The ACM album of the year nominee is now wondering whether his destination wedding will happen in May

By Nancy Kruh
March 13, 2020 05:05 PM
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Like so many other artists the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has pushed off the road, Jon Pardi is finding he has a lot of unexpected time on his hands these days.

“I haven’t had to stay home this long for a long time,” says Pardi, 34, who was among the artists affected by the abrupt cancellation of the Houston Rodeo and has since postponed or canceled appearances through March 26.

In his downtime, he says, he’s been catching up on chores around his 15-acre property north of Nashville, watching a little TV (the latest: HBO’s The Outsider), grocery-shopping with fiancée Summer Duncan (“I’m two weeks at home … We gotta eat!”). And, of course, he’s been practicing good hygiene (“my favorite meme is ‘why haven’t we been washing our hands the whole time?’“).

But the platinum-seller, who’s up for ACM album of the year, also has been spending considerable time reading the comments on his socials from disappointed fans. “It’s heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time,” says Pardi, who’s just released “Ain’t Always the Cowboy” as his latest single. “People are planning this for months out, and they’re rocking out to the album and they can’t wait. Everything’s building up and it’s, like … canceled.”

Still, Pardi says he didn’t hesitate in making the decision to suspend his tour. “As much security we put into stopping active shooters, we’ve got to do the same thing for this,” he says. “We’re just protecting our audience.”

To stay connected to fans, Pardi is now making plans to live-stream “a little jam” from the expansive workshop/party space he recently built on his property. Hoping to broadcast the show as early as next weekend, he’s asking fans to keep watching his socials for details.

“So if people are, you know, chilling at the house — because that’s what we’re told to do — now they can just tune in on socials and watch us jam some songs and kind of give a little mini-concert on the Internet,” he says.

Along with all the other ACM nominees, Pardi is now watching and waiting to see if the award show will proceed as scheduled on April 5. Pardi scored his second coveted album of the year nomination, this time for his critically acclaimed third album, Heartache Medication. He also was nominated in 2018 for his second album, California Sunrise, and he won new male vocalist in 2017.

So far, the Academy of Country Music says the show will go on as planned, but considering the seismic changes in recent days, Pardi still wonders what will happen.

“I could see them make, like, a TV show with no audience,” he says. “Or I could see it just going on — or I could see it being postponed.”

If the latter happens, he says, he’ll just get to celebrate his nomination a little longer.

“You get to be an album of the year nominee, and it’s just cool,” says Pardi, who adds that he feels especially affirmed for his traditional country sound.

“I think we were ahead of the curve,” he says, “and now it’s kinda carved its way into country music to where we can be a little poppy or we can be more like the ‘90s or we can be more traditional. As long as we’ve got a good lyric and a good song and a melody that speaks to somebody, regardless of what it sounds like, I think that’s country music.”

Pardi admits California Sunrise was a hard act to follow, and he felt the pressure. But he says, he set about to “make something cooler or make something just as cool. We keep growing up in the industry. We keep learning things, and it shows through the albums.”

So far, so good: Pardi just picked up his fourth No. 1 single with the title cut of Heartache Medication.

Like the rest of the country, Pardi is still discovering how the virus outbreak will affect his life, and for him it includes the possibility of a major disruption unrelated to his career: his wedding.

He and Duncan have been planning a May wedding, with about 200 guests, at a venue overlooking Yellowstone National Park in Montana — a favorite destination for Pardi for many years.

“I’m excited,” he allows, “but I just can’t be overexcited about it because there’s always that lingering, well, what if it [the virus] is not caught up by then? I have elderly people that are going to come, and I can’t put them in jeopardy. I’m just kinda like whatever happens happens.”

And if the best-laid plans fall apart?

The cup-half-full guy thinks for a moment. “We’ll just go to Vegas,” he says with a laugh. “When Vegas is all fine, we’ll just go there and get it over with.”

Jon Pardi engagement
Jon Pardi and Summer Duncan
| Credit: Katie Kauss

Pardi reveals the latest checkmark on the wedding to-do list: the rings have been purchased. He plans to put on a western-themed gold band that mimics hand-tooled leather. Duncan’s simple band will join the oval-shaped diamond ring that Pardi picked out for their engagement.

His mother, he says, was his “secret agent” who made sure his bride-to-be got the ring she wanted. “She would always ask Summer about rings, and then she got her these cheapo rings just to get her ring size,” he says.

So Pardi was the M to this 007?

“No, no, no, no!” he qualifies. “I didn’t even know my mom had this information. My mom came to me, and she says, ‘You know, when you get your ring … blah, blah, blah. Summer likes this. She doesn’t want “too flashy.” Blah, blah, blah.’“

Needless to say, when he finally went ring shopping, “it didn’t take long.”

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