Though Justin Moore has been a chart presence for seven years now, the Valory Music Co. recording artist is rather easy to take for granted. A trip to see the Arkansas native in concert will definitely change that thought process, as it did this writer in January at Knoxville's Thompson-Boling Arena, where he was opening for Miranda Lambert as part of her Platinum tour. The singer held his own on the stage for well over an hour, delivering a set that had the East Tennessee crowd on the edge of their seats.
Moore tells Billboard that you simply don't get used to nights like those.
"It never gets old. It's not unlike any other job. There are positives and negatives. In our jobs, the positive far outweighs the other, but there are some negatives. You have to be away from your family so much, and these buses are nice, but they're not home. We have to do everything that we don't want to do in order to go play music for the fans. That's the most rewarding part of the job. I like to be in the studio, and I like writing songs, but nothing compares to being out in front of the crowd. Anytime we have an opportunity to do that, and the energy inside the building was like it was in Knoxville and at so many of our shows, it reminds you every time of why you do things that you'd rather not do -- like leave your little girl and crying like I did last night," he says, his voice cracking.
Making Moore's success even more amazing is the fact that he has been able to keep his music in a traditional vein -- even making his cover of Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home" sound like a country classic. Moore simply says that's him being true to his musical sound. "To each their own. If you're pop-country, or rock-country, be that. Even though I am more traditional country, I've always said that there's room for everything. I've always said that you just need to be true to who you are, no matter what that is. If you're not, the fans are pretty smart, and they can cut through the B.S. If somebody else does something different, as long as you do it well, I'm cool with that too."
He says that exposure for the genre certainly helps everybody. "No matter what it is that you do, if you're out there touching people's lives, motivating them to go listen to country music, it's good for all of us. I think that it's easy to see that our format is more diverse than it's ever been. I would say our format might be the biggest one in the industry now, and that's good for each of us."
Moore is in the process of recording his fourth album for Valory, and once again, he has solicited the help of his favorite A&R rep: his wife, Kate. "I rely on her quite a bit. We had a session booked yesterday and today. I had a couple of spots left, and I could absolutely not decide what to throw in there. I let my wife pick them. One of them was a song that wasn't even on my radar, and she was just adamant that I cut it. The last time that happened was 'Til' My Last Day,' which became a No. 1 record for us. I think that when you're in the business, we listen to music differently from a normal person who either likes something or doesn't like something -- especially me as a songwriter. I'll go, 'It doesn't get to the hook fast enough. It's too long. It's too slow or it's too pop.' She just listens, and goes, 'Oh, I like that' or 'I don't like that.' Anyone that you have around you like that is definitely a tool to use, and I've learned that in the past with her picking some songs that became hits that I might have never even have recorded."
Moore has also kicked off a promotion with Crown Royal called "Who's Your Town's Local Hero?" He views the program as a way to give back. "This is just another way we can try to honor some people who deserve it and give them the recognition they deserve. Anytime I have an opportunity to honor a military hero or just a hero in general, it's a special thing for me. To be able to give back because we have been given so much is something that is important to me. I'm a Christian, and the Bible says, 'To whom much is given, much is required,' and I try to keep that in the back of my mind every day."
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