Country Star Jon Pardi

Photo by Russ Harrington

With two rowdy hit singles, “Up All Night” and “Missin’ You Crazy,” under his cowboy belt, 28-year-old Dixon native Jon Pardi continues to make his mark on the country music scene with the new release of his debut album, Write You a Song. The rising Nashville star talks about burning up the Billboard charts, touring with platinum-selling artists like Luke Bryan and proudly displaying his Central Valley roots in the Music City.

Your debut single, “Missin’ You Crazy,” made it to the top 25 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart in 2012 and your second single, “Up All Night,” recently cracked the top 20. How does it feel to make such a strong start in your music career? 

It’s amazing. It’s crazy to me because it’s taken so long to get there. We put [“Up All Night”] out last March, and it finally got to the top 20 in November. It’s cool to have a song that [people] stuck with that kept climbing. It’s just really fun to watch.

Those singles were included in your new album, Write You a Song, [which was released on Jan. 14 by Capital Records], along with nine new songs. What can your fans expect from your first album?

It’s all about my life experiences and just working hard. I’ve been playing around the country for about three years now. This album has a lot of that in it. “Chasin’ Them Better Days” is kind of like our theme song when we’re out there [on the road]. In the music business or anything you’re doing, you’re chasing better days—you’re working hard—so that’s one of my favorites on the album. I was in a relationship when I first moved to Nashville [about six years ago], so I got some heartache songs out of that, and there’s some good old beer drinkin’ songs. Girls are crazy, so you write about girls. I try to write so everybody connects to my music, not just for me. Not every girl’s crazy, though—I’m just saying.

Speaking of being on the road, in 2011 you and your band joined country-pop megastar Luke Bryan for his “Spring Break” shows. What was that like?

Luke’s a good guy. We went on tour with Luke in 2010, and there were like 2,000 people [at his shows]. Three years later, he’s selling stadiums out. He’s getting busier, but he still takes time to remember me and ask how I’m doing. We’re actually going to do the spring break thing with him again [this year]. He’ll play on a beach at 4 in the afternoon, and we’re going to play at 11 at night at the bar. We did that last time too, and it’s freaking crazy. We’re going to call it “The Pardi Break.” We went on tour with Eric Church [for his 2012 “Blood, Sweat & Beers” tour] and we played to 17,000 people—crazy, awesome shows. And then literally after that, we were playing in a Mexican restaurant in Fresno. There were like 40 people there. You’ve just got to pay your dues. Keep on keepin’ on.

Nashville’s a long way from Dixon, where you were born and raised. How did living there influence your music?

Dixon is a small town with farmland everywhere and everybody knows everybody. It’s a good community. My mom’s from Winters and my dad’s from Dixon. My dad was in construction and agriculture. Everybody listened to country. Since day one, I’ve just been around it. I used to sing in the backyard [when] I was 4 or 5. My grandma was a big influence. She wasn’t like a knockout singer, but she could sing, and she was the life of the party. She loved good country music and had a little karaoke machine back in the day and you could sing the tracks and record. All the ’90s country, that’s what I grew up on: George Strait, Hank Williams Jr., Alan Jackson. I loved Dwight Yoakam. Later on, I loved Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, who’ve actually been on Capitol Records. It’s cool to be on their label.

How old were you when you started performing in public?

When I was 7, I was doing these contests [singing] Dwight Yoakam. I think I did Youth Day in Winters and the Dixon May Fair a couple of times. I saw Lynyrd Skynyrd and Clint Black [in concert] there. I learned [to play guitar] when I was about 9. I never paid attention to school; I was always in a band. At 18, I was playing little dive bars in Dixon and Winters. I’ve played Bud’s [Pub in Dixon] and the Buckhorn [Bar in Dixon]. They’re always cool. The Wrangler [Bar] in Elk Grove is awesome. Man, I had some fun times there. I went to Butte College and stomped around Chico for like three years. I started a country-bluegrass band called Northern Comfort. I did that from like 19 to 22 on and off, and then moved to Nashville when I was 22.

There aren’t that many country stars coming out of California. Do you feel like you’re representing a side of the state that a lot of people don’t know about?

When I was 7, I was doing these contests [singing] Dwight Yoakam. I think I did Youth Day in Winters and the Dixon May Fair a couple of times. I saw Lynyrd Skynyrd and Clint Black [in concert] there. I learned [to play guitar] when I was about 9. I never paid attention to school; I was always in a band. At 18, I was playing little dive bars in Dixon and Winters. I’ve played Bud’s [Pub in Dixon] and the Buckhorn [Bar in Dixon]. They’re always cool. The Wrangler [Bar] in Elk Grove is awesome. Man, I had some fun times there. I went to Butte College and stomped around Chico for like three years. I started a country-bluegrass band called Northern Comfort. I did that from like 19 to 22 on and off, and then moved to Nashville when I was 22.

Do you still make it back home to visit your friends and family?

I usually try to take some time off around May and September [and come back]. I still like all the old stomping grounds. I grew up hunting and going to Lake Berryessa. I miss the farms and going out to my buddies’ cattle ranches.

What’s next for you?

I just want to play music as long as I can. I have always looked up to the artists that have longevity, like the Kenny Chesneys, the George Straits and the Tim McGraws—the guys that just keep rocking it throughout their career. My manager called me today, and she was like, “Jon, you’re on [the iTunes chart of the most downloaded country] songs.” There were [acts like] Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Taylor Swift in that category, and there was me. I’m like, “Wow, I’m up there.” I’m out here chasing a dream from California. S