At 34, Jon Pardi Is Doing His Bit to Infuse Country Music With Western Images

He Doesn’t Sing About Cowboys or Ranch Life, But It’s In His Videos

California born Jon Pardi, who enters his 34th year Monday (May 20), is doing his part to keep a western element in what Billboard magazine used to label “country & western” music. Both historically and currently, this format has been dominated by the working class music of the rural South. But from Jimmie Rodgers to Bob Wills to Ernest Tubb to George Strait and Garth Brooks, it’s also had a broad strain of cowboy/rodeo/wide open spaces themes and images.

Pardi’s loyalty to things western is most apparent in his music videos (although the lyrics of “Heartache on the Dance Floor” place the action in “some little West Coast town). The singer’s cowboy hats and boots and his tall, athletic frame, clad in tight tucked-in shirts and jeans, are all tip-offs to his sartorial orientation. The prominence of fiddle and steel guitar sounds add to the western ambiance.

Take a look at these five videos to see where Pardi’s heart lies:

  • 2015: “Back on the Backroads”

    Embedded from www.youtube.com.

    As early as the videos for “Up All Night” (2013) and “What I Can’t Put Down” (2014), Pardi was wearing cowboy hats, but here, in black and white footage, he goes full cowboy, riding a horse while playing his guitar and, in one scene, even twirling his six-shooter.

  • 2016: “Head Over Boots”

    Embedded from www.youtube.com.

    The setting is a western dance hall in a video that alternates from sepia, to black and white to color. In the black and white scenes, Pardi and two singing buddies wear ornate western duds and sing into a single antique microphone in the manner of Riders in the Sky. Pardi even displays some Dwight Yoakam footwork as he plays his guitar by the jukebox.

  • 2017: “Dirt on My Boots”

    Embedded from www.youtube.com.

    Wholly in black and white, the narrative is split between scenes of Pardi performing to a shouting crowd and footage of woman riding on horseback before getting ready to attend the Pardi concert (and stare at him adoringly). No backwoods swimming holes, scantily clad beauties and pricey pickup trucks in this one.

  • 2017: “Heartache on the Dance Floor”

    Embedded from www.youtube.com.

    While not cowboy-themed this clip is undoubtedly western. It features Pardi walking past surfboards to lie on an ocean beach and dream about an irresistible but elusive siren. His “horse” for this outing is an antique hardtop that he drives around town, looking for his fantasy girl.

  • 2018: “She Ain’t in It”

    Embedded from www.youtube.com.

    Another black-and-white epic in which Pardi plays a heartbroken ranch hand who, when he’s not flashing back to more romantic times, repairs a barn, hauls hay, twirls a rope and trains a horse. There’s nothing in the lyrics that conjures up these specific images, but they fit perfectly.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.