This article by Lauren Tingle was originally published on CMT’s website.
What sets Justin Moore apart from other artists is that he exudes most perennial themes in country music all at once.
He is the Christian fire and brimstone on a Sunday morning and a late-night hell-raiser whose No. 1 priorities in life are his faith and family. He can sing the tar out of drinking songs just as well as he eulogizes loved ones, as he does in his latest Top 10 hit, “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home.”
No matter how you shake it or stir it, Moore is timeless country, and he considers it an honor when country people recognize themselves in his music.
“I learned a long time ago when my first single flopped, and then the label wanted to put out ’Small Town U.S.A.,’ I thought, ’Nobody’s going to be able to relate to this except people like me, and there can’t be a ton of people like me,’” Moore told CMT.com.
“Fortunately, I was dead wrong. With that song, I learned that if it’s something I can relate to, it’s probably something a lot of people can relate to. That’s something that’s kind of stuck with me over the years that if it’s personal to me whether it’s a parenting thing, or whether it’s something that I’m going through with my wife or whatever the case may be, it’s probably going to be relatable to a ton of other people.”
Moore wrote more than 30 songs intended for his latest album, Late Nights and Longnecks, which arrives Friday (July 26). Enjoy more from his CMT.com Q&A below.
CMT.com: You’ve always stayed true to yourself no matter what the trends are. Talk about finding that balance in delivering a body of work that represents what today’s country fans expect of country artists and providing a body of work that stays true to you and your need to grow creatively.
Moore: Having the opportunity to be doing this as long as I have is probably the proudest part of my entire career; to still be here over a decade later, still have hit records on the radio and never really have that fall-off in between. There’s been a miss here or there, but to consistently stay on the radio and do it the way that I wanted to do it, in the face of radio not sounding like it did when I came out, it’s something I’m really proud of.
I don’t really know what to attribute it to. I’ve said this probably to you over the years, but I truly believe that fans may love rap country, rock country, or pop country, or country-country, or whatever it may be; they want to know what you sound like on the radio. They want to know what you look like on TV. Usually that’s a disappointment when it comes to me.
But I really think they want to know who you are as a person. Regardless of the style of songs we’ve put out or recorded, I’ve always tried to provide insight into that. With songs like “Small Town U.S.A.” or “Til My Last Day,” me being married for 12 years, fast forward to a song like “That’s My Boy” on this new album about having my first son, I’ve just tried to be real in interviews, songwriting, and songs I choose to record. I think being honest with the fans has contributed to that. Again, I’m more proud of the fact that I’m still sitting here 10 years or 12 years later actually than I am anything throughout my entire career.
When you did hit your first decade as a signed artist, did it feel like an accomplishment?
I signed my deal 12 years ago and started my radio tour, this marks 10 years since my first album came out. But when my first single came out in ’07, it was a flop. That’s the only deal I’ve had. I actually signed my first record deal at my wedding on Sept. 29, 2007. It’s very special. It did mean a lot to me I came out.
As everybody does in a class of ’07 or a class of ’89, you have your four or five buddies that you play every acoustic show with because we’re all out performing our songs, you’re seeing each other at airports because you’re visiting radio stations, and I don’t see a lot of those folks anymore. So, for me to still be doing it, I feel very fortunate and very blessed.
Plus, we live in an age when you can make music anywhere. Willie Nelson and Buddy Cannon write songs over text.
My first two albums, most of my vocals were made in some hole-in-the-wall studio in Destin, Florida. Also, a lot of those songs were written down there. But my producer and I would go rent a motel room – not a hotel at the time – a motel room with an outdoor entrance. We couldn’t afford anything else. But we wrote a lot of songs down there.
So, fast forward to this album, my wife and I have had a place down there for seven years. I said, “Let’s just take a handful of our buddies we love to write songs with, go down there and do it kind of like we did 15 years ago.” That’s what we did retreat style. And it was the most fun I’ve had making a record. I truly believe it’s the best record I’ve ever made and to be able to say those two things this far into my career, I think is pretty special.
The first time I heard “The Ones Who Didn’t Make It Back Home” it was around the time of the Parkland school shooting. Talk about the significance of that song for people who are healing from something traumatic.
We did a benefit at Parkland, and I met all of the victims’ families, which was difficult, but also really humbling and such an honor. These parents were talking about their daughter or their sons unfortunately and how that song had helped them through a very difficult time.
One of my grandfathers is retired out of the Navy, and another retired from the Air Force. So, it’s been burned in my brain that those men and women deserve for us to talk about them and legitimately express how we appreciate them.
I had recorded that song around the time my grandfather passed away who I was obsessed with. He was my hero, and so it helped me as well. It helped in my healing process. I believe he was 72 when he passed but it was really unexpected. That was difficult for me and that song helped me. It’s one thing to have a hit record but it’s really special when you have something like this that impacts people’s lives in a positive way.