Jon Pardi hopes fans find their own slice of country heaven in his latest album California Sunrise.
Throughout the 12-song collection, Pardi shines at setting classic country melodies to modern percussion in a danceable throwback style that is all his own. His playful references to country fashion disarm the listener in the sexy “Cowboy Hat,” “Dirt on My Boots” and his sweet sunny single “Head Over Boots” — his second gold hit following “Up All Night.” Currently, it’s the only shuffle in the Top 10 that can easily be sung to babies at night and loved ones anytime. That’s something to smile about.
And he comes by it honestly after being raised on ‘90s country by Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson. Growing up, he even had an outfit to match his favorite music.
“I was a huge Garth Brooks fan,” Pardi says over the phone on a bumpy ride through New York City while on the way to a record store signing. “One time, my grandma made me a black and white checkered shirt like the one he wore on [The Chase]. I totally rocked it one time. To me, that’s what country’s supposed to sound like or resemble that kind of sound. That why I think it sticks with me so much.”
Plus, he’s a sucker for a good story. While he didn’t write the opener “Out of Style” (the track was written by hitmaker Lynn Hutton, Eric Church guitarist Jeff Hyde and The Cadillac Three drummer Neil Mason), Pardi admits the lyrics are authentic to his Nashville life.
The first verses have the protagonist moving to town where he’s quickly schooled in the Music Row system of making modern country. But when he puts pen to paper, he sticks to writing about timeless country themes that never go out of style.
Leading into the chorus, Pardi sings, “And it goes/Jesus saves and beer’s better cold/A good woman’s made to love not just to hold/Monday through Friday sure takes awhile/We all get sideways and go that extra mile/The common ways we work and play/Are still alive and well today/Don’t need to find a new way to say/We don’t go out of style.”
The kicker is when the character hits the stage and plays for an audience that sings along to every word despite the song’s chart performance. In the third verse, Pardi sings, “It may never see a bullet in a billboard magazine/But then I’ve never been the kind to go out chasing smoking guns/All I know is all of us tonight know all the words/And we’re acting like/It’ll be a week before the weekend’s done.”
“I love the story of the guy coming to Nashville and then kind of getting set down and told this is how the town works, which I’ve totally been there,” he says. “But the coolest thing about ‘Out of Style’ is it’s a song within a song. I just thought it was so cool to have this story and also have this chorus that says a bunch of stuff that we can all still relate to, and it’s never going to go out of style.”
When asked about the courage it takes to sticking to classic themes despite what’s trending, Pardi said it’s the kind of country he’s always done.
“I’m not even afraid of what I’m doing,” he says. “I chose to be this guy. It’s who I want to be and it’s always been me — just keepin’ it country.”
And he agrees his current success is a matter of timing.
“It’s timing and sticking to what you do,” he adds. “And we really wanted to get that modern sound but keep it country at the same time. It’s got to have a good beat. You gotta have a good beat to survive in modern country in general. Everyone wants to feel good, laugh, dance and cry. But at the same time they all want it to sound happy.”
California Sunrise is available now. He will join Kip Moore on the road this fall on Moore’s Me and My Kind tour, starting Sept. 30 in Oklahoma City.