The stage name “Colt Ford” sounds like a blunt-force blow struck for the glory of certain totems in the singer’s back-road, four-wheel drive landscape.
“Nope, it has nothing to do with guns or trucks,” says the country sensation, born Jason Brown in Athens. “My real name just didn’t sound that cool. My wife, Jessica, came up with it around 2006. We were driving in the car and it just popped up in her head.”
In any case, that handle sets the tone for his music and sends all of the right signals—as recognizably twangy as a hunter’s duck caller—to the Carhartt-and-camo crowd. Ford’s third album, from his label Average Joe, reached No. 3 on the country charts, and, this summer he is scheduled to release Declaration of Independence, packaged as the “Ultimate Trilogy” with projects from his label-mates and touring buddies, the Lacs and JB and the Moonshine Band, all of them busting propulsive rhymes about honky-tonkin’, hell-raisin’, kick-ass women, and other rural route delights.
Rapping, just like Hank
An heir to Bubba Sparxxx, Colt Ford performs country rap (his debut featured guest appearances by Jermaine Dupri and Bone Crusher), a trending blend of genres that, to the uninitiated, fosters a sort of cognitive dissonance, with Rebel flags flapping to a hip-hop beat. However, Ford is quick to clarify the parameters: “Recitation and talking records were here long before me, and they’ll be here long after me,” he says, citing Hank Williams’ “Kaw-Liga” and Jerry Reed’s double-talk. “I’m a country artist and I want people to know how much I genuinely respect this music and my fans.”
Besides, in the South, music always has functioned as a unifying force of reconciliation, along with sports and food. “I reckon I’ve got all those bases covered,” says Ford, who lettered in several varsity sports before becoming a professional golfer, competing in national tournaments and working as an instructor.
“That was 100 pounds ago,” he says, his woolly goatee widening into a grin. Nowadays he is, as one fan put it (referencing bluesman Howlin’ Wolf) “a big ’un built for pleasure, not speed.” He has lent his name to a line of vodka and Georgia-distilled moonshine (“an 85-year-old recipe from some ol’ boys in the mountains I won’t name”), and he partnered with the Santa Fe Cattle Company to design the substantial, bacon-laden “Mr. Goodtime Burger,” billed as “hotter than Alabama asphalt.”
Straight from the heart
Victuals—preferably washed down with something high-test—and varsity sports turn up in his lyrics; his biggest hit, so far, is “Chicken and Biscuits.” “Boy, my mama makes the best cat-head biscuits,” he says, pushing back his cowboy hat with barbed-wire trim. (If you play his song “Waffle House” on the jukebox, don’t expect a syrupy ditty; it is the noirish dramatic monologue of a drunken cuckold plotting, over grits, to shoot his wife, who has been messin’ around with the sheriff, the preacher, and the judge, among others.)
Ford likes to say, “I didn’t get into music; music got into me.”
“The songs I was writing with the priority of being marketable just didn’t feel authentic,” he says. “Finally, I realized when I wrote from my heart and my experience, fans responded to the honesty,” he says, noting that after his first real gig in 2008—an outdoor, Fourth of July concert that drew a crowd of 5,000 in Valdosta—he stayed past midnight signing autographs. “I know exactly who I am. I believe in God, family, good times and America. I pray before I eat, and I take off my hat during the national anthem. I like a tailgate party in a pasture—gimme barbed-wire instead of some fancy velvet rope at a nightclub. And, you can tell, I love to eat.”