Who is Colt Ford? He’s a former pro-golfer, a hit songwriter, a patriot, a father, a country singer and most of all, dedicated to his family and his fans. Colt Ford has fought a battle his entire career to have his music heard by the masses but has unjustly been ignored by the powers that be at country radio. His fans are amongst the most loyal of any country artist and they support his music which is all that matters. Recently, New England Country Music was invited onto Colt’s tour bus to chat about life, music and family.
Colt’s work ethic and homegrown roots were sewed early on in his life as he grew up with a father who didn’t have inside plumbing until he was 18 years old and worked picking cotton. His family were big supporters of his inclination to music at an early age, “I’ve always rhymed words since I was little as my Momma would say a word and I’d rhyme something to it. Guess we can blame my Momma for all of this.” He grew up listening to country legends like Johnny Cash and Kenny Rogers (first concert he attended) but also was a fan of Elvis, the Sugarhill Gang and Run DMC. It was evident that his taste for music spanned all genres, “I just love music. Music transcends politics, religions and cultures.” Music wasn’t the only thing growing up that he was good at, as Ford was and still is a great golfer. He had a full college scholarship to play golf and was able to turn that into a living as a pro-golfer and teacher for 7-8 years, which allowed him to provide a living for his family. His other love was never far behind though, “My Momma always said God doesn’t give you anything he doesn’t intend for you to use.”
As a writer, Colt co-wrote and cut ‘Dirt Road Anthem’ with Brantley Gilbert, who put the song on his debut album ‘Halfway To Heaven.’ The song saw it’s biggest success when Jason Aldean recorded the single for his 2010 album, ‘My Kinda Party.’ This is an example of the problem that has plagued Ford throughout his career, he is an amazing artist that country radio won’t give a break to.
“If you wrote my lyrics down on a piece of paper and wrote most pop stuff down on country radio down, then handed it to someone who doesn’t listen to country and asked them who’s more country? I would win every time. Jamey Johnson is a fantastic singer but country radio isn’t going to play him and he’s one of the greatest country artists I’ve ever heard. If I brought Keith Whitley to Nashville today, unless he sang songs that they wanted done, he wouldn’t get a record deal.”
Over the years, Colt has been referred to as being a ‘hick hop’ artist but he himself has never called himself that. His style of music is a throwback to the early days of country music when a lot of artists such as C.W. McCall, Tex Williams and even Johnny Cash sang in spoken word form. Ford says, “Songs have always had words that rhymed, so not like I created something new.” After realizing that he was at a crossroads as far as radio success goes, he did what any artist would do and started his own record label. Ford co-founded Average Joe’s Entertainment and told us how this came about.
“When we started the label we didn’t have a choice. People in Nashville loved my music but didn’t know what to do with it. For me, we had no choice but to start our own label. We’ve been lucky to have some success for myself and with other artists who do what I do. Also, we have some mainstream artists on the roster. We need the music to mean something as I don’t make manufactured music. I don’t want that to be a part of what I do on my record label. If you keep it honest and real, then the fans will figure it out. Would it be awesome to have a #1 single? Hell yeah, I’d love to have one. But I’m not going to sell my soul to have one.”
There is a huge reason that Ford has been able to thrive and survive in country music for years… his fans! This is one fact that has never been lost on him and that he couldn’t be more thankful for, “I survive because of the fans and that’s why my new record was called, ‘Thanks For Listening.’ I call it that for a reason as the fans make every artist who we are, some artists forget about that. It ain’t about you, as we’ll all go away and new artists will come along. The songs are what live on and I make music that the fans wanna hear.” Colt is one of the most active artists when it comes to speaking and interacting with his fans. He has a huge presence on his social media sites, most notably his Twitter account where you can always see him responding to fans:
“95% of artists on social media don’t answer themselves. For me, I don’t get it as I love talking to the fans. I take the good with the bad and if it gets ugly then I say ‘God Bless and have a good day.’ Social media has allowed people to say whatever they want and think there are no repercussions. It does allow me to have real conversations with my fans. I hear stories about what’s going on in their lives or a soldier saying how much it means to him. That’s what it’s all about to me. My time is no more important then theirs so I don’t understand not taking the time to talk to fans.”
This combo of great talent and love for his fans has been a recipe for success over the years. There’s not a single song that he has recorded he hasn’t believed in or wanted to cut. This makes it even more difficult to see why the country music family has embraced him but country radio has been slow to even crack open the door and listen to what the fans want. Ford was told by a longtime record executive that his song ‘Ride In the Country’ with John Michael Montgomery was one of the best true country songs he has heard in his 30 year career. The song encompasses what Colt is all about… God, family, friends, America and hard work.
Ford isn’t able to pinpoint what song has meant the most to him over the course of his career as everything that he has written means something to him for a different reason. He was able to pick out a few that have an extra special place for him though:
“One is ‘Ride Through the Country’ that is near the top of the list as it’s one of the first things I wrote. People at the time always said you’re out of your mind and you can’t do this. You’re too old, too fat and even though you’re extremely good looking it won’t happen. Then they heard it and said you might be onto something here. ‘Sip It Slow’ is another one that I wrote for my 15 year-old son and recorded it with Lee Brice. Also, ‘Bad’ means a lot to me as that’s my life and everything in that song is an actual event. I talk about my best friend growing up in a wheelchair. Played hide and seek and we pushed him, went to the skating rink and we pushed him. Shit, we didn’t know any different as he was just our buddy. I try to write about stuff that’s honest and real.”
The life of a country musician certainly is a great adventure, with a lot of benefits and great memories. What fans don’t get to see is the flipside of these artists being out on the road trying to make this dream happen but at the same time having to be away from home and their family. Colt is extremely blessed to have a family that supports him chasing his dream as it’s a lot of work on them at home to maintain things without him being there, “It’s tough to get play by play on a baseball game when you’re a thousand miles away. Lucky that my 3 year-old can work an iPhone and she FaceTimes me all the time.”
Most people around these parts would be shocked to know that Ford is actually a huge fan of Boston sports. He grew up being a huge Celtics, Red Sox, Larry Bird and Patriots fan. His love for New England sports teams comes from his ties to the Patriots. Former Pats running back Andy Johnson grew up in Georgia and played here during the Steve Grogan era. Colt’s father helped raise Andy as he was growing up and Ford still even has a Patriots leather jacket from when he was 5 years old that was given to him by Johnson.
Throughout his years in country music he has made many friends in and out of the music business. This has given fans and added bonus to Colt’s music as he has been able to partner up with many different artists such as Brantley Gilbert, Jake Owen, Chase Rice, Darius Rucker and Eric Church. One of his favorite collaborations that he has done was when he recorded ‘Cut Em All’ for his ‘Thanks For Listening’ album with Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty.
“Willie and I have been friends for a long time as I knew him and his family way before Duck Dynasty. I put it together for him to be in the video for Tyler Farr’s ‘Redneck Crazy‘ video. This came about because some buddies of mine had made a track which the music included duck sounds. I had been sitting on this song for about 3 years as I had it since before ‘Declaration of Independence’ came out. The song got sent back to me again and I came up with the hook as it all started to make sense. I wrote Willie’s part, sent it to him and asked him… what do you think? He said, ‘dude I love it and I’m in.’ “This is my 3 year olds favorite song as she says, ‘you hear those ducks? I’m gonna shoot ’em!”
As the interview was winding down we got to speaking again about his love for all different types of music. I asked him what bands who would pick if he could put together his own type of mega-concert. This caught him off guard as he’d never been asked this before. After consulting with his tour manager and band the answer was: Eric Church, Ramstein, Run DMC, Elvis, Prince, and The Eagles. “Put that together and I’ll pay a thousand dollars.”
In the future, Colt just plans on making more music, keep playing shows and make stuff that people like, “Any artist that loves music and plays it for a living should thank their lucky stars as it’s a blessing.” Ford is also working on a television show and would love to one day do some movies as, “America has always loved a funny, fat, white guy.” Ford’s main hope is that his kids get raised up right and get off doing the right things, “I don’t covet airplanes and shit like that.” He can’t ask for more than his family and to just play music. He left us with one of the best inspirational quotes I’ve heard, “I’ll give out before I give up.”
New England Country Music would like to thank Colt Ford for taking the time to speak with us. It was truly an honor as he is one of the most genuine and real people I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with. You can’t help but admire and be inspired by him as his love for music, country and family transcends everything else. The man is one great country singer who just gets it.
This interview was conducted by NECM contributing writer Mike Sullivan. You can follow me on Twitter.