BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Sunday’s wrap on RiverFest 2018 will bring one of country music’s hottest contemporary acts.
Colt Ford is bringing a special mix of country to the Pen City Current Main Stage on Sunday night as the final act of the four days and 15 bands of RiverFest.
Ford’s career took off in 2008 with the release of Ride Through the Country, which yielded an Academy of Country Music nomination for Vocal Event of the Year for “Cold Beer featuring Jamey Johnson”.
In addition, “Dirt Road Anthem,” written by Ford and Brantley Gilbert, went on to become the first #1 song for both artists as songwriters when Jason Aldean cut the track in 2010. Also featured on the title track, “Ride Through The Country,” is John Michael Montgomery. His top 10 hit, “Declaration of Independence”, reached #5 on the Country Billboard Charts in 2017
Ford said Fort Madison’s not going to get a regular country show.
“It’s certainly not your typical country show,” he said Wednesday. “I have one gear and that’s high speed with the pedal to the floor. Live music is the best end of the road as far it goes. You have to deliver it to the fans. That’s the reason we all exist. I give them every single ounce that I have. Make sure they know I’m having fun and enjoying doing what I’m doing. I wanted to create a show where it didn’t matter if you’ve never heard of me but you walk out of there having had a great time.
Playing along the riverfront or in front of 50,000 people, Ford said his performances are always in high gear.
“I’ll tell you, I’m lucky to have heard many times from people who say they saw me at this club or that arena and the show is just as good whether I’m in front of 500 or 5,000 or 50,000. I’m gonna give the fans everything this old, fat guy’s got,” Ford said. “If you don’t give it full throttle you should just give the money back. Without the fans, you wouldn’t have that lifestyle. You wouldn’t be living the way you are. If you don’t think you owe them everything you’ve got, then you just don’t get it.”
His music carries a flare of patriotism with a nod to American servicemen and women, but he says, for him, it’s not about the politics….its the sacrifice.
“It’s funny, but a lot of musicians want to be politicians. For me, I’m not a politician. If you wanna be one, good for you, go be one. But for me it’s just go make your music and if someone asks you a question be honest. I’m not here to point fingers. The only way to figure anything of this stuff out is to do it together. Communicate. My job at shows is to be the best I can to make you forget about that stuff. What I do rant and rave about is the military. That allows those people on both sides of the fence the freedom to be there. To me we owe them an unforgettable debt.”
Ford’s music sometimes gets folded up into the genre of country rap, but he said he’s never considered himself a rap artist and he said country music had “talk albums” way before rap was even a term.
“If you listen to my new stuff, it’s straight down the middle country,” he said. “I never considered myself a country rapper. That’s something some other people said – not me. Now there’s a whole group of guys out there that want to be that. I’ve never wanted to be that. Talking records have been around before I was even born. ‘Hot Rod Lincoln’ by Ray Price and no one called him a country rapper. Charlie Daniels went down to Georgia,” he said.
“Even some of these younger guys doing what they’re doing – I don’t want to be associated with. Sure, they’re country redneck boys talking the way they are, but they use cursing and all that stuff and that’s not who I am. It’s not what I wanna stand for. I have kids and I’m not going to be doing something they can’t be proud of. It’s funny that I’ve been given the credit of starting it, but damn don’t put me in a charge of something I don’t wanna be charge of.”
He’s familiar with Iowa crowds playing some casinos and other event centers in the state and said he relates very well to Iowans.
“Iowa is super relatable to me because its people that think the way i think – God, good family, friends, and hard work. That’s who I am… that’s who I’m talking to, and that’s why I’ve had success there.”
Ford’s unique blend of contemporary country storytelling has garnered him more than 1.6 million Facebook followers and he said, despite being humbled by the following, he’s still having trouble getting his stuff on the radio.
“It’s hard to believe. I’m humbled and blessed by that,” Ford said. “Social media has allowed me to have that success because I haven’t had the fortune to have success on radio. A lot of places won’t give me a chance to be heard . I can come to their town and sell thousands of tickets, but I’m not 25 years old in skinny jeans.”
He said the music industry has a certain profile they’re looking for and if it wasn’t for social media and the ability to move songs through digital platforms, he might not be where he is.
“I’m pretty good looking for big guy,” he chuckled. “But I’m making music the best I can make and I give it to them. Now it’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but when I got started it was MySpace. You know, this guy that’s not on the radio is this popular – that was hard to understand. But I think that’s what’s going awry in this business. People making decisions based on their agenda, but not what the people want. That’s just not reality.”
Ford has partnered with some of the best in the business including Jason Aldean on the hit “Driving Around Song” that featured NASCAR driver Danica Patrick. He’s also done work with John Michael Montgomery on “Ride Through the Country”, and 2018 Tri-State Rodeo artist Jake Owen.
With his sixth studio album, the aptly named Love Hope Faith, his follow-up to 2014’s Thanks for Listening, Colt Ford continues to live out his boyhood dream – the one where you “wake up on a mission/to buy that beat-up Gibson,” as he sings on “No Rest.” Love Hope Faith is exactly that, a message to his loyal fan base, and a strike against the divisiveness plaguing our country, celebrating the things that bring us together – friends, family, our faith in a better future.
Featuring such guests as Music City stalwarts Brad Paisley (“Lookin’ for a Hand Out”), Toby Keith (“Time Flies”), Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley and brother Josh (“Young Americans”) and veteran rockers Lit (“I’m Mud”); promising newcomers like Waterloo Revival’s Cody Cooper and George Birge (“Dynamite”), Tyler Farr (“My Truck”), Taylor Ray Holbrook (“Reload”), Javier Colon (“No Rest”) and Granger Smith (“Keepin’ It Real”), Love Hope Faith is the ultimate populist country record, featuring a little something for everyone.
Ford takes the stage on Sunday as the final act of the festival. The music kicks off Sunday with Stumptown at 4 p.m. followed by the Natu Band, then Radio Romance, with Ford scheduled to perform at 8:30 p.m.