'Head Over Boots' Singer Jon Pardi: 'I'm Helping Country Sound a Little More Country'

Jim Wright
“Head Over Boots,” off his upcoming California Sunrise, is the 30-year-old California native’s second Hot 100 hit.

Jon Pardi’s “Head Over Boots” reached No. 14 on the latest Country Airplay chart, making it the singer’s most successful single since 2013. The track’s power stems in part from its easy backbeat: “Head Over Boots” is not afraid to inspire dancing. Billboard caught up with the singer to talk about the trip to Texas that spawned the single and the importance of keeping traditional country alive.

ACCAs 2016: All the Performances Ranked From Worst to Best

How did you come up with the idea for “Head Over Boots”?

I wrote that about a year and a half ago. I came up with that idea at a Texas dancehall. I was down there and watching people dance around -- old couples and young couples. I wanted to have that song that people could dance to and it felt good. Took that back to Nashville, wrote it with Luke Laird. It’s a great happy song – I feel happy when I play it. It’s got a unique title. As a songwriter, you always want to search for something that’s right in front of you that you can twist into something new.

What kind of stuff was being played on that dancefloor in Texas?

It was a band and they were playing really old country -- Merle Haggard, a lot of Texas swing like Bob Wills. “Head Over Boots” is a shuffle, but it’s more of a Motown laid-back shuffle than, say, a Dwight Yoakam shuffle. We met in the middle: the swing and soul of traditional country, but modern at the same time.

Jon Pardi Brings Joy to the Job With Cheery 'Head Over Boots'

Are you a dedicated dancer?

No, I’m not. But my dad lives out there now and I’ll go out and dance. Where we shot the “Head Over Boots” video, that was in Texas at a dancehall called Twin Sisters. It was built in the 1870s. It’s just a dancehall -- it’s only for Saturday night dances. It’s been like that forever.

What’s it like writing with Luke Laird? He’s had a lot of hits in the last few years.

The thing I love about writing with Luke is that it’s fun. He brings a lot out of me that I really like. He’ll play a lick or pull up a loop and get me all fired up. As a songwriter, you always look for guys that you can write good with. Show up, have an idea, knock it out of the park. And you know that every time you get in the room, that’s going to happen. Luke is one of those guys.

You have a fiddle on the song, which you don’t hear much on country radio a lot these days. Why did you decide to feature it?
Fiddle all day! There’s a lot of fiddle on this record. There are a lot of old sayings from the '90s and ‘00s: "Shuffles won’t work on country radio." "You can’t have a pedal steel lead on country radio." If someone says you can’t have a fiddle on county radio... this is what I grew up with. I’m helping country sound a little more country.

A version of this article originally appeared in the May 14 issue of Billboard.