"I won't back up/I won't back down/I've been raised up to stand my ground" "Answer to No One"
Colt Ford's story is so improbable, it could well be the subject for one of his songs, and indeed his autobiography is laced through his music on the five albums he's released on his Average Joes Entertainment label over the past, from his 2008 debut, Ride Through the Country, to 2010's Chicken & Biscuits, 2011's Every Chance I Get, 2012's Declaration of Independence and last year's Thanks for Listening. Answer to No One: The Colt Ford Classics collects 13 tracks from those five – and one from the 2010 Mud Digger compilation – for the most complete collection yet of his revolutionary mash-up of good old boy country and the rhythms of hip-hop, a groundbreaking combination.
Former Sirius/XM Highway PD John Marks said, whenever he played Colt Ford, "he moved the needle in sales, he moved the needle in social media… You have to be impressed with what he's done, starting his own company and exposing a culture that many of us were completely unaware of. It's amazing what he's been able to accomplish through touring and marketing with very little airplay support."
Four of Ford's five albums have peaked in the Top 10 on the Billboard Country chart, with Chicken & Biscuits(#8), Every Chance I Get (#3), Declaration of Independence (#1) and Thanks for Listening (#2), with the latter two hitting the Billboard 200 at #4 and #10, respectively. All his best-known hits are represented on Answer to No One, from his debut, "No Trash in My Trailer" and his duets with Brantley Gilbert ("Dirt Road Anthem") and Jason Aldean ("Drivin' Around Song") to collaborations with Jake Owen ("Back"), Duck Dynasty's Boss Hog Willie Robertson ("Cut ‘Em All"), Eric Church ("Country Thang"), Jamey Johnson ("Cold Beer"), John Michael Montgomery ("Ride Through the Country") and the Nappy Roots and Nic Cowan ("Waste Some Time").
For the Georgia native and one-time golf pro, now an entrepreneur and cultural pioneer who started playing the mud truck circuit then went on to touring with the likes of Toby Keith, Eric Church and Florida Georgia Line, and breaking into film with a recent cameo in David Spade's Joe Dirt 2, Colt Ford's compilation album allows him to take a breath and survey how far he's come in seven short years.
"I'm doing this album for the fans," he suggests, laughing that he's never had a song in the Top 40. "These are greatest hits to those guys. My life's on that album. When you look at the history of music and start picking out the people that really move the needle, most of them didn't answer to anyone. They did their own thing. It wasn't as if they were disrespecting anybody else. But I'm going to make music my way. If you want a long career, that's how you have to do it. You can do what somebody else wants you to, but I don't think you'll last too long that way."
Indeed, Colt Ford has followed his own muse, combining his early love, listening to hip-hop records by the likes of Run-DMC to a form of country that harks back to spoken word greats like Tex Williams ("Smoke Smoke Smoke That Cigarette"), Roger Miller ("Hot Rod Lincoln"), Johnny Cash ("A Boy Named Sue") or C.W. McCall ("Convoy").
"What do you think Jerry Reed was doing?" laughs Ford. "People say I'm ruining country music, but this stuff has been around before I was born."
Since the start of his career, Colt Ford has anticipated country music's current obsession with good times and partying, but he's having none of it.
"I just make music," he explains. "I don't think about it in terms of trends. I'm sure other people do. I'm just going to continue to do what sounds right to me. If what I've done has opened up the door for other young artists to have success, then I'm glad. But don't put a label on me. Just listen with an open mind."
Pick any song on Answer to No One, and you get a glimpse into Colt Ford's belief system – he's the living embodiment of the American Dream ("To hell with anyone who don't believe in the U.S.A.," he sings in the title track), loves to hunt and fish ("Huntin' the World"), prefers the country to the city ("Ride Through the Country"), listening to AC/DC ("Crank It Up") and raising a little hell ("Drivin' Around Song," "Dirt Road Anthem").
Once you see Colt Ford in front of an audience, it all becomes clear what he's about.
"If I have to convert them one at a time, that's what I'll do," he says. "When I walk on-stage, I don't care if it's 100 people or 100,000, the show will be exactly the same."
As for the future, Ford has plans for a TV show, "sort of a country Curb Your Enthusiasm," but for the most part, he's happy doing what he does.
"I make music. I'm not a neurosurgeon," he says. "I'm not a soldier, fireman or policeman laying my life on the line. I'm lucky to be able to do this. To be able to touch people's lives with my songs is enough. It's not about me, but the fans. I want to continue doing this and let it take me where it takes me."
Answer To No One: The Colt Ford Classics takes you from where he was to where he is now. It's a trip well worth taking.