Colt Ford's new album is aptly titled Every Chance I Get -- fitting for a performer who admits, "I'll play in somebody's back yard." With more than 200 live shows in 2009 as well as 2010, he plans on repeating those numbers in 2011.
"I've played in arenas. I've played on the back of flatbed trucks. I've played in front of 100,000 people and I've played in front of five. And I play the same way every time. It makes no difference to me," says the fast-talking Georgia native.
While Ford says he tries to "throw some surprises" in his albums, which are a blend of country and rap, he's also very cognizant of who he is as an entertainer. "I think you should always push yourself," he explains, "but you've got to be very conscious of who you are and what you are. I'm not going to come out here with this little album of 10 ballads on there because that's not who Colt Ford is."
Released Tuesday (May 3), Every Chance I Get essentially features a who's who of country music's leading men. The album's first single, "Country Thang," includes vocals from Eric Church. Other collaborations include Tim McGraw on "Twisted," Luke Bryan on "Work It Out," Craig Morgan on "She Wants to Ride in Trucks" and Charlie Daniels on "Overworked & Underpaid."
In addition, Ford is credited as a co-writer, with Brantley Gilbert, on Jason Aldean's "Dirt Road Anthem." A label that Ford founded, Average Joe's Entertainment, has also added Montgomery Gentry to its roster.
Although Ford says there's a long list of artists he'd like to work with in the future, his main concern is with making music that's "real and authentic." He explains, "I don't want to do it if it's made up or somebody says, 'Hey, we're going to put y'all together and y'all don't really know each other, but it'll look cool. ...' I don't want to do that. It just has to be the right feeling that we could get together and make something cool."
Ford's thoughts on collaborating are much in line with his overall view of country music which he quickly sums up in lyrics from "Country Thang." "It's either in your blood or it ain't."
The music industry is taking note of Ford's innovative sound, apparent from an ACM nomination for his collaboration with Jamey Johnson on "Cold Beer." Other nominees in the vocal event category included Zac Brown Band and Alan Jackson, Emily West and Keith Urban, Uncle Kracker and Kid Rock, and Loretta Lynn, Sheryl Crow and Miranda Lambert. While the Zac Brown Band-Jackson song "As She's Walking Away" ultimately took home the award, Ford describes the experience as "pretty surreal" and says he's honored to "be on a list with those people that are so fantastic. It's pretty humbling."
Ford modestly explains how the ACM nomination serves as an indication he's on the right track with his music. "I never made one song in my whole life to win an award," he says. "I just tried to make the best songs I could make and I still try to do that. There's nothing cooler than ... knowing that that's my peers and musicians and other artists going, 'Hey man, we gotta give Colt Ford a little props here. He's doing some pretty cool things.'"
On the subject of giving props, Ford is quick to point out the commitment of the musicians who back him up. "I'm not a band, but it feels like that with the people that I play music with," he says. "They're as big a part of what I do as anything. They can really have an effect on what you do. And the fans can tell whether they're really into this or they're going through the motions. If you come to my show, you'll know me and my folks are way into what we're doing up there, and we consider it a blessing to be able to play music and that people are there to watch it."
Ford realized early on that music and golf were two areas in which he excelled. "I was always able to hit a golf ball and be a good athlete, and I was always able to write songs and was kind of a performer," he says. Although he played golf professionally and also worked as an instructor, he ultimately chose to focus on his music.
Ford's energetic stage presence comes naturally as he explains that performing "was always something that's been in me. I didn't cultivate it. It's just who I am. ... When people see me onstage, they're really seeing me. It ain't nothing fake. It's me having a blast giving them everything I got."
Wise words from his mother seem to have resonated with Ford throughout his musical journey. "My whole life my momma always told me that God never gives you anything He doesn't intend for you to use," he says. And while he admits that "it's been hard for Nashville to understand me," that doesn't seem to be the case for his wide range of fans.
"You come to one of my shows, and there's literally these little bitty kids that are 4 and 5 years old singing every word. And their parents are 35 or 40 and they're singing every word, and their mom and dad are there, 60, and they're singing every single word," he says. "The passion from my fans is unbelievable."
While some artists may lose sight of the dedication of their supporters, Ford looks at the bigger picture as he examines that mindset. "Without these fans, truthfully what would you really be doing with your life? Where would you be? I'm not saying that you wouldn't be successful, but would you be living like you live? Would you be riding around in a million dollar tour bus? Would you have fancy cars and houses and be able to do all that kind of stuff?"
He concludes, "I think that I owe those fans. And they're loyal to me and I'm fiercely loyal to them. I'll defend them till the very end because they do that for me."