98.5 KVOO Presents: VOO Fan Appreciation Concert
Jon Pardi, Rachel Farley, Jared Ashley
423 N Main St.
Tulsa, OK, 74103
This event is all ages
Watch & Listen
"All I ever wanted to do coming to Nashville was to write rowdy, in-your-face, straight country music," says Jon Pardi, "and that's what this album is."
Pardi’s high-energy approach, perfected on stages throughout his native California, has its stamp all over his Capitol Records Nashville debut. Just as importantly, that energy is applied to music rooted in songwriting legend Harlan Howard's adage that country is three chords and the truth.
"If you can take a piece of life and put it in a song," says Pardi, "it's going to be a good song—especially if it's from the heart."
Life and love, truth and energy wind their way all through his debut album, which showcases a young artist who is clearly no ordinary newcomer. Few artists hit stride as quickly and as forcefully as he has, and his fellow artists have been among the first to take note.
"People ask me who I'd like to open up for," he says with a smile, "but I’ve been lucky enough to have opened for several artists I look up to."
It's a list that includes Alan Jackson, Dwight Yoakam, Dierks Bentley, Gary Allan and Luke Bryan, artists who appreciate the kind of influences Pardi brings to the table—echoes of the crisp Bakersfield sound of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, hints of the driving beat of Waylon Jennings and the excitement of Jerry Lee Lewis. He brings all of it together and puts his unique stamp on it, topping it off with just a bit of swagger that gives a little edge to his undeniable appeal.
Like his heroes, Pardi is a longtime road warrior, a veteran of four-set shows and constant travel, someone who brings a wealth of experience to bear every time he steps in front of a microphone. He has gone on tour with kindred spirit and labelmate Eric Church, and earned a slot on the Austin City Limits Festival, one of the country world's most prestigious venues. His on-stage charisma and accessibility, his polished yet raucous sound, and his well-crafted and infectious songs earn him new fans wherever he goes.
The territory he covers on the CD—road life and the ups and downs of romance—has been the subject matter of many country classics through the decades, but Pardi, whose gift is a feel for atmosphere and an eye for detail, makes it all fresh and gives the project his indelible stamp.
A natural storyteller, he writes what he knows, spinning tales born of his dues-paying days in the area around his native Dixon, California, and bringing it all together into a strong, cohesive musical statement. Between the heartfelt opener "Fightin' the Fool" and the breakneck rocker "Drinkin' With Me," which closes the CD, he lays out a scenario of youth, music, love and loss that is as compelling as it is raucous. "Chasin' Them Better Days" and "Write You A Song" capture all the adventure and uncertainty of life on the road; "Happens All The Time" brings attraction, flirtation and love's possibilities, good and bad, to the table; from there, "Up All Night" celebrates love, "Missin' You Crazy" showcases the yin-yang pull of relationships and the road, "Love You From Here" is a surprisingly upbeat farewell to a departed love, and "Empty Beer Cans" and "Rainy Night Song" show both sides of the coin when it comes to heartache.
All in all, it's an album by an artist who knows just where his strengths lie—the excitement, experience and songwriting skills that fueled his relatively fast rise to publishing and label deals after his arrival in Nashville are all present. His one-of-a-kind voice brings a positive edge to even the toughest emotional scenarios.
"I really don't have any negative songs," he says. "It always feels good with me so when you come to a show or listen to the record, you're going to have a good time."
It's not hard to see where the earliest seeds of Pardi's approach lie. His musical journey began with a grandmother who loved classic country and had a karaoke machine in the house. Young Jon developed a special fondness for Hank Jr. and the two Georges—Jones and Strait—along with Alabama, Dwight Yoakam and Mark Chesnutt. He was just 7 when he sang "Friends in Low Places" for all he was worth at his dad's 30th birthday party at a local Legion hall.
At an even younger age, he walked out of a children's music class and asked for guitar lessons so he could sing like his heroes. He was writing songs by 12 and playing them in a band at 14. A self-confessed "class clown," he was more interested in writing songs and playing guitar than in either sports or homework. After high school, he and buddy Chase McGrew began playing acoustically in small bars around Dixon and Winters.
"Those were some of the fun times," he says, "and that's when I learned that slow songs don't go over when you're trying to sell beer, so I learned a lot of really up, fast songs that I still like doing today."
The two moved to Chico to go to Butte Junior College, where Pardi started the band Northern Comfort.
"We played together for three years and it was a lot of fun," he says. When they disbanded temporarily, "I went home and started saving money. I'd known I was going to move to Nashville since I was 19," and after visits to Music City where he met a few people, he knew the time was right.
"You need to have a level head to move here," he says, "to be confident enough to say, ‘I’m going to do it.' I felt like I was ready and I started out on February 23, 2008, with my mom crying as I drove away."
He took his dog, his PA system and the $7,000 he'd saved, which, he says, "I went through pretty quick." He used a credit card to pay the fee for lifeguard training, using that skill to earn money until he landed a publishing deal, just 18 months after moving. Two of his first collaborations, "Write You a Song" and "Fighting The Fool," were instrumental in landing him his publishing deal, and he took full advantage of the opportunity to write for money.
"I did a lot of co-writing," he says. "There were a lot of headache mornings but I still showed up, and a lot of good songs came on days like that."
As demos he wrote and sang started making the rounds on Music Row, label execs, including those at Capitol, began asking, "Who is this Jon Pardi?"
"We started doing showcases," he says, "and about the third one we did with the full band, [Capitol Records Nashville President] Mike Dungan gave me a handshake afterward and said, 'Let's do it.'"
As they talked about potential producers, Pardi suggested that he and his friend and collaborator Bart Butler, who had done the demos that had brought him this far, do the album.
"They said all right," he says, "and we cut four songs and they loved them. Then we went back in and finished it up."
The key from his perspective, he says, is "knowing what you want. I had what I wanted to sound like in my head. It's what made doing the demos and then the record so much fun. You take a piece of this influence and a bit of that and make it your own. So much happens in the studio if you've got your lyric and song melody down."
Given the quality of his heroes, the strength of his talent and the depth of his experience, the album became just the right showcase. From there, he says, "it's about surrounding yourself with great people. If you show Nashville you've got talent and if you do it right, they'll help you make that talent even better and help you get it out there."
Life perspective gives his success a special sweetness.
"I know I'm lucky to be doing what I'm doing," he says. "I could be back working construction or installing air conditioners in an attic that's at 115 degrees. There are a lot of people who work awfully hard to make a dollar. I'm glad the hard work I'm doing now goes into something I love this much. It makes me really happy to be here doing music."
As he begins making his mark on a national level, that's a feeling being shared by more and more new Jon Pardi fans.
Expectations for aspiring teenage singers are fairly well defined thanks to a pop culture that seems to be saturated with them. The list starts with a charming vocal ability, some stage presence and a bit of charisma. Seventeen year-old Rachel Farley definitely possesses all of these characteristics, but where the young Georgia native stands out from the rest is that she also exudes an undeniable air of strong, yet humble confidence, tenacious independence and songwriting that radiates wisdom beyond her years.
When stacking attributes in an attempt to define RED BOW Records Rachel Farley and her music, many qualities quickly step to the fore: Strength. Purpose. Conviction. The rest is almost baseline, a foundation upon which rests her single most unexpected characteristic: Artistry.
Rachel's cohesive sense of self, message and mission casts everything else in sharper relief. Her powerful voice becomes an oak-cured alto equally adept at gut-punch emotion and fire-breathing raucousness. Years spent performing with and learning from Brantley Gilbert, Colt Ford, Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean and more seem to be the apprenticeship of a craftsman. And a fearless honesty amplified by personal tragedy render all but truth inconsequential in the songs she writes. For Rachel Farley, life and music are much too real and much too raw to be forced into a box.
After all, it's not often a 17-year-old breaks onto the scene with a fully formed worldview. "You can be tough and a strong person without being a bad girl or mean," she explains. "You don't have to be a pushover to be a good girl, and you don't have to be fake. And that's what I hope comes across in my music. Obviously I'm young, and with people my age there's a lot of insecurity and trying to fit in, but that's too much pressure. Be who you are and let people respect you for that instead of trying to fit their mold. You can't be extraordinary if you're trying be like everybody else."
And if anything is certain, it's that Rachel Farley won't be following the crowd. "Music is all I ever wanted to do," she says. "When I was four or five I was playing concerts in my bedroom for millions of people and writing songs. When I started playing guitar at 12 and got my first gig, there was no question in my mind."
That first show wasn't exactly a dream come true. "The show was two hours long and, about two weeks before the show, I realized my eight songs weren't going to go very far," she laughs. "So I had my elementary school music teacher come out and play a few songs with me. That made it last about an hour, I took a 15-minute break and did the exact same set again. I had the place packed with friends and most of them never came out to see me again. And I don't blame them at all."
Rachel's learning curve was steep and lightning fast, however. The following year she played 100 shows. At 13, she met then-rising local performer Brantley Gilbert and started opening shows for him. "Of course now he's got radio hits and is blowing up everywhere, but even back then he was huge in Georgia," she recalls. "He was such an inspiration in showing what could be built and the kind of show that could be put on at that level. You don't have to have expensive lights and videos to reach people."
The commitment was already intense. "I went to my first two days of seventh grade and that was it," she laughs. "I had to start homeschooling. You can only have so many fake doctor's appointments before somebody gets suspicious. We were playing so many gigs and driving to Nashville so much that it just didn't make sense anymore."
And there was another kind of education going on anyway. "My mom was really smart," Rachel says. "She read every book she could find on the music industry and did everything she could to help me without being overbearing with my artistic development." Farley met her manager and producer Michael Knox (Jason Aldean) about this time and went on to sign her first recording and publishing deal at 15. It was a bittersweet period for the Farley family.
"That was the year my dad was diagnosed with a very rare cancer," she says. He passed away in August 2011. "You learn so much and it's not all negative," she continues. "There's a side of me that's very blessed to have been through it and have the perspective I have. He was so proud of me – the kind of dad who made sure his co-workers all had my demo CD from when I was 11.
"I don't know that it's affected my music; maybe it's too early to know. You do realize that a lot of things aren't important and some things matter more than people know. Carrying that with me in life is going to make me stronger. At the end of the day what matters is how you and God view yourself. If you know that you can come before God with what you've done in life and he can be proud of you, you've done things right."
Now Rachel's opening for Jason Aldean's sold-out tour with Luke Bryan, and she can be heard on Brantley Gilbert's latest single "Kick It In The Sticks." "'Hey, trouble, whassup?' Yeah, that's me," she laughs. "I'm in the video for a millisecond. And with the tour, Jason heard my music about a year ago and apparently liked it. For him to pick me without a radio hit or anything is amazing." Meanwhile, she's finishing work on her debut album for Broken Bow Records – home to Aldean, Dustin Lynch and more.
One song is particularly dear. "I just call it 'My Daddy's Song,'" she explains. "One of the last things he asked was for me to write him a song, and I actually wrote it the night he passed away." Brantley Gilbert and songwriter Mike Dekle were among the first to reach out to Farley after her father's passing, and she joined them that evening at a benefit show for a fallen police officer. "Getting ready for the show, the chorus just hit me. I remember telling Brantley that if I finished it, I'd sing it at the funeral. I woke up that morning and the rest just fell out in no time at all. I thought, 'Okay, I'm doing this today.' It's everything I was feeling; very honest, very raw."
That kind of depth might not be expected from some precocious kid singer with a big voice, but it's exactly what can be expected from an artist like Rachel Farley.
It’s no surprise that those closest to the up and coming Nashville singer and songwriter Jared Ashley, think of him as just a little bit of a stickler when it comes to details.
“It’s always been attention to the small things that have made the biggest impact to my career,” he says with a bit of a smile. “Whether it’s the pacing of the live show, the vocal harmonies or the way the bass and drums play off one another, all those things matter.” And little by little, all the elements have come together to make Jared Ashley one of Nashville’s most promising new artists.
Born in Hobbs, NM, near the oil fields on the Texas-New Mexico border, Ashley relocated to Newnan, GA with his dad as a small child. “Growing up, my parents listened to Alabama, Ronnie Milsap, Kenny Rogers. I was always around country music as a kid,” Jared recalls.
He received his first guitar at the age of five and it proved a constant friend to him throughout childhood. The Ashley family later returned to Hobbs during Jared’s sophomore year in high school and, not knowing a soul his own age, he began honing his guitar playing and writing music as a way to pass the time.
“That’s when I really sat down and got serious about writing songs and playing the guitar,” he says. “I was really just trying to consume my time with things other than being bored out of my mind,” he says. Inspired by the revitalization of country music in the early 90’s by artists like Travis Tritt and fellow Newnan native Alan Jackson, Jared came to claim country music as his own.
After high school, Jared joined the Navy, serving four years aboard the USS Independence and USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carriers. He spent much of that time stationed in Yokosuka, Japan while also serving two tours of duty in the Persian Gulf. “On long trips out to sea, there’s not a whole lot to do when you’re off duty. You can stare at water or you can play the guitar. And that’s when I got more serious about it.”
At the encouragement of his Navy buddies, Jared began playing acoustic gigs at George's Country Bar, located just off the naval base in Yokosuka. It was there his music caught the ear of a friend who introduced him to a contact with deep ties in the Nashville music community. With a year left on his commitment with the Navy, Jared made his first trip to Nashville and was instantly hooked on the town’s thriving scene.
Jared moved to Nashville the following year, assembling a band nearly as soon as he arrived. His talents quickly landed him the coveted weekend gig at the world-famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge on lower Broadway. “Lower Broad is a boot camp,” Jared says. “You’re gonna meet a ton of people and you’re gonna learn a lot. It’ll either make you or break you.”
The gigs at Tootsie proved to be a tremendous break for Jared, giving him the opportunity to meet and impress numerous Music Row executives at his shows and make his first foray into the recording studio. It was there that Jared also met the booking agent who began to mold Jared into the road warrior he has become.
After placing fifth on Season Four of “Nashville Star” in 2006, Jared used the exposure to further his ability to tour and build a fan base as a live artist, even without the benefit of a record deal.
The many miles spent on the road have given Jared an even greater opportunity to hone his songwriting and test his material with his live audience. “I’m a songwriter first, and I became an artist because I wanted people to hear my songs,” Jared says. “I’m really enjoying the songs I’m writing more because they represent where I am in my life right now.”
Now more confident with his abilities to write songs as well as spot the special ones from other writers in the Nashville community, Ashley headed into the studio in 2010 with co-producer Bobby Terry to begin assembling an album for his fans to purchase at shows. The self-titled, self-financed project made it abundantly clear that he had grown into an artist fully capable of hanging with Nashville’s best.
The music also brought Jared to the attention of Blaster Entertainment, a multi-faceted Ohio-based entertainment company. Jared was soon signed for management representation, and it was an easy decision for both parties to sign him to a record deal when the company’s Blaster Records division launched a full Nashville operation in 2012 behind the release of albums by Hank Williams, Jr. and Aaron Lewis.
Ashley, who maintains an aggressive touring schedule playing more than 150 shows per year, is currently on a nationwide tour visiting country radio stations to promote his first single, “Last Train To Memphis.” The song, penned by Ashley with Nick Sturms and Jeremy McComb, is one of eleven tracks from his forthcoming Blaster Records release.
Jared’s single-minded determination can be found in the lyric of “Last Train To Memphis” -- ‘It’s a one-way track, there ain’t no going back.’ That dedication is finally paying off tenfold in the realization of his lifelong dreams.