For those who still consider country rap an oxymoron, Colt Ford is working hard to change that perception with the May 3 release of his album "Every Chance I Get," which includes guest vocals by Tim McGraw, Charlie Daniels and Luke Bryan.
"I am a country artist. I live the country life," says Ford, a former professional golfer who lives near Athens, Ga. "What makes a country song a country song is the content."
Video: Colt Ford, "Country Thang"
Fans are embracing Ford's style. He performed more than 250 shows last year, and previous studio albums "Ride Through the Country" (2008) and "Chicken & Biscuits" (2010) have sold 240,000 and 168,000, respectively, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Still, he's having trouble getting country radio to come to the party. "I would love nothing more than to have a big hit on radio, but there is nothing I can do to make that happen," Ford says.
Ford's new single, "Country Thang," is No. 56 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. The video debuts on CMT and CMT.com during their Big New Music Weekend (April 22-24).
Ford admits that lack of radio support has been frustrating. "I have a lot of respect for radio but I feel they don't have a lot of respect for me," he says. However, he's found other avenues of exposure. "I have had a ton of success with online marketing [company] Girlilla Marketing, through Myspace and Facebook and all of those platforms. I spend a lot of time interacting with my friends and fans online."
Ford says Music Row insiders underestimated he and Shannon Houchins when they opened Average Joe's Entertainment four years ago. The label, whose roster includes Corey Smith, Josh Gracin and Sunny Ledfurd, recently upped its profile by hiring former Sony Music Nashville VP of marketing Tom Baldrica as label president and signing multiplatinum duo Montgomery Gentry.
To launch Ford's new album, the label is working on promotions with CrowdTwist.com and running a contest on CamoSpace.com for fans to win autographed CDs. "It's affectionately referred to as a 'redneck Facebook' for outdoorsmen," Baldrica says. "We've got a great presence there."
Average Joe's now has an in-house radio promotion team that Baldrica says is already increasing Ford's presence at radio with more than 95 stations on the record, but the artist's live show remains his best asset.
"The fact that he doesn't have a hit on the radio is not deterring the fact that in a lot of these markets he can draw 6,000, 8,000 or 10,000 people," Baldrica says. "It is all radiating from the live show and the way he treats his fans. If he needs to stay and sign autographs for three hours after a show, he'll stay and sign for three hours. He has built this the old-fashioned way."