Country Cuts: A Q&A with Colt Ford
Colt Ford recently took some time to chat with us about country music radio, getting songs cut by other artists, and big-time collaborations on his upcoming album:
The new album is called Declaration Of Independence. Tell us about the meaning and how this album is different from your older material.
I went backwards so to speak. I went back to the roots of my first record. When I didn’t know any rules about what they wanted in Nashville. They wanted a certain length song or they didn’t want you to say this or that. I just went back to saying whatever I wanted to say, how I wanted to say it, the way I would say it, and just be as honest and real and open as I can. That’s what I did.
Some of the things Eric Church says like, “I like music that chooses sides.” I’m like that, too. I want you to know who I am when you hear these songs. I think it’s the best record I’ve ever made.
Can you explain a little more about “music that chooses sides?”
I think there are a lot of records that come out where the artist has tried really hard to be “vanilla” if that makes any sense.
So you’re either chocolate or strawberry?
Yeah, man. I want to be Neapolitan. I’m not interested in sitting in the middle of your fence. You know what I mean? I want to be who I am. I know what I do. And I know what I’m good at. I’m a country artist. And the country I grew up on was real and honest and vivid and you could almost see what they were singing. That’s who I am and that’s what this record is.
As always, you collaborate with a bunch of other artists on this album.
I like to do stuff with different people and this record was no exception. There were a lot of artists I checked off my “artists I want to work with” list. Darius and I have been friends for a long time and I’ve always thought his voice was something special. So we did a song together. I did a song with Kix Brooks from Brooks & Dunn. He gave me a lot of advice and became kind of a mentor. To me when you’re successful and you’ve had his kind of run… that’s what you should do for younger artists. You should always try to be there to answer those questions and help them along the way.
Who else did you bring on board?
Well, the single I have out, “Back” is with Jake Owen. Jake is one of my favorite singers. He has an amazing voice. I’d just as soon sing with Jake and an acoustic guitar. He’s crazy good. Jason Aldean is also on the record. He’s one of my best friends in the music business and we’ve tried to do a song for the last couple of records but, it had to be the right. I don’t do anything forced. It has to be right. It’s about the song first and foremost. So, we finally found the right one. Eddie and Troy from Montgomery Gentry are on there with a good old country honky tonk outlaw track called, “Out Of The Woods Yet.” Then I did a song with Wanya Morris from Boys II Men which turned out incredible.
Great songs are great songs, it doesn’t matter who sings them. That’s what a lot of artists, in my mind, need to remember. At the end of the day it isn’t really about you, it’s about the songs. The songs live on forever, not us. I want to try my damnedest to create those kinds of things that people want to listen to years from now. Look at Jamie Johnson’s last record… people forty years from now will say, “Hey man, have you heard this?” That’s what I attempt to do. I don’t know if I can or if will, but I’m certainly trying.
What’s your favorite aspect of the songwriting process?
It’s really cool when I get an idea and I get to watch it develop from that first initial thought. It’s also really cool sometimes when you sit down with other guys and you say, “Man, I’ve got this idea.” And then they help you out from there and it turns into something else.
I’ve said this before and I truly mean it… I don’t think there are bad songs. I hear people say all the time, “That song sucks.” It’s a cowardly thing to say. If somebody has the balls enough to write something and put it out there then I don’t see how you could say it’s bad. You might not like it. Or it might not be your cup of tea, but it’s cowardly to say it’s bad.
One thing that frustrates me… I’ll hear people say, “We saw some blog where so and so said that this song was bad.” Man, first of all, if Craig Wiseman and Jeffery Steele or Dallas Davidson or Rhett Akins want to critique my songs… I’d be more than happy to listen and take advice. But for some guy that probably lives in his mom’s basement and eats boogers and thinks pro-wrestling is real to tell me what he thinks is good… I don’t give a shit about that.
How much co-writing was done on the new album?
I wrote with some people I’ve never written with before. I wrote a lot with Craig Wiseman. I think there are four or five songs with Craig on the record. Him and Jeffrey Steele were two guys on my list. They motivated me. Craig and I wrote some really fun, silly stuff. And then we wrote a song called, “Angels and Demons,” which is almost a gospel song. It might be one of my favorite songs on the record. It’s very moving. Then I wrote a song with Jeffery that I thought no one would understand, except for me and him. Dan Huff heard it and decided he wanted to produce it. He said, “This is the most vivid portrayal of country life that I’ve heard in the past ten years. If Martin Scorsese wrote a country song this would be it.” That blew me away. Especially from someone I have so much respect for.
How have the new songs gone over live?
I’ve been playing a few of them for the last couple months. They’re going over great. I wrote these newer songs from a live prospective. I’m a huge Eric Church fan. I thought Chief was one of the best records I’ve heard in maybe… ever. That whole record was just amazing. He talked about writing from a live perspective. I kind of did the same thing with quite a few of these songs. Some have choruses that are so fun to sing along to and easy to pick up. And they’re going over great so, that’s huge. When you play something they’ve never heard before, you can tell whether they get it or not. And they’ve been getting it.
Who are some of your songwriting heroes?
There are so many. You could start talking about Waylon, Kristofferson.. And then some modern guys that I think are fantastic like Jamey Johnson and Eric Church. They’re phenomenal. Run DMC are incredible songwriters.
I’m a fan of anybody that writes a song and isn’t afraid put it out there. That takes some fortitude to write something and let someone else hear it. Honestly, anyone who writes a song and isn’t afraid to let somebody else hear it, is a hero of mine.
You’re a judge for Ronnie Milsap’s “Country Cut” Contest. What kind of songs will you be looking for?
Again, I’m honest and real. I feel like I’m pretty good at picking songs. As far as I know, I think what I like, people will really dig. So, it needs to be something honest and real that makes sense for Ronnie as an artist. That’s another thing that frustrates me when I see artists cut songs and I know the label or someone else made them do it. Because I know that’s not who they are. I have a real problem with that and I tell a lot of young artists, “Don’t cut something that you don’t really believe in.”
It’s really important to know who you are as an artist because it’s you out there doing it. Once you cut something you don’t like– it’s too late. It’s out there. So I want to choose something really good that will reflect who Ronnie is as an artist. To me, that might even mean passing up a good song if it’s not a good song for Ronnie. I’m lucky because I’m one of those guys who live in both worlds as a songwriter and an artist. I’ll hear a song by one of my friends and I’ll give it to an artist even if I didn’t write it because I think good songs need to be heard. That’s what you do as a songwriter. I’m not jealous if my friend is getting cuts. I’m excited for them. I’m excited for anybody to get a song cut or heard. That’s just the way I am.
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