Mo Pitney on the Success of 'Country': 'God Has Been Awful Kind'

Mo Pitney

Mo Pitney

The past few months have been quite memorable for Mo Pitney, who is watching as his debut single, "Country," gets more and more radio action -- sitting at No. 49 with a bullet on the Country Airplay chart this week.

"It's been amazing," the Illinois native said. "The journey started on the radio tour with all of the traveling around. Things got crazy to the point where I didn't have time to look at or to think what was happening with the song."

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Pitney said he wanted to make a good first impression with radio and not worry about the charts -- at least for a while. "My approach was to work as hard as I could when we started the tour, and then take a look at how it was going when we started to slow down some. Every once in a while, my manager would keep me updated. It's so great to know that my song is on the charts. I didn't think that would ever be possible."

The Curb recording artist knows that success for a newcomer is not a sure thing, particularly with his back-to-basics style. "My music is a little bit more traditional, but the more I went out, and the more I met people, I found that they were willing to take a chance on it. That became a huge confidence booster."

One place Pitney's music has found a home is on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, which he tells Billboard "has been more than kind to me. The first night that I played there, we had one of the best performing nights I've ever had. We played 'Country' and 'Clean Up on Aisle Five' and got a standing ovation for both. They have treated me just like family, which is great. The Opry symbolizes what I believe about country music. Because my music is more traditional, I think they accepted me into the family. It's been one of the biggest honors in my life and career so far."

There's an Opry link to Pitney's first single, which was co-written by Country Music Hall of Fame member Bill Anderson, along with Bobby Tomberlin. "To even write a song with those guys is amazing, but to have it as my first single, and to have people hear it is quite an honor."

If "Country" makes the top 40, it will put Anderson in a league by himself -- with records earning that distinction in every decade since the 1950s. What sets "Whisperin' Bill" apart? Pitney says he still loves to play the game. "He's just like anyone else. He has his good days and his bad days. Sometimes, we've written and haven't came up with anything, but then there are other days, he can't stop. Every writer has that. When he says something, it's very often something clever. I lean more towards melodies and crafting them, and he is such a lyric guy. I think that's why we fit so well in being writers together."

The singer has also been getting rave reviews for "Clean Up…" as well. "I wrote that with Will Nance," he said. "I told him that I wanted to write a heartbreak song that didn't have anything to do with the girl walking out or cleaning out her closet. There was a song I had in mind called 'The Last Time,' which Lee Ann Womack recorded back in 2005. It's a heartbreak ballad, and we wrote it from beginning to end in about forty minutes. I tell people that I think God was in the room. We're very proud of it, and have gotten some incredible response with it."

One fan who has made his presence known to the newcomer is the legendary Larry Gatlin, who he has also shared a writing session with. "Larry heard some of my music at Curb, and left a hand written note for me at the front desk. He said 'I heard you sing, and I'm blown away. I want to write with you.' We started writing together about two years ago, and really have hit it off. He's been a great friend, and has been so supportive. I'm so flattered, because I'm such a fan of his. He's one of the most talented guys who have ever hit this town. When someone like that acknowledges your talent, it really means something to a musician or an artist."

The singer has just wrapped up vocals for his debut disc, which will be released later in the year. All in all, he's proud of where he is -- and who got him there. "Everything has worked out perfectly. God has been awful kind to let things happen in his time. I thought that things needed to move faster when I came to town, but I'm beginning to realize that the way it's happened has been absolutely perfect."