It’s dark, layered, random, intricate, raucous and hooky as heck.
But if that isn’t enough, there’s always the word “plagiarized.” It has probably never appeared in a top 10 country single, but there it is in the third line of Kip Moore‘s new release, “Good Life.” “Been plagiarized by my own damn brother,” he laments, following with a quick joke: “Hey man, I think that’s my line.”
“We thought that was a neat little tongue-in-cheek kind of thing,” says Moore, hinting that the phrase was inspired by a rash of copyright infringement claims across the music business in recent years.
“If you listen to the top 40, if you listen to the country top 40, there’s no way you’re not going to hear some same lines, some same quotes,” explains co-writer Dan Couch (“Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck,” “Last Shot”). “There’s a lot of clichés being thrown around. But yeah, we just thought that was funny.”
“Good Life” occupies its own lane in current country circles, though it accomplishes that by referencing a plethora of other sounds. Moore sings the verses in unison octaves, an effect he sees as a ZZ Top nod. When he delivers the “livin’ me a good life” hook in the chorus, Moore evinces the same sort of giving-his-all vocal strain that Paul Stanley required at the top end of KISS‘ rock’n’roll party anthems. And the whole stew leans on iconic sonic approaches plucked from two different genres.
“It kind of had that [Rolling] Stones rock’n’roll feel,” says Moore. “But then you’ve got that really old-school — which we did purposely — that old-school kind of Waylon [Jennings] bass riff. So you get a really country bass riff happening over top of that rock’n’roll riff. It was a neat mixture.”
“Good Life” was penned during Moore’s pandemic experience, which was decidedly different than most people’s existence. He spent several months rock climbing in Kentucky; went mountain biking in scenic Sedona, Ariz.; then surfed the waves in Hawaii and Costa Rica. But it wasn’t a full-fledged vacation. Moore continued to write steadily during his adventures, checking in via Zoom, text or FaceTime with co-writers including Couch, who helped flesh out the bones of “Good Life” while Moore was still in Maui, HI.
“I usually call Dan when I’ve got something cooking, and I just started shooting him voice memos,” notes Moore. “Then he shoots me back things, lyrically, and I wedge through that. And then I sent him a second option. We just kind of go back and forth, and then we’d like FaceTime for an hour or so a day, and we kind of try to suss through it. It just started unfolding that way.”
Moore intended “Good Life” as a sequel to “Reckless (Still Growin’ Up),” a buzzing track with a playboy vibe that appeared on his 2012 debut, Up All Night.
“It’s kind of, ‘I did this and I did this on my way to where I got,’ ” says Couch. “Some of it was true, some of it’s fabricated, but there’s a lot of threads of truth in ‘Reckless,’ and that was all sort of leading up to the time he got his record deal. So when we charted this thing, there’s a lot of truth. It’s not all true, but there’s a lot of truth in the lyrics in ‘Good Life.’ “
That includes getting sucker punched, having a bout with the Grim Reaper and an encounter with a “reggae girl,” though they toyed with the alternate phrase “voodoo girl.” And when he’s “taken to school by a long-legged teacher” — “Miss you, Miss Jones” — that’s a real event, too.
“That’s not her name,” clarifies Moore. “I’m just protecting the innocent.”
All the images formed a nonlinear mélange — “We wanted it to be sporadic and not make perfect sense,” he explains — and the results were a raw, fairly undeveloped blast that he took to producer Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Brothers Osborne), who had plenty of room for experimentation.
“There was a guitar sound and a drum sound, I think, just the real basics,” recalls Couch. “It wasn’t that funky track that you hear as the finished product. They had none of that.”
Moore and his road band — drummer Erich Wigdahl, bassist Manny Medina and guitarist Dave Nassie — all passed COVID-19 tests before they stepped into Joyce’s East Nashville studio, St. Charles, for a session that brought “Good Life” to its next life. Wigdahl slung a New Orleans groove as Nassie spit out biting riffs and Joyce punctuated the spaces with Hammond B-3 shards.
Joyce convinced Moore to make the last line of the chorus emphatically good, as “Good life” became “Good, good, good, good, good life.” Joyce also got one verse sliced and diced from four lines to two to fashion a bridge that — combined with some hazy effects — sounds like one big drug reference.
The changes were significant enough that Moore gave Joyce credit as a co-writer, with Couch’s full blessing.
“He made it better,” says Couch matter-of-factly.
That came in subtle ways, too, including a bell tone — easily missed on some devices — at the end of the bridge that sounds like a text message notification. Not that Joyce is sharing that secret, even with Moore.
“He’s got so many quirky sounds deep within his vault,” says Moore. “A lot of times you’d come back in the next morning, and it’s different. You say, ‘Well, what is that?’ And he just kind of grins.”
MCA Nashville released “Good Life” to AM/FM country stations via PlayMPE on April 23, a move that essentially has Moore emerging from the pandemic with a strut in his audio step. And he backed it with an equally offbeat video, produced by P.J. Brown, that presents Moore as a carefree, oddball bus driver.
“We just immediately fell in love with it,” says Moore of the single. “We love the rowdiness of it. We feel like a lot of people are going to be releasing a lot of COVID, thought-provoking songs, and we kind of just wanted to come with a little bit of rambunctious rock’n’roll.”
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