Jon Pardi Brings Authenticity Back into Country Music with Latest Album: 'I'm Really Proud of It'
"I think it's just going to be one of those that's going to be universal to a lot of people," the country musician says of his new collection
Not much fazes Jon Pardi.
The past week has had the ACM and CMA Award-winning artist playing everywhere from New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium as Pardi launched one of 2019’s most anticipated new country albums.
But he’s not worried much about that — he’s more focused on his bush hog.
“I have had the bush hog out there every day mowing the pasture,” he says, stopping only to go into a thorough explanation of what a bush hog actually is. (Hint: it attaches to the back of a tractor.) “I surveyed the pond. I’ve been clearing some of the woods. I mean, I’m just constantly working outside.”
The Californian turned Tennessean’s voice falls in casual disgust as he contemplates aloud about how he is going to get more work done on his sprawling 15-acre farm while he is out on the road in support of his third full-length album Heartache Medication, out last Friday.
But then, he chuckles.
“Releasing this album has been a moment I’ve been waiting for… for a long time,” he says in a far more animated voice about Heartache Medication, which serves as the follow-up to Pardi’s co-produced, platinum-selling breakthrough No. 1 album California Sunrise that featured hits such as “Dirt on My Boots,” “Head Over Boots,” “Heartache on the Dancefloor” and “Night Shift.” “I’m excited to have something new out. It’s a great record. I’m really proud of it.”
Indeed, within every single song on the 14 track album (seven of which Pardi co-wrote) runs a sense of authenticity rarely heard in country music today.
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When Pardi sings about honky-tonks in “Buy That Man a Beer,” it’s because he’s been in them. When he sings about whiskey in “Me & Jack,” it’s because he’s drank a few. And when he sings about heartbreak in songs such as “Starlight,” it’s because he has felt that heartbreak one too many times.
And among a collection of honky-tonk anthems and steel guitar serenades lies a song at the very end of the new album that just might show Pardi’s heart like never before.
“I wrote that one back in 2014 for my late grandmother,” says Pardi, who co-wrote the song alongside Bart Butler and Jeffrey Steele. “She passed away when I was just 15. And then, it became a song for a buddy of mine [Jason Hairston] who passed away. He was one of the guys who pushed me to go to Nashville… I think it’s just going to be one of those that’s going to be universal to a lot of people.”
The heart that shows up on songs such as “Starlight” just might be the same heart that will serve as the backbeat of country music for years to come. It’s also a heart that has found a home alongside a woman by the name of Summer Duncan.
“I’ve written a lot of songs about Summer, but none of them made this record,” he says sheepishly of Duncan, who starred alongside Pardi in the music video for his single “Heartache Medication.” “But don’t worry, you will hear them someday.”
Indeed, Pardi’s girlfriend of two years had quite the hand into the album that would eventually turn into Heartache Medication.
“She’s really been involved in the whole process,” says Pardi. “I mean, she loved ‘Tequila Little Time.’ She loves ‘Old Hat.’ But yeah, she needs her own song and she will get it.”
Adding to the pulse of Heartache Medication is instrumentation seldom heard on country albums today.
“The instruments are such a crucial part of what I do and what’s on this record,” he says. “I always give the studio band a lot of credit. They’re going to make sure it doesn’t sound the same as anyone else. They just sound old country and I love it.”
And while Pardi admits that he didn’t sway too far out of his lane on the album, there were songs that required some extra time to make sure they were right.
“’Don’t Blame It on Whiskey’ was one of those,” says Pardi of the duet, which has him joining voices with Lauren Alaina. “I mean, the tape with [co-writers] Eric [Church] and Miranda [Lambert] just sounded so good. The fact is that some songs are just easy to write and record, but some take a little more effort to truly make them sound like you. When you have to push a little more in that way, it does make you feel a little uncomfortable — especially on the songs you didn’t write.”
But at 34 years old, working harder than the next guy is something Pardi prides himself on.
“I think I have a really good work ethic. I have all kinds of goals. I’m happy. It’s good. Sometimes it’s hard to be patient in this industry but you just gotta keep working,” he says with a laugh. “I want to take over the world. We are already talking about the fourth record. We’re kind of planning that out and talking about what direction we want to take.”
Albums aside, Pardi has plans for his personal life as well.
“Well, Summer and I always dream talk,” he says with a smile. “We might want to have a ranch in Texas. Right now we are happy living it up here in Tennessee.”