Jon Pardi has sweet validation with his sophomore album, California Sunrise, which made its debut at the top of the country charts. He'll be the first to admit watching the numbers like a hawk, eyeing his first Number One after coming frustratingly close with his first album. But he'll also be the first to put his foot down when it comes to chasing trends to try to get there.
Pardi recorded the album live with a full studio band, using the same seven guys on every track. "My sound has always been like that," he tells Rolling Stone Country. "It was a fun, old-school way of recording a record."
The California native also stuck to his guns on his signature classic country-meets-rockabilly sound. Pardi has enjoyed a flood of critical praise for marrying tradition with just enough rock influence to fit in on today's country radio. But he's not on any sort of crusade to preserve country music's heritage. Rather, he's grateful for the genre's wide-open doors.
"You can't be an old grumpy person," he insists. "One of my things with songwriting is, 'Well, everybody else gets to use the bells and whistles with their computers, so why can't I mix it up with the old school sound?' But I like hearing fiddles, steel guitar, acoustics up loud – really rock & roll stuff but with a country sound behind it. That's just who I am. I'm not trying to prove a point; it's just what I want to put my vocals on top of.
"I don’t have any problems with any other artist coming in and do their own thing," Pardi continues. "Like Sam [Hunt] or Florida Georgia Line or some of the new guys coming in here — they're just doing their own thing. That's where I'm at, but I'm just a little bit more country sounding."
For Rolling Stone Country Sessions, Pardi performed three (very country sounding) songs from California Sunrise: the LP's infectious title track, the groove-fueled "Dirt on My Boots" and dancehall-ready "Head Over Boots." Flanked by two guitar players, a percussionist and an upright bass player, the singer strummed his own acoustic while belting the tunes on our rustic Tennessee stage.
"It's very natural for me. It's my home, being on stage in front of people," he says. "I have fun with it and make it feel inviting. I'm just your friend up on stage you can laugh at and sing along with and make you feel good."