Over the years, a few artists have tried to bring the rap and country worlds together. Nelly and Tim McGraw teamed up for "Over and Over." But few have taken the rap thing as seriously as Colt Ford. On last year's Declaration of Independence, the guy straight-up raps about all the usual country topics. But he's no joke. He's collaborated with big-time country singers like Jason Aldean and Montgomery Gentry. He recently spoke via phone from his home in Georgia to talk about his unique musical approach.
When did you adopt the name Colt Ford?
My real name is Jason Brown. I didn't think that was near cool enough. We were coming back from Jacksonville, Florida from a PBR bull-riding event, which is where a lot of us got started, and I was talking about the music thing. My wife said, "What about Colt Ford?" and it stuck. That's two all-American things, ain't it?
What made you want to rap?
I've always done a little bit of both. If I could sing like Jake Owen or Luke Bryan, I would sing a little more. Recitation talking records have been around since before rap was invented. That was going on before you heard someone said that's a rap record. To me, hip-hop is a genre but rap is a vocal style. Know your history before you start saying dumb shit like that. Go back and listen to "Smoke Smoke that Cigarette" by Tex Williams and hear some of the stuff that was going on back then. I you listen to me and think I'm not country, then we are from different planets.
Who's your favorite rapper?
I'm more of an old school fan. I grew up listening to Run DMC and LL Cool J and when hip-hop was more of a fun thing. It got so degrading and violent. The only thing violent I talk about is hunting. What I love is that I have such a wide age demographic. There are six and seven-years-olds who don't know any country songs but they know mine. That's pretty doggone cool. I get lots of messages from those parents thanking me for what I do. There are so many young kids — even country kids — who listen to hip-hop and I'm delivering a positive thing that's about God, family and friends and America in a way that they can listen.
Your albums often feature cameos from famous country singers. Was it difficult to find acceptance?
Oddly enough, it was easier than I thought. One of the first guys I ever met was Montgomery Gentry, who's a Hall of Famer. I then did a song with Jamey Johnson, who's as country as there is. Once they met me and saw that it was real and not made up, then they accepted me. The writers and musicians and artists have accepted me. Tim McGraw is on my records. Eric Church is on the records. They're not going to feel my records because they're friends of mine. I can't pay them. They do it because they like it and they're into it.
Did you write "Drivin' Around" with Jason Aldean?
No. Oddly enough, there are 14 songs on that record and that's the only thing I didn't write. I'm picky about the songs I do. You would think I wrote that song. You don't think it's somebody else. That's a cool thing, too. The guys who wrote are three of the best songwriters in our genre. They wrote it not long after I had written a few other things for them so they were in a Colt Ford frame of mind.
Can he rap?
You know, he does good on "Dirt Road Anthem." Does it sound like me? No, but in my mind, it shouldn't sound like me. When he was cutting that song, he called me up and said he couldn't do it. I told him to stop trying to sound like me and just do it the way he would do it. He called me back and said, "I got it." I thought he did a good job. It's my song but it sounds like Jason Aldean, which is what it should sound like.
To what extent is "Ain't Out of the Woods Yet" — a song about being country but living in the city — autobiographical?
Yeah, a little bit. Now that you say that, I look at other people's houses in the neighborhood and ours is a little bit more redneck and country. There aren't a lot of other lifted trucks in the neighborhood.
Do you have a gun rack in the truck?
No. With the kids and the baseball of everything, I have a Suburban and it's jacked up a little bit but there ain't no place for a gun rack. But there are guns in it.
Have you started to line up the guests for you next album?
I have written a few songs. I go through phases. The last record has only been out since August. For me, I just write at different times. Now, I wrote a few things I like. There are artists I want to work with but I don't know if they want to work with me. The songs dictate that. I don't sit down and think it's for me and Kenny Chesney. Luckily, I know most of the people and I'm friends with most of them, so I just go to them and tell them I think it would be cool. For the most part, I haven't been turned down yet. That's humbling for me. They're not going to do it just because they asked me to. Certainly, anybody can get a hip-hop artist on their record if they have enough money. They might not even meet each other. That's not who I am. I don't feel that. I want it to be real and authentic, and then I'm into it. My whole career is based on authenticity.
You could say you want to keep it real.
I guess that term does apply to me. That's just who I am and who the people are. For a radio station to question me and whether I'm country is ridiculous. These are the real country people. These ain't people wearing $300 blue jeans and trying to be country for the weekend. I triple dog dare you to come to my show and get on stage and say that my fans aren't country. My fans won't boo you off the stage. They will beat you off the stage. If you think that, come to show, I'll stop and give you the mic and you can say that and we'll see what happens.