Jon Pardi at CMA Fest 2023 by Laura Ord

Jon Pardi on Rebellion, Collaborations and Going International

August 10, 2023 1:38 pm GMT
Last Edited December 19, 2023 9:56 pm GMT

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It’s been a helluva year for Jon Pardi.

Also known as Mr. Saturday Night, his most recent album of the same name was a huge hit, and there’s really been no stopping him since. Lined up to drop soon is a tasty duet with long-time buddy Luke Bryan and a Christmas album, with live dates also spreading out before him aplenty.

The California-born, neo-traditional, hardcore country star cites George Strait, George Jones and Dwight Yoakam as key influences. They’re certainly clear across his discography, particularly on 'Longneck Way to Go', his collaboration with Midland. As his repertoire with big names grows, as does his fan club, notably including superstar Luke Combs.

With an endearing chuckle, steady gaze and wide Stetson pushed back from his forehead, Jon Pardi talks to Holler direct from Nashville, where he’s been prepping for his highly anticipated upcoming tour to the UK and beyond.

Nice to see you, Jon. You’re about to come on your first trip to the UK – hopefully the first of many – so how are you feeling?

We’re really excited, especially because we’re doing a tour and not just playing one show. We’re going to make a little bit of an adventure out of it, which is always fun. We did that in Australia in 2019 and our plan was to go to the UK in 2020. But you know what happened then. So, we got pushed back to 2023, but we’re coming!

You’re also headlining The Long Road festival. What are you hoping for and what can we expect?

My hope is we go out and play fantastic shows and make the people happy. So when the word gets out and we come back, there will be even more people to come see us and have a good time. That’s my goal.

We’ll definitely have the full band. That was the one thing we talked about when planning the tour. I said, “We’re not doing acoustic, we’re not doing broke-down. We’re putting all our shit on a boat. And it’s getting shipped out there”. We got fiddle, keyboards, three guitar players – including me – bass and drums. It’s a big band and they’re great - they just recorded on my Christmas album and they’re very talented dudes. I’m real proud of them.

As I say, we’re not going to half-ass the show. It’s going to be a full concert, lots of energy. And we want to make sure everybody has a good time with us.

Do you know any of the others on the Long Road line-up?

Yeah, we know Eli Young, Jackson Dean and Blackberry Smoke. We love them, so we’re excited. It’s gonna be a cool little rockin’ festival. Will any of us guest with each other? Who knows! Let’s just get there, get set up and then we’ll see what happens…

You’ve had a whirlwind 12 months – everything in life has happened to you in the last year – so tell me how it’s felt to be on that ride?

Oh, I mean, it’s been fun! It’s just making music and now I’m focused on making another record.

Looking at your career, how do you feel your work has evolved across the decade?

It’s great to say I’m still here and not much has changed. We still try to make the best records we can. We just know a little more about what we what we need to do to be on the radio and bring everybody in, but not lose the traditional values of country music and not chase whatever’s the hottest and greatest thing right now.

I always say I survived the FGL [Florida Georgia Line] moment, I survived the Luke Combs moment. I’m surviving the Morgan Wallen thing. So whatever comes next, I’ll still be here. I focus on being me and not losing what we started with, just making good records.

That’s a really hard balance to get right. To still be true but appealing to everybody.

I mean, I don’t know… I just stick with it and listen to what the fans say. I feel like you gotta do that. Because if you’re letting your fans down, they’re not going to want to listen your music.

Who are your typical Jon Pardi fans?

Very broad variety. I mean, we played in Nebraska on Saturday, and I couldn’t believe how many young people there were.

What do you get from collaborating with lots of different people, on writing and playing? And is there anyone you dream of working with?

Oh, I mean, I love all the duets, but for me, it all comes down to the song. We get asked to sing on a lot. And, you know, if the song’s not there it doesn’t make sense. You’ve got to be able to sing a song that makes sense that two people are on. When it comes to collabs, that’s what it’s about.

Speaking of collabs, we got a new one coming out with Luke Bryan – that’s gonna be my next single, and it’s going to be awesome. We’re really excited about it and I love the song. It was pretty much written for me and Luke to sing. It’s called ‘Cowboys and Plowboys’. So when you’re talking about dreaming, well, me and Luke have been buddies for a long time and we finally get to do something that really means something special to both of us. Also, it’s not about drinking beers! It’s about hard-working people, and representing the state’s lifestyle – cowboys and farmers and everybody out here working hard. And it’s worldwide too, not just in the States. It’s for everywhere.

Is the Christmas record you mentioned for this year?

It’s coming out in October – yes, an early Christmas present for everyone. I know it’s so early, but that’s just what the label does. But we did print 2,000 vinyl records too.

You mentioned country music and authenticity – and I wonder if it’s become a bit more conservative and a bit less rebellious? In the past people like Willie Nelson had a rebellious streak whereas it feels like some country music is a little bit more going with the flow?

Well, there’s a lot of going with the flow! That’s what you call country radio: going with the flow. A lot of the stuff is what works for the radio stations. And of course, it’s the Morgan Wallen sound right now, but I sneak through there with ‘Your Heart or Mine’. Though if you listen to anything on the radio, it does not sound like ‘Your Heart or Mine’. I guess that’s where I’ve established myself as being a little different, but it still works for country music. When they call me different, it’s still country. It’s got fiddle and rock and roll vibes, and to me, it’s just music I grew up on.

But there’s a lot of guys out there like Tyler Childers making a huge career without radio. So when you’re asking for rebellion, I think there’s a lot of them. That’s Tyler Childers, Zach Bryan, guys like that who don’t need anything. Good. Cheers to them. That’s awesome.

How do you know when a song is right for you? Do you have a physical, visceral reaction? Can you feel it?

Yes, then sometimes you’ve got to listen to it a couple of times. But a lot of times it hits here [pats chest]. I put myself as the fan listening to the radio, listening to it for the first time. Do I get excited when I hear this new music?

When I look for songs, I want to have that, "wow, this is awesome" moment. Whether I wrote it or somebody else wrote it, that definitely needs to be a part of it. So that’s what I look for.

My final question is about your idea of turning Mr. Saturday Night into a movie. Have you had any more thoughts on that?

I mean, that’d be great. Mr. Saturday Night is a great movie title. I’m really interested. I feel like it’s not been done for a while - the last ones, really, were Pure Country (1992) and Urban Cowboy (1980). We could totally do it, especially with all the success of Yellowstone. It would really make a cool piece of art, and everybody loves movies… and something that stands the test of time!

Jon Pardi will perform at The Long Road Festival in Leicestershire, UK on Sunday 27th August. For all the up-to-date information on the The Long Road, head here. For more on Jon Pardi, see below:

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