Colt Ford isn’t what one might call an average country music artist. Far from it, in fact. A former short-lived professional golfer, he’s worked his way up through the ranks of today’s young emerging talent and found fame through his active involvement on social media, which has garnered him 2.5 million followers, a billion streams and sales of 2 million albums in total.
He’s also a successful songwriter, having helped pen No. 1 hits for Jason Aldean (“Dirt Road Anthem”) and Brantley Gilbert (“Country Must Be Country Wide”).
In the process, he’s bent a few boundaries doing what some might consider unthinkable — injecting elements of rap and hip-hop into country music.
Nevertheless, after six albums in 11 years, Ford, real name: Jason Farris Brown, has yet to score a chart hit under his own aegis. However, that may be changing. His single “Slow Ride” accrued half a million streams within days of its release. A song with a slow, easy groove, it features rapper Mitchell Tenpenny, a decidedly unusual twist given that the song is aimed at a country audience.
For his part, Ford sees a natural fit.
“If you look at the history of country music, talking records were around before I was born,” he said. “Look at what Jerry Reed did, or a song like ‘Hot Rod Lincoln.’ It all ties together for me. People tell me that I’ve started a new trend, but I honestly don’t feel that way. My friend Charlie Daniels told me that he feels I’m just taking the next step. If that’s what Charlie says, that’s good enough for me. It’s just about good songs.”
His fans seem to be in agreement. He said most make no distinction between what might be considered the norm and Ford’s particular approach.
“Ninety-five percent of my songs have fiddle and steel guitar on them,” he said. “I consider what I do country. I’ve never considered myself anything but a country artist. If you listen to what I’m talking about and what I’m singing and the songs I’ve written and still think I’m not country, then we’re talking about two different kinds of country. When you go to my shows, the last thing you’d think is that you’re seeing some sort of rap or hip-hop guy. And when you look at my fans, you’ll think those are the most country people you’ve ever seen.”
Still, he acknowledges that there may be some traditionalists who could complain.
“Yeah, sometimes someone will say, ‘Why can’t he sound more like Conway Twitty?’” Ford said. “Well, I love Conway Twitty, but I don’t think anyone like that could get a record deal these days. Carrie Underwood doesn’t sound like Loretta Lynn to me either. Music evolves and changes.”
Giving up an established career as a successful golfer and turning to making music at the age of 38 when he released his first album, “Ride Through the Country,” might strike some as a risk, but Ford insists that it was the right move for him. He played one Web.com Tour event but missed the cut by two shots with rounds of 71 and 75.
“I could never make music go away,” he said. “People told me I was kind of crazy to do it at the age I was doing it, but my mama always told me I was hard-headed, so I didn’t listen. I just love making music and seeing people’s reactions. I knew radio wouldn’t give me a chance, but I knew there was a place for me.”
While Ford expresses gratitude for the welcome he’s received from the Nashville establishment, he said that he still feels like a bit of an outsider as far as making it to the mainstream. Nevertheless, he’s hardly complaining.
“I’m making music for a living, so I’m never going to complain about that,” he said. “My fans relate to me. This is who I am.”
In that regard, Ford said it’s also important that his music delivers meaningful messages. That’s evident in another recent single, “We the People,” a song about bringing people together regardless of race, color or religion.
“It has to be honest and real for me,” he said. “It’s important to say these things when you have a platform. I don’t dig into politics like a lot of entertainers. I don’t think you should use that platform to spout out your personal ideas. I think you should use it as the gift God gave you, to entertain and help folks forget about stuff for a while. People are there to hear the music. However, it does have to mean something to me. I have to feel it. You can’t be afraid to stand up either.”
Ford also offers advice to those who still don’t quite comprehend what they may construe as an otherwise unorthodox approach.
“It’s an interesting dichotomy, I guess,” Ford said. “If you don’t understand it, come to one of my shows. If you see it, you’ll probably understand it, and if don’t understand it at that point, you’ll just probably never going to like it. And that’s OK.”
Ultimately, Colt credits his fans for creating the success that he’s had. He credits his presence on social media with helping him early on.
“I feel like my career was built that way,” he said. “I wasn’t given the big No. 1 hit. I had to build an underground following. I wanted to connect with my fans, to shake their hands, to hear their stories. I felt like it was important. If people are paying their hard-earned money to come to see you, then you owe them everything you’ve got. At least that’s the way I see it.”