Country singer Jon Pardi doesn’t have a rocket ship. The Nashville-based songwriter and performer knows this to be true (both literally and metaphorically). But that doesn’t stop him from sonically taking flight. For Pardi, his proverbial flying machine is much more akin to a warplane, he says, one of those double-winged metallic creatures that soar steadily in the air as many others whiz and whir past.
But for Pardi, a career is not a sprint. It’s a marathon, a lifetime of work. And the California native recently added new fuel to his journey with the release of his latest single, “Last Night Lonely,” which he unveiled on February 18. Now, Pardi is exclusively announcing an extensive summer tour with American Songwriter. Dubbed the Ain’t Always The Cowboy Tour, the 25-date trek is set to kick off in July and run through September with friends and collaborators Lainey Wilson and Hailey Whitters. (See tour dates below).
“With my career, sometimes it takes a little longer,” Pardi tells American Songwriter. “I don’t have a rocket ship. I have a 1952 warplane that is just cruising. We’re staying at a steady pace.”
But don’t let Pardi fool you. He’s decorated and adored for his songs and his sticky performing style. He’s toured with artists like Dierks Bentley and he’s earned distinctions such as the CMA new artist of the year in 2017. While some may be hypnotized by these accolades, Pardi is not. For him, they’re signs of a strong career but nothing to get held up on.
“Those are things you collect along the way, that makes you want to go to the next one,” he says. “We love and we cherish all the awards… but it’s about the longevity. That’s what makes me a little different.”
Pardi has seen the rocket ship take off for acts like Florida Georgia Line and Luke Combs, but in the end, he’s happy to go back to his “prop plane” that continues to chug along. For Pardi, the real victory is enjoying a lasting career doing what he can’t get enough of: playing songs. He jokes, posing himself the question: What’s the biggest thing you’ve done in your career? Before answering it himself: I’m still in the music business! But it’s that jovial nature and unwavering perspective that makes Pardi stick out. That’s been the case ever since he could remember.
“I went to preschool,” Pardi says, remembering back to his days as a young kid, “and I told them I was going to be Merle Haggard, Randy Travis, and George Strait!”
Truly, ever since Pardi’s first days of school, he’s loved country music. The big names in the genre that came before him remain his heroes. Growing up in Dixon, California, he learned about them early on from his grandmother. He would strum baseball bats, brooms and other “instruments” before he got his first guitar. He began taking lessons around nine years old. Later, he moved to Nashville to learn more about songwriting and the music business. But before he made it to the City of Music, he lived in Chico, California. That’s where he cut his teeth playing live, earning his chops.
“Chico was a fun time,” Pardi says. “I learned how to be high-energy. We’d sell out every beer joint we could. We played every dollar night there was in Chico.”
There, Pardi started a band called Northern Comfort. He simultaneously wrote the group’s songs and learned about writing from the other players, including when and where to use minor chords and the joy of bluegrass music. Northern Comfort recorded its sole LP in Chico. And it was in California, prior to moving to Nashville, that Pardi also learned the value of pop music and big productions and hooky choruses. And after a few years, Pardi headed to Nashville arriving—he remembers the exact date—on February 23, 2008.
“The catchiness of them songs,” Pardi says, highlighting bands like Green Day and Blink-182, “I took all that to Nashville.”
Upon moving to the Music City, Pardi wasn’t necessarily bent on getting a “downtown” gig or making money right off the bat. Instead, he wanted to learn about the craft of music. He’d played in bars night after night in Chico. Now, he wanted to learn other aspects of the business. So, Pardi worked with co-writers. He studied the art form. He worked. All for the music he adored from the youngest of ages.
“It brings you back every time you hear it,” Pardi says of country music. “It’s talking about life—everything’s about life. It’s about living, loving, leaving, drinking. There’s all the -ings right there. It’s so relatable. It’s younger, it’s older, it’s everybody.”
There is just something about the fiddle, the pedal steel, the twangy guitars for Pardi. The genre’s songs make him feel, whether that’s a sad tune or a joyful one. On his latest single, “Last Night Lonely,” he bridges the two, singing about how tonight might be the night when lonesomeness is replaced with possibility. It’s the product of a life in the art form. It’s something he was able to do purely out of love for the craft.
“One of my biggest things,” he says, “I always say: don’t forget your inner superfan.”
It’s this love that subsists and helps him do the same amidst his flourishing career. It’s that which permeates his songs and is recognizable to other Nashville royalty like George Strait and Randy Travis, Dierks Bentley and Tim McGraw. To get a pat on the back from guys like this can be more meaningful than any plaque or trophy.
“That’s a win right there without winning an award,” he says.
Another reason he stands out is his penchant for writing songs that fit perfectly in bar and saloon settings. In his songs, Pardi often mentions shots of liquor, bar napkins and topics along those lines. These take him back to his origins, playing in taverns for patrons just looking to cut loose a bit. And while he’s graduated from dives, for all intents and purposes, they never quite leave a songwriter. Singles like “Tequila Little Time,” “Tied One On Last Night” and his latest exemplify this well. On his upcoming tour, Pardi will surely bring the party with him.
“It’s just fun,” he says.
Looking ahead, Pardi says he has a new album in the works that’s tentatively set for a fall release (though don’t quote him on that). But more concretely are his swath of tour dates. He’s looking forward to playing with his pals, Wilson and Whitters. In fact, it’s tours like these that he always conceptualized when first thinking of traveling—“you get your buddies and put on a good show anywhere people will have you. Indeed, that’s what most heartens.
“What I love most about music is the feelings,” Pardi says. “They make you dance, cry, have a drink. Fall in love or get the hell out of love. That’s why I love music and why it will always be a part of my life, your life—that’s why we’re here.”
Jon Pardi’s Ain’t Always The Cowboy Tour:
7/14: Irving, TX/ Toyota Music Factory – Texas Lottery Plaza
7/15: Belton, TX/Bell County Expo Center
7/16: Oklahoma City, OK/Zoo Amphitheatre
7/22: Sacramento, CA/Golden 1 Center
7/23: Bend, OR/Hayden Homes Amp
7/24: Airway Heights, WA/Northern Quest Resort & Casino – Pend Oreille Pavilion
8/4: Inglewood, CA/YouTube Theater
8/5: Santa Barbara, CA/Santa Barbara Bowl
8/6: Las Vegas, NV/Red Rock Casino
8/19: Lampe, MO/Black Oak Amp
8/20: Terre Haute, IN/ The Mill
8/25: Raleigh NC/Red Hat Amp
8/27: Sharpsburg, KY/Barnyard Amp
9/8: Rochester, MN/Mayo Civic Center Park
9/9: Milwaukee, WI/BMO Harris Pavilion
9/10: Sterling Heights, MI/Michigan Lottery Amp
9/15: Bridgeport, CT/Hartford Healthcare Amp
9/16: Big Flats, NY/Summer Stage @ Tags
9/17: Huber Heights, OH/Rose Music Center
9/22: New York, NY/Pier 17- the rooftop
9/23: Gilford, NH/Bank of NH Pavilion
9/24: Boston, MA/Leader Bank Pavilion
9/29: Southaven, MS/Landers Center
9/30: Huntsville, AL/Von Braun Center
10/1: Nashville, TN/Ascend Amp