Jon Pardi’s laid-back style and devotion to tradition are reeling in the fans.
Technically, Jon Pardi never finished college. But he learned a very valuable lesson when he was at California’s Butte College: He needed to move to Nashville.
“I tried college for a while. But I’d started a country band when I was there called Northern Comfort. We were good, and we had a following,” Pardi tells C&I. “That was such a learning time for me. I realized the band wasn’t going to go anywhere, but I knew I had to if I wanted to do this professionally.”
So he worked. He saved. And on February 23, 2008, when he was 22, Pardi moved to Tennessee. But you don’t just waltz into Music Row and start selling out arenas. And looking back on that, Pardi, 34, says he wouldn’t have it any other way.
He lifeguarded for a while, did other odd jobs, and started writing song after song after song. Always the kind that stayed true to the roots of traditional country. “That’s what country is supposed to sound like,” he says. “It’s supposed to have fiddle and steel. That was country to me. I wanted to do what my heroes did, so I just stuck with it.”
Initially, it took fans a while to connect. There was one Dallas show Pardi played where only five people showed up. “I’ll never forget that,” he says. “You can’t get mad about it, though, you just have to try to figure it out. It keeps you humble.”
What matters to Pardi now, he said, is that when guys like Ronnie Dunn and Kix Brooks shake your hand, you feel like one of the boys. It’s a mutual-adoration club Pardi’s honored to be part of.
The first time Pardi remembers feeling the full impact of Brooks & Dunn’s music was around 2007, when they were touring with Alan Jackson and made a California stop. “I remember hearing them sing ‘Hillbilly Deluxe,’ and thinking, Damn. That is such a badass honky-tonk song.”
But the song Pardi sings on Reboot is much, much older. It’s from 1991, off their debut album Brand New Man, released when Pardi was only 6. It’s called “My Next Broken Heart.”
“I wanted one of them old-school honky-tonk jams, with that shuffle vibe,” he says. And when it came time to record, Pardi was ready. “I’d been practicing, and Ronnie said he could tell,” he recalled. “But part of me was still like, Holy s**t. I’m in the studio singing with Brooks & Dunn. I was right there, right next to Ronnie. At one point, he even told me, ‘Stop singing so good.’ ”
Pardi’s new album, Heartache Medication, due out in late September, is full of that same kind of old-school country, accompanied by some modern influences for good measure.
Hear Jon Pardi’s latest album and its namesake single and find out where to see him live by visiting jonpardi.com.
Brooks & Dunn, Kane Brown, and Jon Pardi were photographed on location at Robert’s Western World in Nashville. Special thanks to Emily Ann Cousins and the Robert’s staff. Photography: Robby Klein. Photographic assistance: Vic Bonvicini, Andrés Martinez, Chris Parsons. Grooming: Katrina Brooks (for Jon Pardi), Debbie Dover Hall (for Brooks & Dunn), Cindy Rich (for Kane Brown). Styling: John Murphy (for Jon Pardi), David Thomas (for Kane Brown), Payton Dale (styling assistance for Kane Brown)
From the October 2019 issue.