At first glance, Colt Ford is straight up country.
From his Georgia drawl, button-up collared shirts and cowboy hat to debuting his Declaration of Independence album at No. 1 on the Billboard country charts. But, press play and you’ll find a country twang with the wordplay of a hip hop lyricist.
“I grew up on all kinds of music. I’m a country boy. My daddy didn’t have indoor plumbing until he was 18 years old and he picked cotton, so all I know is country stuff and hard work. That is how I was raised,” said Ford.
His songs are southern sermons in a way and this self-proclaimed “bar room preacher” really does as his song Answer to No One claims. Despite listening to Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Elvis Presley, Ford became intrigued with hip hop — Rapper’s Delight by Sugarhill Gang to be exact. But to get there he had to bust out of the box that Nashville tried to hold him in. Ford says he went back to the recording studio.
“I spent a lot of time in music trying to be something else or somebody else and I think a lot of artists have tried to do that. You are pushed this way and you think you need to do this because that is what they want to hear. Really when you break it down the people who have longevity are the people that are original,” said Ford.
No doubt about it, original he is. In 2011 he collaborated with the hip hop legend DMC of Run DMC — a country boy with the King of Rock.
“It was something on my bucket list. He is the friggin’ King of Rock, he is in the rock and roll hall of fame. When you talk about Run DMC you talk about a group that moved the needle. They changed music,” said Ford. “At the end of the day he and I became good friends. He wears Levi’s, rides Harley Davidsons and has an F150.”
So what kind of influences does a hip hop legend have on a cowboy then?
“He told me he was going to get me some boots with shell toes. I thought that would be pretty cool.”
While faithful in his country ways, Ford pushes the envelope in his music to spitting rhymes over country guitars.
“I have a lot of people thanking me for what I am doing because there is a generation that loves the hip hop stuff but there was nobody talking about what they are doing. There was nobody talking about hunting, playing in the mud, taking your hat off during the national anthem. I’m talking about country stuff that they can relate to,” said Ford.
“It is the best record I have ever made, it literally gives you every aspect. No one song sounds the same and it is a record that you put on at one and you can play straight through to track 15,” said Ford.
That is saying a lot for a guy that already has sold nearly a million albums and has three million downloads. Ford, who is also a former professional golfer, covers the gambit of human emotion in the album going from honky tonk dance songs he collaborated on with Kix Brooks (Brooks & Dunn) for All In, to emotional outpourings like Back.
“It is tough to perform that one every night. That is my life laid out there right in front of you,” he said. “It’s hard not to get lost in the emotion of that song when I even talk about it. That is my real family, my wife, my kids in the video. I’m standing over the grave of my best friend growing up and I would give a million bucks if he was still here.”
While over 750,000 got to take in Ford’s performances across the U.S. in 2011, Canada, has only had a single performance from him. That’s why he is excited to join his good friend Eric Church on the cross-Canada Blood, Sweat and Beers tour. Ford said not only is he getting a chance to join his friend but also gets to soak in what he believes is the best album he has ever heard.
“I’m excited Eric is finally getting the recognition he deserves. I think Chief is one of the best country records I have ever heard,” says Ford.
The friendship and honest-to-goodness, down-home style make the pairing a great one-two punch for the audience at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Friday.
“Eric and I are both pretty intense on stage. It is full throttle when I hit the stage, that is just who I am and Eric is like that too. You will be worn flat out when you get done watching Eric and I,” promised Ford.
Purchase tickets for the Blood, Sweat and Beers tour at SOEC box office or here.