Aretha Franklin

Colt Ford Talks New Sounds on Country Radio With Album 'Love Hope Faith'

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Colt Ford performs at the Charlie Daniels' 2015 Volunteer Jam at Bridgestone Arena on Aug. 12, 2015 in Nashville, Tenn.  

It’s something that Colt Ford has heard since his first single, 2008’s “Mr. Goodtime,” was released: His style of music -- a fusion of country, southern rock and hip-hop, was a little too far to the left to warrant attention from radio programmers.

That's been the reason that his highest Billboard chart position on the Hot Country Songs chart has been his 2014 recording with Chase Rice, “The High Life,” which peaked at No. 38. That’s in spite of the fact that his past four studio albums have all landed in the top ten of the Country Albums chart, with the last two (2012’s Declaration of Independence and 2014’s Thanks For Listening) hitting the top ten on the Billboard 200. But, as the old saying goes, the times are a-changin'.

With new sounds being embraced by country radio in the past few years, there are moments within Ford’s sixth studio album, Love Hope Faith, that are right in the middle of what's currently being heard on the airwaves -- as well as a couple of tracks (“Young Americans” with Charles and Josh Kelley and “Bad Day” with Pop artist Rizzi Myers) that are just as traditional as anything Nashville is offering these days.

“It’s funny to think about where I started, and everybody would say I was so far over in left field. Now, I’m more toward the center, and a lot of them are more toward the left. If you ever had any doubts about me being country, or me being who I’ve said I am, you hear these songs, and you think otherwise, I don’t know what else to tell you. You just clearly don’t want to like me.”

Ford’s longtime fans -- who he says have "always been very loyal" -- will definitely be impressed with what they hear on the album, as the singer says he feels he's delivered his most solid outing to date with this LP, released May 5 on Ford's own label, Average Joes Entertainment.

“I’ve been more nervous about this record than ever, and I think this is the best record I’ve ever made," the singer-songwriter explains. "I pushed myself further than I ever have as an artist. But, I still maintained who I am. I still have things on the album like ‘My Truck’ for those hard-core country fans that love the way I got here. I don’t want to forget that, and I never will, but I pushed myself with a lot of other songs on this record where people will say ‘Man, that’s you?’ I love that."

As far as his collaboration with the Kelleys goes, he says that while it might look on paper that they are totally from different extremes, the three men definitely share some things in common.

“I’ve known those boys forever," Ford relates. "They are Georgia guys. We’ve been good friends for a long time, and they are two of my favorite singers. Charles and I had talked about doing something together for a long time. We just had to find the right song. When I heard it, I thought it had the right groove, and I thought about getting Josh in on it too.  You’ve got two brothers [on that song] that are both unbelievably talented.

"I think the song is a smash," he continues, before rightfully insisting: "There is not one reason you couldn’t hear that on country radio.”

The duet with Myers allowed Ford to stretch his vocal wings a bit, something that he says he enjoyed doing.

“I wanted to push myself,” he confesses. “I am clearly not the best singer, by a long shot. But, I’m also not the worst singer either. I got that song in 2008 or 2009... When I was starting the record, the song just popped in my head and I wondered why nobody had ever cut that song. I called Jeffery and asked him to send it to me again, because it had been almost ten years. Then, I thought it would be really cool to have a duet on this record  --  a real true duet. Rizzi Myers is a pop artist, and a great singer-songwriter. I think it might be one of the hidden gems of anything that I have ever done."

The duet marks another first for Ford. "I haven’t really done anything with a female artist," he says. "I think a lot of their managers – not them – are afraid of me, but there’s no reason to be. That song is a big song. I think it’s so country.”

Love Hope and Faith also allows Ford to unite in musical partnership with Toby Keith, who has long been a champion of his. Still, he couldn’t resist a good-natured dig at his hitmaking bud when discussing their friendship.

“I'm clearly the better golfer... but he has got way more money than I do,” he says with a hearty laugh. “He’s someone who has always been a hero of mine musically. I’ve bought more tickets to see Toby Keith than any two artists combined. I’ve just always been a fan, and have always wanted to work with him. He took me out on tour a few years ago, and he showed me so much. He’s a guy that if I needed him, he’d be there any second, so to do a song with him is bucket list for me.”

The album is also one of Ford’s most potent lyrically. “No Rest,” which co-stars former Voice winner Javier Colon, features lyrics that -- while specifically dealing with someone pursuing a musical career -- can be used to describe anyone with passion for their dreams.

“That is one of my favorite things that I have ever recorded," Ford raves. "The way I’m describing it is obviously from a music perspective, but the thought is whatever you do. You want to be the best, and chase it as hard as you can. Anybody who doesn’t understand that doesn’t quite get the song. People might say ‘I don’t play music, so I don’t get that,’ but it’s about whatever you do, what you love, that you are passionate about, you just keep going to try to win and get better.”

Also an important track for Ford is the opener, “Reload,” which he recorded with newcomer Taylor Ray Holbrook, whom the country vet firmly believes in. “I think he is going to be a star," Ford raves. "He worked with some friends of mine. He’s part of that new generation that has figured it out on Instagram and Facebook. You see a lot of guys that can sing, but are they a star. He is. He’s got it.... He is Country. He’s very patriotic, just like me, and believes in supporting the men and women that are fighting for our country."

On that last topic, Ford adds that he doesn’t believe patriotism and politics are quite the same.“ Some think I have tried to get political with my songs, but I have never talked politics," he attests. "I don’t think any artist should, to be honest with you. If you want to be a politician, go be a politician. When you’re playing music, play your music. Now, people can determine what I think based on the songs I do, but I don’t talk about it -- I play music. I support the men and women who fight for our country, and I’m proud of America. If you don’t like that, maybe you’re the one who shouldn’t be here."

Accordingly, "Reload" isn't explicitly political in its lyrics, but Ford insists "if you listen to the song, and you’re anywhere near the same page as me, you will totally get it. I think it’s a good time in the country. We do need to re-load, as a nation. It ain’t got nothing to do with what side you’re on. We all got to work together. It’s not all going to be fixed by one man or torn down by one man. People are out of their mind if they think that. We have got to figure out a way to do that, and the best way to do that is to reload.”

At the end of the day, Ford is just grateful for the chance to continue to do what he loves doing -- playing music -- whether for fifty people or fifty-thousand. “Nothing turns me on like playing on stage," he insists. "It’s the music. It’s about these fans in all of those environments. I encourage all the young artists not to believe all this circus stuff -- go out there and play some of the bars or the honky-tonks and build your fan base. If you don’t do it that way, when one part of it is over, you don’t have anything to fall back on. I’ll go from playing in front of twenty thousand to playing for five hundred -- sometimes in the same week. It don’t matter to me."

He says he feels his new music reflects his philosophy. “This record was based off of this tattoo [I have]. Three things that I said I never wanted to lose was love, hope, and faith. When I was thinking about the title of this record, I looked down at my arm, and thought ‘That’s what it is.’ I poured my love into making this record, and I hope that people are going to like it. I have faith that they will. So, there we are: Love, Hope, Faith.”