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Jon Pardi: Basking in the glory of his first number one album (Includes interview)

Jon Pardi first came to my attention in 2014 with “Up All Night,” the infuriatingly catchy second single off his Top 5 debut LP, Write You a Song. Here was a guy (in a cowboy hat!) who played the kind of music that’s popular with the youth of today (the song even mentions “dirt roads”), but with enough of a traditional country slant to attract fans of the old school.

Even the Saving Country Music website, highly critical of a lot of modern country music, labelled him one of the “three most promising male artists in the mainstream,” alongside William Michael Morgan and fellow great hope for the future, Mo Pitney.

How are you, Jon? What have you been doing recently?

“Everything is great! California Sunrise debuted at number one on the Billboard Country Albums Chart. Life is good!”

Congratulations on the record getting to number one. Were you pleasantly surprised by its success, or deep down did you feel you had something special during the writing and recording process?

“It’s always pleasantly surprising. I knew we had something special, but you definitely never know. It’s been a great album launch.”

How does it differ from your debut album, both musically and thematically?

“I was in a different headspace with this album. I have been out on the road for four years and have learned what the fans want and what radio wants and I’ve blended that with what I love to write and record.”

Which of the songs on there particularly stand out for you?

“‘Dirt on My Boots.’ It has this swagger to it and a different beat than the others. California Sunrise is like a playlist of songs that are all different but sound really good together. I love that about this album.”

Please could you tell me a bit about the song “Head Over Boots” and its highly enjoyable video. Were you consciously paying tribute to Dwight Yoakam with your dance moves?

“I came up with idea for ‘Head Over Boots’ at an old dance hall in Texas. I really wanted to write a song that people could dance to. It made sense to shoot the video there as well – it really brought the concept of the song to life. I just dance like Dwight naturally! And Elvis too – I can’t help it.”

Coming from California, how big an influence has Dwight Yoakam – and Californian country music in general – had on your career? What do artists like Merle Haggard and Buck Owens mean to you?

“Dwight has had a huge impact on me as a songwriter and as a singer. He was a true honky tonk singer. He was always different and always stood out to me.

“When Merle Haggard passed away, you got to see how big an impact he had on country music. Both he and Buck Owens were two of the West Coast guys who did so much to brand their country music. Even though I’m in Nashville, I do my best to keep that California swagger.”

You seem to be one of the few country singers who appeals to both the mainstream audience and the traditionalists. What’s your secret? How would you define your sound?

“There is no secret to it. I mix modern and traditional country. My tip would be not to go too far in either direction. I would define my sound as ‘modern traditional.'”

Do you think that traditional country sound is making a bit of a comeback?

“I think it’s more of a want than anything. I think it will make a comeback, but it won’t be the ’90s all over again. It will open up a lane for artists that want to be more traditional and for fans who want the more traditional sound.”

I enjoyed the collection of b-sides you put out last year. Might we see a second volume at some point?

“As of right now there is a plan for another b-sides album in 2017. Don’t know when yet…”

What are your plans for the rest of 2016 and beyond? What ambitions do you hope to fulfill?

“For the rest of 2016 I am going to be out there playing festivals and shows. I will be out on the road with Kip Moore this fall on the Me and My Kind Tour. I’m just going to keep on keepin’ on.

“As far as ambitions, I hope to keep up my relationship up with country radio and keep putting out good songs. We have more singles to get out off this record!”

For more information on country star Jon Pardi, visit his official website.

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