CUMMING, Ga. — Just off the heels of playing the Grand Old Opry in Nashville, Colt Ford was singing to the crowd at the Cumming Country Fair Oct. 10.
“This is like being home, anytime I’m in Georgia it feels like being back home to me,” Ford said. “It feels like a hometown no matter where it is in Georgia. It’s always cool to get to come back and play music in Georgia.”
Ford shared fond memories of previous gigs at the Cumming Fair — Oct. 2014 — and time spent on local golf courses.
“I’ve played a lot of golf around Cumming,” he said. “In high school we played Forsyth High School. It’s closed down now, but what used to be Lanier Golf Club. I played a lot of golf at Hawks Ridge. Haven’t gotten to play much lately.”
The Athens native got a late start in a county music career, having segued from life as a professional golfer.
“My momma always said ‘God never gives you anything He doesn’t intend to use,’” Ford said. “I was always good at music and good at sports. Music was always my first love, though.”
Ford said he was lucky to play golf for a living for about 10 years, then serve as a club pro in Georgia where he made player of the year a couple of times.
“I just could never make music go away,” he said. “I was way too old to go back and try a music career. I could never make it go away, it never stopped for me, so I just had to.”
Ford credits his wife, Jessica, with creating his “really cool” stage name — and the Professional Bull Riders for its significant role in the transition.
Jessica was a driving force behind “Buck ’em,” the PBR anthem.
“That was kinda somewhat of a catalyst for getting it all started,” he said. “We’d go to [PBR] events and hear all kinds of music — rock, rap, country, all kinds of stuff — and the fans are rockin’. My wife said do a song and incorporate all that.”
She was persistent.
“I literally did it so she’d kinda quit bothering me about it.” Ford explained.
He sent the song to Randy Bernard, then CEO of the PBR, who loved it and it evolved from there.
Ford considers himself a country artist, not a country rapper as many have categorized him.
“I consider myself a country artist, I never said I was anything other than that,” he said. “Recitation or talking records have been around before the term rap was invented. Songs like ‘Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette,’ ‘Hot Rod Lincoln.’ And Atlanta’s own Jerry Reed, what do you think he was doing? It’s recitation, talking, rap, whatever you want to call it. That’s what it is.”
There has been somewhat of a surge of recitation on the country music scene today.
“I didn’t set out to try and change anything or create this whole new genre, but it kinda did morph into a thing, and it really did kinda change the musical landscape a little bit, which is cool.” Ford said.
“Dirt Road Anthem,” co-written by Brantley Gilbert and Ford became a huge hit. It’s gone platinum numerous times, and it is the biggest song of Jason Aldean’s career by a long shot, Ford said.
“Brantley and I, another Georgia boy, we were just sitting down to write stuff that we liked,” Ford said. “We didn’t know anybody else would care anything about what we were doing at the time because neither one of us had anything.”
He also co-wrote Brantley Gilbert’s #1 hit “Country Must Be Country Wide.”
Ford has been taking the stage and recording albums for over a decade, with other hits like “No Trash in My Trailer,” “Drivin’ Around Song” and most recently “Slow Ride” with Mitchell Tenpenny. His debut album “Ride Through the Country” was released in 2008 and was just certified gold.
“It was a big surprise, I just kinda thought I’d never get to play the Opry,” he said. “When the opportunity came up, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it because I’d never done it. I also figured most of those people didn’t know me or didn’t know much about me. I had 12 minutes there. Are they gonna like it? Are they gonna sit there on their hands? When I got done, I got a standing ovation. It was really cool. It was very emotional.”
The excitement didn’t end there. Ford also learned that his debut album, “Ride Through the Country” was certified gold. Country star Jamey Johnson, who sang on the album’s “Cold Beer” presented Ford with the plaque.
“To get the gold record there presented by one of my closest friends, Jamey Johnson, was cool, really cool,” he said.
Three days later, Ford released his seventh album, “We the People”.
“To me, ‘We the People’ is about finding common ground with another person,” he said. “Be a good human. That’s important. That’s lost right now in our country.”
The singer/songwriter has collaborated with Toby Keith, Brad Paisley and Keith Urban, and is the co-founder and co-owner of Average Joes Entertainment. He has sold millions of records yet considers himself just “a good ole boy from Georgia.”
“I’m the same guy here, out there [on stage] and later tonight when [my manager] Taylor takes me to Krystal for a cheeseburger,” he said. “I’ll be the same, I treat people the same way they treat me.”