The 75th Santa Maria Elks Rodeo brings in world-class performers and athletes from throughout the nation, but it’ll celebrate its local roots Saturday evening when Central Coast country music artist JD Hardy takes the stage.
The Arroyo Grande artist brings to the stage a blend of traditional country story-telling, upbeat country swing and modern country as well as mixed-genre Americana.
“I like to do a little of everything, and, somehow, I can write it all,” Hardy said.
Hardy was raised in Bakersfield where his dad was a studio musician for Buck Owens, his grandfather served as Owen’s pastor, and his grandmother was a singer-songwriter and recording artist in her own right. Merle Haggard and Red Simpson were just everyday guys to little JD.
“I was surrounded by music. I didn’t have a chance not to be a musician,” Hardy said.
He was 3 years old when he picked up the guitar, and by the time he was 7, he’d added drumming to his skill set and was playing on Owens’ Sunday morning gospel radio show.
“That was our church for about six years,” Hardy said.
He came into his own in his late 20s when he started opening for a laundry list of country artists: Mark Chestnutt, Shooter Jennings, Tyler Farr, Easton Corbin, The Swon Brothers, and more.
“I’ve always had fun with it,” Hardy said.
He signed with Sony Nashville, then Castle Records before going independent.
“I wanted to take back control of my music, the delivery, the presentation. Technology allows artists so much control now. I can do my pre-studio work here at the house. Everyone who works for me has their input, but ultimately I have control of what comes out in the end, and as an independent, that means the song I hear in my head is the song you’ll hear on the recording,” Hardy said.
For the finish work, he turns to professionals, not the least of which is Steve Crimmel at Painted Sky Recording Studio in Cambria, and Nasvhille’s master sound mixer Bob Bullock.
“Mixing and recording and sound and music, it’s in their blood,” Hardy said.
With more than 200 songs in his catalog, there’s no telling what Hardy will pull out Saturday night.
“Amongst musicians, there are no genres. True musicians can switch from country to reggae to rock to metal, whatever they feel like playing. Either you can play, or you can’t. True musicians have respect and admiration for one another no matter what style they favor,” Hardy said.