California culture and music is a big feature of the latest episode of Chris Shiflett’s Walking the Floor podcast, which features country artist Jon Pardi — a native of Dixon, California — as the guest. Recorded during quarantine and through some intermittent WiFi issues, the episode lets SoCal native Shiflett and “Heartache Medication” singer Pardi talk about some of the massive differences in their respective parts of the Golden State.
“Most everything I do now I’ve learned from California — being in agriculture, being in construction, being in music. Just being outside. That’s one of the main things I miss about California, that weather,” Pardi says. “That Napa Valley area, that’s close to Dixon. We’d go up to the hills and we’d do a lot of hunting out there, lot of mountain work. When you’re a kid you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re gonna do that next summer, right?’ And you don’t think it’s gonna go away.”
Below, we round up a few highlights from the episode, which is available for listening in full.
Pardi became more aware of the Bakersfield Sound after he came to Nashville, but he’d already been mining some of its loud-and-fast style without realizing.
“We loved country, we loved traditional country. I thought Charlie Robison was awesome, and Chris Knight, back when I was still in California. And Brooks & Dunn and Alan Jackson. And they made, not necessarily be California country, but [we] loved that stuff,” Pardi says. “That’s what’s cool about the West Coast: if you don’t realize it, that’s even better. I learned more about Bakersfield in Nashville. Because I wasn’t studying it. I was like, ‘This is cool, we’re high energy.’ When we were playing bars in northern California, I always said, ‘Man, we gotta compete with rap. We gotta be energetic. We gotta get out there and do it.’ And we kept it really country. The attitude was just what it was, and it wasn’t studied, it wasn’t like, ‘I’m gonna be this thing.’ That’s the attitude that the West Coast has.”
Pardi has one of his grandmothers to thank for fostering his love of classic rock & roll and country.
“You always grew up hearing these songs. Hell, me and my grandma used to sing ‘Great Balls of Fire’ and even ‘Johnny B Goode,’” he says. “She loved that Fifties music. I can’t remember when I first heard it. Who knows when my grandma played it? But it’s just that boogie woogie — I always said if I could learn to play the piano, I’d want to learn boogie woogie.”
In addition to covering Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town” in a high school band, Pardi also went through a big pop-punk phase. But his songs still sounded like country, just sped up.
“At the time I rebelled from country, because I grew up everything country,” he says. “And Blink-182 and Green Day and all that stuff was huge at the time, so I got really into that high-energy, super-catchy stuff. And then I burned out after high school. I’m kinda open about that, because when I started writing country again — through all the wannabe pop-punk stuff, I still sounded country. But it forced me to really dig in to high-energy catchy riffs and always trying to be fast, loud, and bringing that back to country. Not even knowing that was a West Coast thing.”