Colt Ford is back with his best album ever and all it took was a return to his roots.
“I went backwards,” Colt says. “I went back to Ride Through The Country.” Which is not to say Colt simply re-hashed his breakthrough album. Quite the contrary, in fact.
Declaration of Independence, released on Colt’s own Average Joes Entertainment, will no doubt go down as one of the most noteworthy releases this year, which is saying a lot for a man who has already sold nearly a million albums and 3 million downloads. From planting his patriotic flag on the album’s first track, "Answer to No One, "and closing the album with a prayer on the poetic, honest, and heartfelt "Angels and Demons," which features a conversation with God, the Athens, Georgia native has covered every human emotion on this record and then some.
Longtime collaborator Shannon “Fat Shan” Houchins handles production duties on the album; all-star producer Dann Huff (Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts) also adds his skills to Colt’s groundbreaking effort.
In all, Colt wrote or co-wrote 14 of the album’s 15 tracks. “This album is very real and honest and by far the best record I’ve ever made,” Colt says with pride. “The last two records—I stand up and cheer for them—but I tried to make a lot of people happy on the last two records and I took the edge off of it. On this record I put the edge back on there.”
The former professional golfer and collaborator with Jermaine Dupri is used to adversity, taking country music by storm at a time when Nashville labels deemed him “not pretty enough” and country radio sees him as too distinct to add to their playlists.
The fact is Colt Ford is hard to categorize is exactly why he’s been successful. His fans appreciate his diverse musical talents by the boatloads, as a visit to one of his shows will prove.
Colt’s list of guest superstars on Declaration of Independence is an impressive one. Jason Aldean, for whom Colt co-wrote the smash “Dirt Road Anthem,” lends his vocal talents to “Drivin’ Around,” while Jake Owen adds his unique spin on “Back,” the album’s first single.
“Jason and I tried to do songs on the last two records and we just hadn’t found the right song,” Colt says of the duet with Jason. “As soon as I heard this one I knew it was the right song. It’s fun. It’s Jason being Jason and me being me.”
And while it’s the lone song on the album Colt didn’t write—it was penned by hit tunesmiths Craig Wiseman, Rodney Clawson and Chris Tompkins—he calls “Drivin’ Around” a “gigantic” tune.
Similarly, Colt says he and Jake were just looking for the right song, which they found in “Back”— a very personal song that Colt co-wrote. With a strong hook and powerful verses, the song will make everyone that hears it want to call their mom and dad to talk about growing up.
His collaboration with Darius Rucker on “Way Too Early” is another of the album’s highlights. “I’ve known D for a while and he’s got such a distinctive voice. I thought this song suited him very well,” says Colt. “The song says it all: Sometimes late comes way too early. Everyone can relate to that. Sometimes things are over way to soon.”
Meanwhile, Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn fame guests on “All In” and label mates Montgomery Gentry add their distinctive gusto to “Ain’t Out Of The Woods.” “That’s as country honky tonk as you can possibly get,” Colt says of the former tune.
Those familiar with Colt’s lotta-fun-legacy shouldn’t be surprised that Declaration of Independence is chock-full of good time anthems and left turns. “I hear artists say, ‘I’ve got 10 songs and they’re all singles.’ Well, I don’t know if I want to even hear that record, because that shouldn’t be the case,” Colt contends. “If you did 10 songs and they’re all singles you did a whole album of vanilla. I would prefer to have a few different flavors. Just because something isn’t designed as a single, doesn’t mean it’s not a great song.”
While some may see Colt’s duet with Wayne Morris of Boyz II Men on “Happy In Hell” as a strange combination, Colt disagrees. “Great songs are great songs,” he says. “I don’t care who sings them. I just like making the coolest songs I can make. At the end of the day I’m a country artist 100% through and through, but that don’t mean you can’t like other music.”
For the legion of fans that have seen Colt’s live shows—over 750,000 did in 2011 alone—“the edge” is what they’ve come to expect. In the same way that a superstar athlete leaves everything he has on the field, Colt knows no other way to perform than to be all in. “I give it everything I’ve got when I go out on stage,” he says. “It’s about the fans. That’s my goal, to reach and touch as many people as I can. I don’t really have any goals beyond that. I’m so blessed and lucky to play music for a living.”
That Colt has seen little love from mainstream media and radio only heightens his resolve to get his music in the hands of his fans. “I’m definitely an underdog,” Colt admits. “There ain’t no question about that. Everything about me says I shouldn’t be able to do what I do.”
Perhaps it’s that sense of not belonging that allows Colt to connect to his blue-collar fans. “There’s nothing about me that ain’t country,” Colt says with a laugh.
As millions of fans and Colt’s artist friends know, truer words have never been spoken.