“Releasing albums is like judgment day. Are they gonna like it? I know they will, but you never know. I think the record is great, but there’s so many things that get in your head.”
Born and raised in Dixon, California, U.S. singer-songwriter, Jon Pardi fell in love with country music, artists like Garth Brooks, George Strait, George Jones, Merle Haggard and Hank Williams, Jr., when he was a kid, aided by the presence of his grandmother's karaoke machine.
He started singing at age 7, began writing songs at 12-years-old and joined a band when he was 14. After graduating from high school, he formed a duo with his friend Chase McGrew called Northern Comfort. After splitting in 2008, Pardi moved to Nashville to attempt to break into the country music business. He released his debut single Missin’ You Crazy in 2012, but it was his follow up, Up All Night that gave him his first country top ten.
Since then, he has had fourteen singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs and Country Airplay charts, been nominated for numerous awards including wins for ‘New Artist of the Year’ at the 2017 CMA Awards and ‘New Male Vocalist of the Year’ at the 2017 ACM Awards, and opened for acts like Alan Jackson, Kip Moore, Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley, among others.
On September 2, the neotraditional country artist released his fourth album, Mr. Saturday Night. Featuring the singles Last Night Lonely, Longneck Way To Go with Midland, Your Heart Or Mine as well as the title track, Mr. Saturday Night, it’s an apt title for the self-confessed party animal.
Pardi admits, “I would say you are talking to Mr. Saturday Night, it's very nice to meet you. I've picked up so many bar tabs, had so much fun, tip the bartenders I don't know how much cash, talk to them about everything and just go home and live it every night.”
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The slow-rolling song, however, juxtaposes the high-spirited life of the party with the desolate guy who goes home to face what he’s lost.
He says, “The thing with Mr. Saturday Night, the song is that it's all a persona, when he's sad and misses his significant other that is no longer obviously talking to him because he said he messed it up, most likely because he was flirtatious and probably got in trouble.”
“The best part about is you don't want to dwell in sadness. There's always that point where it's time to let go and I feel like there's a lot of this on the record. Mr. Saturday Night is pushing through it, but ‘they don't know how much I'm Mr Saturday Night.’ There's a lot of that loneliness in this record. Everyone likes a good sad song, but there's a lot of twists on sadness with fun and having a good time. So, I think that's how it all kind of ties back to Mr. Saturday Night.”
With Mr. Saturday Night, 14 songs steeped in losing, a little loving and what’s in between, the California-born and raised honky tonker considers the recording three years in the making.
“A lot of these songs that I didn't write we lived with for two years. Last Night Lonely, Neon Light Speed, we've had on hold forever,” he says. “Mr. Saturday Night itself, I've known that song for like, three years. I live with those emotions and have to bury them. It's like the guys that bury alcohol at the festival grounds before the festival is happening. Three years later, he's partying, and he digs up that that liquor of gold he gets to drink for free at the festival. That's a funny analogy, but I had to hide all the songs from everybody til I put my record out.”
“I saw it today on Instagram. This couple was sitting by a bush in the park and a guy asked if he could sit by them and dig a hole so he can bury alcohol for the festival coming up in a couple of months,” he laughs. “It's like a new thing. Most festivals are in a park somewhere that's usually open to public, and they shut them down and put the big fences up. Everybody's got GPS or puts plants up by the bush and digs it up later. It's free booze. It's really funny.”
From the breezy, falling-in-love California shimmer Santa Cruz, the erotic slink of denial Your Heart Or Mine, the open plains tough guy surrender Hung the Moon, or the romping Fill ’Er Up, Pardi moves through all the gears of country and Western with an ease unseen in today’s Nashville.
Pardi admits, “I try not to, like, doing the whole TikTok thing where you wait for your song to blow up. I feel that's like waiting to find a dragon somewhere in a cave. I want to put my artistry first, like, no, this is something I would do. Starting there, because I know a good song, I can tell you.”
The album ends with the unlikely and controversially titled Reverse Cowgirl. Although often tied to a sexual act, the song itself is actually a yearning call to a woman who’s taken off, and features Sarah Buxton vocals and current 'CMA Musician of the Year' Jenee Fleenor.
“Oh, we knew exactly what we were doing when we put it on as the last song!” he laughs.
“When I first heard Reverse Cowgirl, I was like, ‘holy shit! This is a really well written song that makes you think a little different.’ And it's fun. Girls love it. It blew me away… then I had to go tell management, the label, that, “hey, I got this song called Reverse Cowgirl and I'm gonna record it… and we're not going to change the title.”
“It's a really pretty song, and it's a heart broke song. He wants his cowgirl back but just little subtle hints that make you smile,” he continues. “I picture me on an acoustic guitar in an arena playing that. Just me, the crowd and everybody singing every word to it. If you have something heartfelt, that's fun, funny and you don't take yourself too seriously, I think it’s a win.”
Mr. Saturday Night was produced by Bart Butler, Ryan Gore and Pardi, the same team behind his critically acclaimed third studio release, Heartache Medication, nominated for ‘Album of the Year’ by both the CMA and ACM. It also peaked at #17 on the ARIA Australia Digital Albums Chart and followed his first two albums Write You A Song (2014) and California Sunrise (2016).
Although he hasn’t started the project at the time of this interview, an extended edition of Mr. Saturday Night is set to follow, featuring an upcoming collaboration with Luke Bryan.
“I tell everybody. Management's like, ‘Oh, don't tell’, but it's like, why not? It's gonna be out in April and it's gonna be a monster hit,” he laughs. “It's called Cowboys and Plowboys. It’s about how we're different but we're all the same in a way. It’s a big anthem, and it's gonna be awesome.”
“It's the perfect song for me and Luke to sing. I’ve known him since 2013, but it's my first time getting to sing Luke. The most exciting part is I get to sing a song with somebody that has always been a guy I looked up to it and gave me advice when times were tough.”
As well as the forthcoming deluxe album, Pardi is keen to tour Australia again. He was last down under in April-May 2019 on a co-headlining tour with Brett Eldredge, with dates that took them to Brisbane, Sydney, Tamworth and Melbourne as well as the Winton Way Out West Festival.
“We'd love to go back, but I don't know when," the 37-year-old showman admits.
"We went there in 2019 and people were asking ‘why didn't we go to London, why didn't we go to UK’, so we have a lot of pitstops before we make it back to Australia because you guys were the first. You guys were the first ever touring on that side of the world for me… I mean, I went to London and got drunk basically but I didn't play music,” he laughs.
“I remember the show's being great. We had a good time,” Pardi continues. “We went Winton in the middle of nowhere, flies everywhere. We flew into an airport that had two toilets, literally, two toilets, and then we drove off into the Outback, and everybody was drinking and having a good time. I was definitely blown away by Australia and definitely want to come back. I know everybody loves country music out there, so it is definitely on the ‘we will return’ list.”
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