.”
The album’s title track packs the kind of punch that marks Pardi as heir to a honky-tonk line that runs through Buck Owens and Dwight Yoakam, and its spare instrumentation brings a purist’s grit to heartfelt tales of road life. “What I Can’t Put Down” is an ode to the addictive nature of cigarettes, alcohol, love and, above all, music. “Trash A Hotel Room” is not, as might be expected, a tale of road excess, but rather a tale of two lovers getting back to basics, and “Happens All The Time” makes a terrific song out of a pick-up line. If there is a bit of autobiographical philosophy here, it’s in the fan-favorite “Chasin’ Them Better Days,” an infectious look at hope and dreams in the worlds of music and love.
Jon has recently released his latest song, “Tequila Little Time,” from his third studio album, Heartache Medication. He released a deluxe version of the record with two new songs late last year, as well as Rancho Fiesta Sessions, a collection of cover songs that he recorded in his shop during the earlier days of the pandemic.
Jon Pardi (Write You a Song) OC: …a Song. :51
“Well, ‘Write You a Song’ was the second song I’d ever co-written in Nashville, and it was like 2010, maybe in 2009, and it just stuck for so long. That’s a long time to just stick around, but once you hear it, it’s just so in your face and it’s fun. It’s talking about this guy that tours around the country in a van, and he’d always meet girls at shows, and he’s just having fun and they’re having fun. It doesn’t sound like me at all, you know, it doesn’t sound like me at all. But, this song has brought that guy to life, who’s not me, I’m just saying. It’s about writing chicks songs, and as I listen to the 11 songs, ‘Write You a Song,’ sticks out, and that’s why it’s the title track. It’s like you want to have a title for your essay you turned in in high school, or you have a title for your track list. Boom – ‘Write You a Song.’”
Jon Pardi released his new single, “Tequila Little Time,” today (Monday, January 4th). The tune, which he co-wrote with Rhett Akins and Luke Laird, is from his ACM and CMA-nominated album, Heartache Medication. Jon says the tune is really fun and goes well with a good time.
“I feel like this goes great on a boat, a lake or pool and just any kind of atmosphere of having a good time,” says Jon. “It’s about picking up a girl that’s down and maybe, maybe we want to do a shot of tequila? There’s no answer, but maybe. She starts feeling better, and it’s fun. It’s just a fun song.”
For more information on Jon, go to jonpardi.com.
Jon Pardi (Tequila Little Time) OC: …a fun song. :16
“I feel like this goes great on a boat, a lake or pool and just any kind of atmosphere of having a good time. It’s about picking up a girl that’s down and maybe, maybe we want to do a shot of tequila? There’s no answer, but maybe. She starts feeling better, and it’s fun. It’s just a fun song.”
2020 will go down in history as one of the worst and most difficult years in our history. Every single person has dealt with loss, fear, uncertainty, working from home (or losing a job), rebuilding from tornadoes, fires, hurricanes, recovering from COVID-19 and much more.
For the music industry, live entertainment came to a screeching halt with production folks, crew and musicians losing their respective gigs since artists weren’t able to tour. The industry rallied and many artists pivoted and really helped us navigate through a bad year by releasing a ton of new music and performing virtual shows.
For this post, we’re revisiting some of your favorite artists’ hangover cures, which a few of us could’ve used nearly every day this year while dealing with a global pandemic. We’ve also been able to check in with a few artists about what they hope 2021 brings. One thing is for certain–we are all looking forward to shedding the horribleness of 2020, hopefully getting a fresh start in the new year AND getting through this together.
Brandon Lay (2021) OC: …I can’t wait. :18
“The one thing that I’m looking forward to most for 2021 is definitely the road. It has been too long, and I am so ready to get with the band. I’m ready for loud music, and I’m ready for fans and seeing familiar faces out there in the crowd. And I just, I can’t wait.”
Brothers Osborne (New Year) OC: (TJ) …next month. :44
JOHN: “I think it’s kind of funny how we spend literally the last moment and the very first moment of every year being extremely intoxicated, extremely, because you don’t want to wait until like 12:30 to get your buzz on. You’ve got to do it before midnight, and then once midnight happens, you’re like, ‘Omigod! Now it’s time to celebrate even more.’ Debauchery is the literally bookending your entire year.” TJ: “I love how everyone starts the year off with diets and then we end the year with like excessive amounts of food. And then you get to the end of the year, you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m going to start a diet on the 1st, so I’m going to eat everything that’s in front of me.’ I love it.” JOHN: “And come February 1st, ‘what diet?’” [laughs] TJ: “What diet? I’ll start it next month.” [laughs]
Dierks Bentley (New Year’s) OC: …in stride. 1:11
“New Year’s is rough. New Year’s hurts no matter what’s going o n. I’ve played a lot of New Year’s shows, you know, but I’ve honestly found that it’s not my favorite night to throw down. Look, for a living, that’s what I do. Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, I host a big party; not only on stage, but I’ve got friends backstage. It starts before the concert sometimes, [and] it goes long after the concert, so a lot of times on New Year’s, I’m looking for a really mellow hang – a good party, good friends, pretty chill. Some of my best New Year’s – it doesn’t make for great radio – but some of my best New Year’s have been just like actually hearing fireworks go off while I’m in bed, [laughs] and know I’m gonna wake up the next morning for the first day of the New Year feeling great, feeling recharged and I’m ready to go ad go into the New Year feeling good as opposed to going into it with a giant Jagerbomb hangover, which I’ve done many, many times. So, the goal this year is to go into it feeling pretty good and the kids help with that, because you really just don’t want to be hungover with children. It’s not a good feeling. You would probably admit to any crime to get them, just feel better, and get them leave you alone. So, [I’m] gonna try to hit New Year’s this year in stride.”
Eric Church (looking ahead to 2021) OC: …looking forward to. 1:11
“I think, for me, the thing I’m looking forward to most next year is getting around the corner from this virus and getting some kind of normalcy. I’m confident that next year is when we’ll finally put this in the rearview at some point in time. We’re all looking for a vaccine early in the year and the more we can take the cases down between January and May, I think the higher likelihood that we’ll be on a stage somewhere in the fall, late summer/fall, and then certainly into the fourth quarter. So, I’m looking forward to that. I know there may be some early stuff where we can’t be at capacity. I get that, but I’m looking forward to being back at capacity and being, seeing people grouped up and arms around each other’s shoulders and just, I miss that. I miss playing. I miss the camaraderie. I miss going town-to-town and doing that. It’s just what I was born to do, and I miss seeing the fans. Next year, we’re all hopeful, I’m hopeful and quite confident, actually, that next year will be the year that we get to start doing that and then hopefully more and more as we go. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Jon Pardi (looking forward to 2021) OC: …that was awesome. :28 “For next year – 2021 – I’m looking forward to some kind of medication/vaccine to help people, to make people immune to this virus that is ruining EVERYTHING! So, I look forward to that and hopefully we’ll get that going and then we’ll be back to concerts and full capacity sports games and bars and honky tonks and…it looks like 2019. Remember 2019? That was awesome.”
Jon Pardi (hangover cure) OC: …deal with it. :20
“My hangover cure is Bloody Marys, but be careful – because once you have a couple, don’t go to beer, because if you go to beer, you’re gonna start drinking again and you’ll end up a morning drunk. OR if you want to go the non-alcoholic route, there’s nothing you can do for hangovers. [laughs] You just go deal with it.”
Kacey Musgraves (hangover cure) OC: …water. Yup! :32
“Coconut water is a major help with hangovers and also, a lot of times we go and eat Vietnamese pho. It’s a soup, and it’s got this awesome broth. You can get different things in it or whatever, but for some reason, it’s just like…it’s almost like a chicken noodle soup kind of an idea, you know, but it’s good. That’s good for hangovers too. That, sleep, Tylenol, coconut water and just water, in general. And when you’re drinking, have your alcohol, drink a little bit of water, drink some more alcohol, drink some water. Yup!”
Kassi Ashton (looking to 2021) OC: …this year. :25
“Next year, I’m looking forward to — all fingers and toes and hair crossed — I’m looking forward to, hopefully, touring. That’s what we all want. That’s why we signed up for this gig in the first place is I just want to be on stage with my friends making music, making art and taking people away from the troubles of this year.”
Kip Moore (avoiding hangovers on NYE) OC: …yourself. :03
“Pace yourself on New Year’s – that’s the remedy. Pace yourself.”
Luke Bryan (New Years-best) OC: …great night. :17
“My best New Year’s Eve is definitely when my wife and I started back dating. We started back dating right before Christmas, and we went on a trip down to Florida and met some friends. And her birthday is New Year’s Eve. We celebrated it that night. It was just a great night.”
Parker McCollum (looking forward to in 2021) OC: …to each other. :08
“What I’m most looking forward to in 2021? Hopefully, getting back on stage and people being allowed to stand next to each other.”
Travis Denning (looking forward to 2021) OC: …to normal. :10
“The one thing I’m looking forward to in 2021 is getting back on the road; playing concerts, getting back in the swing of things and just getting back to normal.”
Travis Denning (favorite New Year’s Eve party) OC: …it was good. :41
“I think my favorite New Year’s Eve party ever was when my sister got married, and my sister’s party got done at 10:30, 10:45 and she got married right behind a little club that I played a lot in Macon, Georgia called the Crazy Bull and love the owner. We’re boys, you know? So, we just literally walked right over and burned the house down. That was one of my favorite New Year’s Eve memories, ‘cause I got to see my sister and brother-in-law get married and that was such a great, great time, and then me and my older cousin and best friend, we ended up at Waffle House that night, so it was good.”