Although normally focused on Americana-leaning country music, Chris Shiflett’s Walking the Floor podcast goes full-on mainstream with this week’s episode. Justin Moore is the special guest, talking with his host about songwriting on Music Row, adolescence in rural Arkansas and the challenges of touring as a family man.
Here are seven things we learned from Shiflett’s chat with the singer, who will release his new single “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home” on October 12th.
Moore’s traditionally-minded country music comes from a traditional place: small-town Arkansas.
“I grew up in a town of 300 people, south of Little Rock in Arkansas,” he explains. “Not a whole lot going on, obviously. . .There’s no red lights. There’s two churches, and you pick one of them. A little post office that has one employee, and a gas station, and that’s it. I grew up in the age where we had three channels on the TV. There were four music stations on the radio, and three of them were country.” Years later, he can draw a line between that childhood existence and his current career. “Not only did that define the things I did growing up,” he says of his earlier years, “but it defined the type of music I listened to, and ended up loving, and now make.
It was Southern rock, not country music, that pushed him to jump onstage for the first time.
Moore’s uncle played the Arkansas circuit in a Southern rock band, inspiring his nephew to eventually try his hand at music, too. “When I was 16 or 17, I started jumping up with him and playing ‘Cocaine’ or something,” Moore remembers. He’d join the band during performances at local Moose Lodges and VFW halls, usually serving as a guest singer on covers by Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker Band and the Allman Brothers.
He was a straight-A student in high school.
“I was salutatorian of my class,” he says. “I did well in school, so me not going to college was never a thought. I just assumed I’d go to college and get a degree in something. Unlike most parents, my parents said, ‘If you wanna do [music], go chase this. You can always go back to school.’ Half a year after graduating high school, Moore was living in Nashville, writing “really terrible songs” and steadily working his way toward a record deal.
He credits his cowriters with whipping his own songwriting into shape.
“I became friends with Rhett Akins,” he says of his early years in Nashville. “[Also] David Lee Murphy, who’s had tons of success … and more recently, I’ve gotten to become friends with guys like Rodney Clawson, Casey Beathard … To sum that whole thing up, I was really lucky that, at a time when I had no idea what the hell I was doing, I was lucky to be around guys who were really good at it. I’d like to think I learned a little bit from each and every one of them.”
Before signing a record deal with Big Machine’s Scott Borchetta, Moore turned down an earlier offer that didn’t align with his principles.
“The only record deal I’d been offered at that point was one when they said, ‘We’ll give you a deal, but you don’t have any songs, and your producer’s gotta change,'” Moore recalls. “I stood up and I said, ‘Thank you very much for your time’ and I walked out. I think we had five or six songs at that point, and they all made the record, and I think two or three of them became Number One hits. So that’s one of those things where you go, ‘Yes! In your face!'”
His influences range from old-school country to guitar-driven rock & roll.
“I love the real traditional country music,” Moore explains. “To me, Vince Gill is one of the greatest singers, regardless of genre. I really love the George Strait stuff, and the Alan Jackson stuff. I like that Alan Jackson wrote all of his songs … Probably my favorite artist of all time, which is kinda funny because there’s not a lot of similarities in our music, is Dwight Yoakam.”
Accordingly, his upcoming record finds Moore returning to his traditional country roots.
“I wanted to go back and write every song, like I’ve done in the past, and I wanted to do a really traditional-sounding album,” he says of his follow-up to 2016’s Kinda Don’t Care. “[Studio guitarist] Brent Mason is on it. There’s no telling how many albums he’s played on throughout the Nineties and 2000s … [And] Paul Franklin is on it. I wanted to go back and get some of those guys. It’s got kind of an early Nineties vibe to it.”