"Most country folks sing, but I couldn't so I'm rapping." So says Colt Ford on the title track from his album, "Ride Through the Country" (Average Joes Entertainment).
An intriguing amalgam of country lyrics laced with hip-hop beats, the album is No. 6 on Billboard's Heatseekers Albums chart and No. 1 on the South Central and South Atlantic regional Heatseekers lists. It has sold 54,000 copies since its October release and is No. 24 on Top Country Albums. The project was part of Wal-Mart's Country Picks program for July.
The sales ostensibly come thanks to heavy touring-Ford will do 200-plus dates this year-and not because of scattered radio airplay for the title cut/single, which features country star John Michael Montgomery. "For whatever reason, America loves the funny, fat white dude and I'm in that category," Ford says in his Georgia drawl. "I'm just a 300-pound country boy who shops at Wal-Mart. I'm not singing a three-minute love song, but people like what I do."
A country fan growing up, Ford later gravitated toward R&B and hip-hop. He eventually recorded an album with producer Jermaine Dupri (Mariah Carey, Usher) that never saw the light of day. "I'm glad it worked out the way it did," Ford says. "I might have made a million dollars, but it wouldn't have been authentic. At the end of the day, that's what music is about."
Following his aborted hip-hop career, Ford worked for six years as a professional golfer. But after his wife encouraged him to pursue his musical dreams, he began melding his hip-hop sensibilities with his country roots. "I never thought it would work," he says. "I didn't want to do something that would be stupid as hell. I wanted people to hear it and say, 'That's country.' "
Despite his hip-hop leanings, Ford describes himself as a country singer. "I hate the term 'country rap,' " he says. "It throws people off. I consider myself a country singer like Toby Keith or the Charlie Daniels Band. That's what I do."
Ford's album includes guest performances by Jamey Johnson, Adrian Young of No Doubt, Jeremy Popoff of Lit, Bone Crusher, Attitude and Brantley Gilbert. Production was handled by Shannon "Fat Shan" Houchins, Phive Starr, Scott Weatherwax, Popoff and Young, who is a close friend.
Many of Ford's concert gigs in the coming months include performances with Jason Aldean, whom Ford hopes to convince to appear on his next record, and the duo Montgomery Gentry. A remix version of Montgomery Gentry's hit "Roll With Me"-which Ford and the duo perform together in concert-can be found online.
Ford says his journey from hip-hop artist to golfer to country singer may leave some scratching their heads. "I know that's not how most people end up in Nashville," he says, "but that's the path I took."