(Photo by Kevin Hoover)
Colton Ford knows his way around a studio. The performer, now 60, entered the music industry right out of high school.
“I started gigging at a nightclub and dinner theater at 18 years old,” he says. “From there I was found by people who brought me in to do commercial jingles and a jazz quartet, then I started getting label deals.”
Ford found himself working with professional producers and securing two deals with Virgin Records in the 90s. The first paired him with the Grammy Award-winning Frankie Knuckles, widely celebrated as the Godfather of House music.
“My roots are in R&B and Frankie Knuckles picked me to be the featured artist on his second album. Virgin essentially pulled the rug out from under us after that,” he recalls, preferring a direction more in line with C&C Music Factory and Martha Wash’s hit “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now).”
“They had a picture of a diva in their minds,” Ford notes. “You get to a certain point in that fight where you can do an album, but if the label isn’t going to support it it’s not going to get played.”
He didn’t stop there, however, taking a well-documented detour in 2001.
“That’s when I decided to have an adventure and do some porn,” he laughs. “It’s something I had fantasized about, but because my focus was specifically on my music up until that point — I was 39 at the time — I didn’t consider anything else.
“I was also in an age range where I wasn’t necessarily ‘label material’ anymore,” Ford continues. “I just thought, ‘hey, maybe doing this in front of a camera will get people’s attention and draw them to the other stuff that I can do.”
It worked. Ford quickly amassed a following, appearing in multiple adult films and winning “Gay Performer of the Year” at the 2003 GayVN Awards.
Ford’s departure from the profession was also well documented. His decision was the focus of “Naked Fame” in 2005, a documentary showcasing his transition “from porn star to pop star.”
“Gay adult film star Colton Ford leaves porn behind to pursue new aspirations as a musical artist,” it’s described on Prime Video. “He has the talent, but can he use his porn past to build a career as a singer-songwriter?”
“I was approached by a producer to do a documentary right around the time where I was feeling like I had gotten everything out of the adult film experience that I could,” Ford says. “I wanted to really refocus myself on my music.”
That’s what he did. Ford has now released two EPs, a collection of Billboard-charting singles and five full-length albums, including this year’s “Permission.”
Its 12 tracks are a mixture of contemporary R&B and Pop featuring “messages on aging and coming out of the closet.” The album was written with Ford’s co-creators in Woop Woop Productions, The Real RJS and Spin Sista.
“They come up with the tracks, I write the top line, which is the melody and the lyrics,” he explains. “I do all the vocals and they arrange their stuff in-house.”
The production company wrote around 25 songs at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ford says its title track “is about being who we are born to be and living authentic lives that do not require anyone’s permission but our own.”
He says reception has been positive, particularly when it comes to the album’s first single. The singer describes “Handle It” as “the kind of ooey gooey R&B song that I love.”
That’s clear in the song’s video, which has two versions. One is safe for work, while the other is explicitly “Full Monty.”
“Handle It” was filmed at The Barracks and Snap Studios in Palm Springs. Ford’s friends and porn stars Drew Sebastian, Mack Austin and Macho Dog join him for the X-Rated version, portraying go-go boys at an underground gay nightclub.
“There was intense chemistry between the four of us, and you see it, especially in the explicit version of the video,” Ford laughs, but the video also has another layer. Two of the performers are 60, another is in his 40s and another in his 30s.
“I think it’s wonderful that men in different stages of their lives are finding common ground on the dancefloor and in bedrooms,” Ford says. “Giving ourselves permission to explore ourselves and our lives — including the wonderful experiences we share with others as we move through it — is liberating!”
It’s something Ford has begun to embrace more in recent years, returning to adult entertainment through sites like OnlyFans and JustForFans. It’s allowed him “to capitalize on the adult side of my brand, and also bring that and my music together.”
“At this point in my career I’m attached to both music and porn no matter what, and I embrace both,” he says. Doing so has allowed Ford to continue carving his own path, one that he hopes shows others that aging if what you make it.
“I think there’s something really powerful about guys my age showing themselves in this way and letting people know that life doesn’t stop at 50,” Ford says. “It really helps redefine the idea of what aging is and what it looks like.
“Mainstream music videos are very sexually oriented, especially with women,” he adds. “So this just makes sense; I’m an exhibitionist, I still enjoy that and still can be, so I’m really just blending the two and keeping myself out there and current.”
Besides, he laughs, “daddies are in.”
While Ford admits “I’m not necessarily where I envisioned myself,” the entertainer is happy with the work he’s done. In addition to his ever-expanding catalogue, on film and in the recording studio, he’s collaborated with artists like Cazwell and toured with Cyndi Lauper for the popstar’s “True Colors” tour.
“There’s a lot of stuff that I’ve been able to do in the 40 years I’ve been in the industry,” Ford says. “I’m happy to still be doing it.”
Colton Ford’s “Permission” is available to stream now on all major music platforms. Learn more about his music and much more at Linktr.ee/ColtonFord.