“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.”
Amazon Music announced today a brand-new, Amazon Original by multi-platinum-selling country star, Jon Pardi. The reimagined version of his latest single, “Ain’t Always the Cowboy,” was produced by Pardi alongside Bart Butler and Ryan Gore, who produced his most recent album Heartache Medication. The track features a beautiful orchestral element, and is only available to stream on all tiers of Amazon Music, including in immersive, 3D Audio with Amazon Music HD, the highest quality streaming experience available. Pardi’s Amazon Original is the first from a UMG Nashville artist to become available in 3D Audio.
Listen to “Ain’t Always the Cowboy (Amazon Original) here
Download the single artwork here
“I really wanted the new version to sound like a song from a movie soundtrack,” said Jon Pardi. “I talked to my co-producers and we were able to come up with a version that I feel is totally different, but still keeps the integrity of the song. I loved how it turned out!”
The country star’s critically acclaimed third studio album, Heartache Medication (Capitol Records Nashville), is nominated for this year’s ACM Album of the Year award, and it has earned praise from NPR, Associated Press, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Billboard, ET, People, Variety, Rolling Stone and more. Pardi’s corresponding headlining Heartache Medication Tour rocked the fall with sold-out dates across the country from Nashville to Bakersfield while the title track hit No. 1 on the country radio airplay charts.Heartache Medication is the follow-up to Pardi’s Platinum-certified album California Sunrise. California Sunrise debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart and helped earn the California native CMA New Artist of the Year and ACM New Male Vocalist of the Year titles. Pardi dominated the top of the country music charts with consecutive No. 1 hits including multi-week chart-topper “Dirt On My Boots,” the Platinum-selling “Head Over Boots” and “Heartache On The Dance Floor,” plus Pardi’s Top 20 hit, “She Ain’t In It” and his Gold-selling Top 5 working-man’s mantra, “Night Shift.” Pardi’s debut album, Write You A Song, yielded top-10, Platinum-selling hit “Up All Night,” “What I Can’t Put Down,” “Missin’ You Crazy” and “When I’ve Been Drinkin.’” For more information, visit www.jonpardi.com.
Amazon Music listeners can find the new track on Certified Country, a playlist featuring new releases across the genre. Customers can also simply ask, “Alexa, play the Amazon Original by Jon Pardi” in the Amazon Music app for iOS and Android and on Alexa-enabled devices. In addition to the new track, Amazon Music listeners can access hundreds of Amazon Originals featuring both emerging and established artists across numerous genres, available to stream and purchase only on Amazon Music.
For more information on Jon Pardi, please contact Leigh Parr Malleus at email@example.com
For more information on Amazon Music, please contact Beth O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org or David Marek at email@example.com
Grand Ole Opry member Keith Urban will perform on the stage of the Opry on Saturday (May 16th). He will be joined by Kelsea Ballerini and singer/songwriter Morgan Evans on the Grand Ole Opry’s 4,924th consecutive Saturday night broadcast. The performance will broadcast live on Circle and Gray TV stations, DISH Studio Channel 102, Sling TV and other TV affiliates, in addition to a companion live stream on Circle All Access and YouTube. For the past nine weeks, during this current global pandemic, the Grand Ole Opry has overcome many challenges and obstacles as health guidelines and local/state government restrictions have evolved weekly. The Opry, with the help of its membership and wider artist and industry community, has continued to bring millions of fans around the world together to keep the music playing without an Opry House audience in attendance.
Jon Pardi scores his fifth No. 1 as Thomas Rhett’s “Beer Can’t Fix” (featuring the California Cowboy) climbs to the top spot on the country charts. Jon’s latest single “Ain’t Always the Cowboy” is sitting inside the Top 40.
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