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Country's Ford ready to declare 'Independence'

Colt Ford will perform at the Sasser Flea Market on Friday. Gates open at 6:30 p.m./Special photo

Colt Ford will perform at the Sasser Flea Market on Friday. Gates open at 6:30 p.m./Special photo

Carlton Fletcher

carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com

SASSER — No one would call the Sasser Flea Market a typical venue where a nationally known musical artist kicks off a “live-or-die” tour.

But then Colt Ford is not a typical musical artist.

A part of the dynamic Georgia brigade — along with such artists/songwriters as Luke Bryan, Lady Antebellum, Sugarland, Jason Aldean, Billy Currington, Dallas Davidson, Alan Jackson, Brantley Gilbert, Zac Brown, Ben Hayslip and others — that is seemingly taking over country music, the Athens native is taking his case directly to his people.

“The people in small towns like Sasser, the working people, those are the people who are coming to my show,” Ford said in an exclusive interview with The Herald. “I feel that, because they’ve supported me, I owe them an evening of entertainment that they can afford.

“You have some guys who have a little success, and all of a sudden their $25 tickets are worth $60. And their $20 T-shirts are suddenly worth $40. You won’t see that with me. I feel obligated to give these people who have supported me a night of entertainment for their whole families that won’t break them.”

Ford, a former professional golfer born Jason Farris Brown, has released three progressively better-selling albums on his own label, Average Joes Entertainment: “Ride Through the Country” in 2008, “Chicken & Biscuits” in 2010 and “Every Chance I Get” in 2011. A fourth, titled “Declaration of Independence,” is scheduled for release in June.

“That’s an appropriate title for the way I do business,” Ford said. “To maintain my independence as a musician, I’ve done everything my way on my own label. I think a lot of people in the business sometimes wish they’d done things this way.

“That’s why this tour is so important to me; that’s why I want to see 10,000 people from South Georgia in Sasser on April 6. I’m going to live or die with this; if at the end of this tour we find out it didn’t work, I’m in trouble. I had to max out some credit cards to make this happen.”

Sasser Flea Market owner Dee West said she doesn’t think Ford’s going to have to worry, given the response she’s gotten so far from fans eager to see him perform at the venue.

“We’ve gotten a wonderful response from fans so far,” West said Friday. “I’m expecting a large crowd; in fact, we’ve moved the fence around the concert area to accommodate more people. I think the people around here are wound up and ready to get out and hear some music.

INDEPENDENCE DAY

WHAT: Country star Colt Ford’s Declaration of Independence Tour kickoff

WHO: Headliner Colt Ford with Rehab, JB & the Moonshine Band, Lenny Cooper

WHERE: Sasser Flea Market, Sasser, Ga.

WHEN: Friday, gates open 6:30 p.m.; music starts 7:30 p.m.

TICKETS: coltford.com; Locally: Sasser Flea Market, Blush, Wingate Inn, Leesburg Flowers and Gifts

TICKET PACKAGES:

Basic — $25 (includes ticket plus free tour EP download)

Silver — $40 (includes ticket, free tour EP download, tour T-shirt)

Gold — $50 (includes ticket, free tour EP download, tour T-shirt, pre-ordered copy of “Declaration of Independence” album)

Platinum — $150 (includes ticket, free tour EP download, tour T-shirt, pre-ordered copy of “Declaration of Independence” album, VIP pass to pre-show acoustic performance and meet and greet)

Double Platinum — $300 (includes four tickets, four free tour EP downloads, four tour T-shirts, four pre-ordered copies of “Declaration of Independence album, four VIP passes to pre-show acoustic performance and meet and greet, special RV parking)

INFORMATION: Call (229) 648-4578 or (229) 894-4612

“Just as this is the kickoff of Colt’s ‘Declaration of Independence’ tour, it’s the kickoff of our concert season. People are calling right and left; they’re ready to hear some good Georgia country music.”

Lenny Cooper, who is also hosting the first Rocky Ridge Big Bad Truck Contest at each stop on the 20-city tour, JB & the Moonshine Band and Rehab are also on the bill for Friday’s tour opener. Gates at the venue open at 6:30 p.m., and music starts at 7:30.

“I have the greatest fans in the world,” Ford said. “They’ve invested in me, and I look forward to the opportunity to pay them back by giving them the rockingest show I can.”

As he prepared to start rehearsals for the Declaration of Independence tour, Ford took time out to talk with The Herald about the tour, his pending album of the same name and his colorful life.

ALBANY HERALD: You’re getting ready to kick off your tour here. Is this one of those “big moments” in your career?

COLT FORD: Yep, this is something special; it’s something else they said couldn’t be done. According to Nashville, I’m not supposed to exist. I’m doing this whole thing on my own. While I appreciate the other tours out there, the ticket prices have gone crazy. People who work and have kids can’t afford $60 and $70 tickets. And there are always a lot of kids at my shows; my demographics are from 8 to 80. And my people are in the small towns where people work for a living.

AH: Why Sasser and the Sasser Flea Market for the tour kickoff?

CF: I wanted to start this in Georgia, and I wanted to play at places where families can go and feel that their kids are safe. This will be a lot of kids’ first concert, and the parents can take them knowing they not only can afford the tickets, they can also buy a T-shirt, CD or hat without going broke. I was interested in finding places where other artists don’t typically go, because these people (in small towns like Sasser) buy records and T-shirts, too.

AH: You are absolutely not the typical Nashville guy. You’ve worked with rock, hip-hop and some of the biggest country artists around. Is that a business decision or just the way you approach music?

CF: I’ve never worked with anyone I was forced to work with (by a record company). I can pick up the phone and call every person I’ve ever worked with right now. I make my own decisions, and they’re based on working with people I like. I don’t know many people who like just one kind of music ... I sure don’t. I like to work with real people.

AH: You’re working on a new album now, right?

CF: Oh, yes, and it’s going to be by far the best record I’ve ever done. I approached this one from a live perspective kind of like I did my first one (“Ride Through the Country”). I’m proud of all three of my records, but I did the first one when I didn’t really know a lot about Nashville. It was very raw. On the next two (“Chicken & Biscuits” and “Every Chance I Get”) I did more to try and fit in. It dawned on me that these people (in Nashville and country radio) don’t care about me, so I decided to go back to what’s real to me. I’m the 40-year-old, 300-pound guy who plays 200 shows a year and signs autographs and takes pictures with fans after the shows. There are 15 songs on the new album, and I wrote 14 of them. Every song is different, but they all have a common thread running through them.

AH: I know you’ve sang with guys like our Southwest Georgia homeboy Luke Bryan, Eric Church and Brantley Gilbert. I interviewed Eric recently, and he said there’s a “friendly competition” among the singers today. Do you feel that way?

CF: It’s a kind of competition, but I think of it more as being inspired by the other artists. I’ve played shows with Eric and Jason Aldean and guys like that, and I’d tell the band that we had to crank things up a notch. I’ve seen guys in this business who are jerks, but guys like Eric and Jason and Luke are just some of the best people in the world. There’s no one prouder to see Luke have a No. 1 than Colt Ford; there’s no one happier that Dallas Davidson has written a No. 1 song than me. Billboard magazine did a story recently about all the Georgia artists having success in country music right now, but the thing I pointed out is that even though we’re all from here, none of us sound the same. I don’t know what it is that’s (made Georgia artists so successful), but there’s plenty of room for all of us.

AH: I’ve read all kinds of stuff about you — that you were a pro golfer, a hip-hop beatmaster, a true Georgia redneck. What’s the real story?

CF: (laughing) It’s all true. I grew up in the country, but I also grew up liking Run DMC. Some people find it hard to believe that I can write stuff like that, but I remind them the guy who wrote “Avatar” didn’t visit a planet with blue people. I played a bunch of sports at Clarke Central, got a golf scholarship and made a living in the sport for seven years. Who I am onstage and out in the public is who I am always.

AH: Why the name change?

CF: I think it fits my lifestyle ... and I can’t think of a more bad-ass name.

AH: How deep are your Georgia roots? Do they impact your music?

CF: Oh, absolutely. I write about what I know. When I sing about being in the Waffle House, Goergia people know what I’m talking about. What some don’t realize, though, is that there are rednecks everywhere who relate to my music — country music IS country-wide. I think this new album will definitely be more open and honest than I’ve ever been.

AH: Of all the guys making music today, you seem to have the most fun doing it. Even your record label — Average Joes Entertainment — is fun. Are you really having a good time, or is it more of a business?

CF: The business side of this is important, but I still have a great time. I hear people complaining sometimes and I say, “Dude, what are you upset about? You’re making music for a living.” That’s why I talk to fans, sign autographs, take pictures. I’ve got nothing to be pissed off about; I’m a happy guy.

AH: Do you work from some kind of plan: tour, release album, write new songs, etc.?

CF: Nah, I’m a seat-of-the-pants kind of guy. I never know where I’ll be at the next record. It’s like my bass player always reminds me: “Hank said it best when he said you can like it or you can kiss it.” I’m happy now to just let go and let God. I’ve taken about three weeks off to recharge and so that my wife doesn’t feel like a single mom, but I’m ready to get out there and have a good time with the folks in Southwest Georgia. I’ll be disappointed if about 10,000 of them aren’t out there at the Sasser Flea Market Friday night.