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Jon Pardi interview

We talk to the rising star about his new album California Sunrise.

Jon Pardi
Credit: Capitol Nashville

Jon Pardi released his debut album Write You a Song in 2014, which featured his breakthrough Top 10 smash Up All Night.

Marrying traditional and contemporary Country, Pardi has made a name for himself as he stands out from the current crop of male Country artists. His latest single Head Over Boots, the first to be taken from his new album California Sunrise, is shaping up to be his most successful single to date.

Ahead of the UK release of California Sunrise on Friday, I spoke to Pardi about the success of Head Over Boots, got the lowdown on his new album, and discussed his plans to come over to the UK for some live shows.

What’s the story behind your new single Head Over Boots?

The story behind Head Over Boots…I was in Texas at my Dad’s place and I was watching everyone dance and listen to the band. They were playing old Merle Haggard songs, Western swing and stuff like that. I thought it would be cool to have a song that people could really dance to that talked about love. I woke up the next morning, had a cup of coffee and came up with ‘I wanna sweep you off your feet tonight, I wanna love you and hold you tight, spin you around on some old dance floor’ and the melody to Head Over Boots. I recorded it on my phone and then I brought it back to Nashville. I saved it for some of my buddies that I like writing with and I had a co-write coming up with Luke Laird so I played him the melody and we just kinda started working on that. We came up with Head Over Boots and that’s how it came about.

The single is one of the biggest you’ve released to date. Did you expect the reaction you’ve had to the song?

It’s been amazing to watch Head Over Boots grow. Sometimes as an artist you’ve gotta let the label pick the single because they’ve gotta go work it. I’m lucky to have a label that lets me do whatever the heck I want and then they just choose the singles. When I was first told I was like ‘Head Over Boots…that’s pretty country’ (laughs). It’s fun to watch a traditional sounding song go Top 10 and go Gold. It’s a great feeling to know that I can put out the country songs too.

It feels like there’s an appetite in Country music at the moment for tradition. Are you paving the way for other artists to work their way back to tradition?

Maybe but I’ve always ben doing that kind of sound. I think Chris Stapleton really showed that there’s a big want for (traditional Country music) and even Sturgill Simpson, he’s doing great too. It’s just bringing that to the commercial realm is hard. I try to do modern and traditional. There’s always going to be an acceptance that we need more of a traditional sound.

Your new album California Sunrise is coming out in the UK this week. What was your aim when you went into the studio to record it?

We still wanted to have that live band feel so we took studio musicians that I love, that played on demos and on the first record, and mixed it up with some new guys. Danny Rader came in, he’s a great guitar player, and we just cut it as a 7-piece band playing with a song list. It was a lot of fun too. I had so much fun cutting this record and I think that shows in the recording when you hear it; the musicianship and all of the parts was really fun. We still have that live sound with the fiddle, Jenee Fleenor on fiddle was great, Mike Johnson on pedal steel; those guys are pros. It just all came together and the song list has that kind of sexy, upbeat, fun, rip your hear out at the same time feel good old Country record.

Jon Pardi

Credit: Capitol Nashville

It feels like every song on California Sunrise could be a single. Do you feel that way?

Yeah shoot! They can all hold their weight. I would love to hear She Ain’t In It on the radio one day. I really would.If we can get that out I think it would be a great single.

Is there a song on the album that you would consider to be your favourite or that is very personal to you?

I love them all. I really love She Ain’t In It. I heard that song – I didn’t write that song Clint Daniels and Wynn Varble did – but once I heard it I was like ‘I’m recording this song, I don’t care if it’s too Country or not I’m recording it!’ I love California Sunrise, I think that’s a really cool track and it reminds me of home. I think it’s a great record. I tried my best to make it the best so we’ll see what people think (laughs).

What would you say were the biggest lessons you learned following the release of your debut album and how did those influence this album?

Being on the road for four years and being on the radio for four years…just being an artist at a national level for that period of time gives you experience that will change the way you think and you don’t even know it. From the first record to this record I turned to some publishers and songwriters for some outside songs. I had a whole list of songs that I co-wrote that could have been on the record but we had some of these great songs and I felt that if I didn’t record them we’d kinda be missing out. That’s the big difference between the first record and this record, I got more outside songs but it’s a good thing. It’s not like I didn’t have the songs, I just wanted to have what I thought would fit the album in more of a way.

Do you have any plans to come over to the UK for some live shows?

Yes I would love. We’re working on it. Hopefully in 2017. I just really wanna get the band over there, I don’t want to come just acoustic. I know the band and me would have a blast. I know everybody over in the UK would love to see the guys and watch us perform. If we come overseas we’re throwing down and it’s going to be a big party. I want everybody to be part of that and give it my all. You know how it is…getting the band over there is a big deal but we’re working on it. I’m starting to see new artists go over (to the UK) a lot more so that’s going to help.

Are you familiar with our annual C2C: Country to Country festival?

Yeah! I came over there but I didn’t play, I just drank a lot of beer. I got to see all the fans and everyone was fired up. It was pretty cool.

Maybe we’ll see you as part of the line-up for the 2017 C2C festival?

I would love that!

At the beginning of the year you wrapped up your All Time High tour. What was that experience like?

Oh man, being on the road is awesome. My fans that came to the show are ready for new music. We’ve been playing some of these of the record and they’ve been requesting songs from it and it’s not even out yet! They’re going to be fired up. Touring has been nothing but awesome. We had a blast with The Brothers Osborne – I love those guys and it’s been fun!

What’s your relationship with social media like? Do you embrace it in terms of being able to connect with your fans on a global scale?

I love social media – it’s awesome! You can stay in touch with people and make people laugh (laughs). I love that! Someone hacked my Twitter and deleted all my tweets so I’m kinda mad at those hackers out there. He was probably like 14 years old (laughs). You think if they got this what else could they do!

Social media makes artists incredibly accessible. Is it good to be able to get so much direct feedback from the fans or is there a lot of noise due to the volume of messages you get all the time?

It is and it isn’t. You just have to know how to manage it. You can’t get back to everybody. I don’t have a crazy amount of followers but when you catch the waves come in you just have fun with it. Doing cool things like Twitter chats where you can answer questions is a lot of fun.

What else do you have coming up this year?

We’ve got something going on in the fall that’s going to be announced pretty soon but I can’t talk about it because the label will get so mad at me (Since this interview took place it has been announced that Jon will be a special guest on Kip Moore’s Me and My Kind Tour). For now it’s releasing the album, fairs and festivals and watching Head Over Boots live out it’s life, We’re going to have another single out this year but I don’t know which one it’s going to be yet. There are a lot of songs that could be a single so when it comes down to choosing it’s a big discussion, which is a good problem to have let’s put it that way. Hopefully I’ll come to the UK next year.

Jon Pardi’s new album California Sunrise is released in the UK on Friday 1st July 2016. Watch the video for Head Over Boots below:

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