Country singer brings his unique style to WE Fest stage
Though he's been a part of the country music scene for several years now, and is just about to release his fourth studio album, Colt Ford has never been to WE Fest -- but he will soon have an opportunity to remedy that.
"It's is going to be my first visit to WE Fest this year," Ford said in a telephone interview Thursday. "I was supposed to be there one other time, but something happened with one of my kids."
Ford is married, with two children who are now aged 13 and 17, and while he loves traveling and performing with his band, family remains his priority.
"I spend too much time on the road, really," he said. "For the last three years I've played over 200 shows a year."
In fact, Ford will be performing not just once, but twice during WE Fest's 30th annual run, which is set for Aug. 2-5 at the Soo Pass Ranch south of Detroit Lakes.
"I'll be headlining at the kickoff party (Wednesday, Aug. 1)," he said, "and then me and Luke (Bryan) and Jason (Aldean) will all be playing the following night... that should be fun."
Both Bryan and Aldean are good friends of his, Ford added. "I guarantee at some point we'll all be up there (on stage) doing something together.
"Jason and I will do 'Dirt Road Anthem' together," he said, referencing the fact that he was the writer of the song that became a No. 1 hit for Aldean this past year. "And Luke and I will do something too. We're all good buddies."
Ford noted that he could say the same of most of the people he has chosen to collaborate with over the years.
"I haven't done a song with anybody I wouldn't consider a friend," he said. "I don't like made up stuff, I like to be real, and everything I've done so far, I've tried to pride myself on that -- it's all very real and authentic."
Of course, part of the reason why Ford has collaborated with other country artists so often is that singing is not his forté, as he will be the first to admit.
"I've got songs where I do that -- where I sing more than talk -- but at the same time, I know what I'm better at," he said.
On the majority of Ford's songs, he employs a technique that could best be described as rhythmic speak-singing -- just don't call it rap.
"I'm a country artist, not a rapper," he said. "I get played on country stations."
Ford admits that he might get a bit defensive when he gets asked those types of questions about his unique musical style.
"Recitation and talking records have been around long before me," he said, noting that it's a technique that's been used by such memorable country artists as Johnny Cash, Jerry Reed, Charlie Daniels, Hank Williams Sr. -- and most recently, by Jason Aldean, on the aforementioned "Dirt Road Anthem."
"Nobody's asking Jason if he's a rapper," Ford joked. "If people don't think what I do is country... they don't know me."
Country music has been in Ford's blood for as long as he can remember.
"I never really got into music -- music got into me," he said. "It's always been a part of me."
Though he took some time off from pursuing a full-time music career-- "I had to make some decisions based on feeding my family," he said -- Ford finally found success in the late 2000s with the release of his first studio album, "Ride Through the Country."
Since then, he's sold over 900,000 albums and 3.1 million digital singles -- and on Aug. 7, fans will get the chance to hear his latest release, "Declaration of Independence," for the first time.
Of course, those who have seen his shows on tour have already had a preview of what will be on that album.
"I'm playing some of the new songs out there on tour right now," he said. "I started playing them two months ago, just trying to see what they (the fans) will like."
And fans coming to WE Fest on Aug. 1 and 2 will get their chance to weigh in on his latest material as well.
"My songs have been built up more on the road, grassroots style, than on the radio," he said. "With the new record, I love every song on there, but I have to figure out which ones they're going to want to hear more than others."
Because many of the tracks on his albums include guest appearances by other country artists, Ford admitted that when he first started performing them live, he was pretty nervous.
"But what I realized is that they just loved the songs," he said. "I have a band that's unbelievably talented, with unbelievably good singers, and we cover all the parts of the songs. There ain't no fake stuff -- we play everything we do live, with nothing pre-recorded."
Also, Ford said, "I don't make my guys stand in the back of the stage, in the shadows, with me standing up front alone."
His band members get right out there on the front of the stage and perform with him.
"We really flat out get after it out there," he said.
Besides Ford, Aldean and Bryan, the Thursday, Aug. 2 lineup also includes John Anderson and Rocket Club.
On Friday, Aug. 3, headliner Toby Keith will be preceded by Brantley Gilbert, Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers, Levi Riggs and Hitchville.
Saturday, Aug. 4 will mark the return of Country Music Hall of Fame inductees Alabama, as well as Sawyer Brown, Little Big Town, Eric Church and Florida Georgia Line.
Tickets for this year's WE Fest celebration are available online at www.wefest.com, or by phone at 800-493-3378.
"I've heard so many great things about WE Fest, and I'm excited to be a part of it," Ford said.
Tickets for 2013 WE Fest already on sale
Though the 30th annual WE Fest is still a few weeks away, tickets are already on sale for the 2013 festival, which will feature superstar headliners Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban.
"Coming off of our 30th anniversary celebration in 2012 ... a festival that is nearing sold out status, we wanted to pull out all the stops and bring our fans a festival in 2013 that is every bit as big," said WE Fest COO, Bob Bliss.
So far, tickets for the 2013 festival are only available online, at www.wefest.com, with prices starting at $99.
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.