Justin Moore: Keeping with Tradition

Aimee Suzanne Kruse-Ross

aimee suzanne kruse-ross | justin moore | april 2018

All photos by J. Meyer.Justin Moore has been able to do what few country artists are able to do today, he's found mainstream success while never straying too far from his old-school, traditional country roots.

Over his career he's charted seven No. 1 country hit singles, three No. 1 country albums and has an ACM Award under his belt.

Coinciding with the success of his new hit single “Kinda Don't Care," Moore is currently headlining the “Hell On A Highway Tour," which makes a stop at Green Bay's Resch Center on April 21.

Moore was kind enough to take a few moments away from “a beautiful day" on the road near Hope, Kansas, to discuss his career, new album and family with Frankly Green Bay.

Going way back a bit, I understand it wasn't until relatively late that you decided music was something you wanted to pursue and that your father was very supportive of that. Can you tell us a bit about coming to realize that music was important to you?

Growing up, I was set for sports, actually, and still am. But now I'm living that through my daughters rather than actually playing myself. My goals were that I wanted to play baseball in college. Every waking minute I was playing baseball, practicing, and basketball, the same. I'd go from one sport to another. But I always loved music and I knew that I could sing, but I just thought everybody could sing just like the people on the radio. It was surprising to me when people would react to my singing, like when I was in church. I grew up in a town of about 300 people, in the middle of nowhere in central Arkansas, but I never thought … From where I came from, you wouldn't dare dream big enough that you could be a country music singer for a living. You thought they were just made in a factory somewhere (laughs). It was something that you just never thought about.

Then as a senior in high school, my uncle had a southern rock band and I started jumping up with them at VFW clubs, Moose lodges and different places. And I thought it was pretty fun. My father approached me and said, 'You ever think about doing this for a living?' I thought, 'You can do this for a living?'

Ever since that point, I kinda thought, 'Well, I'm 5 foot 6 and 135 pounds, I could probably go play at a really small school and have some opportunities to do that. But I'm gonna ride the bench for two or three years and maybe play a little bit in my senior year, but I'm never gonna make money doing this. So let's start by educating myself on the business music. So I did that.

And a long time later, here we are.

You're no stranger to sharing the stage. Your latest album features a collaboration with Brantley Gilbert and you've shared the stage with Hank Williams Jr., Brad Paisley and Miranda Lambert. Is there someone in particular you haven't worked with that you hope to down the road? Why?

Yeah, now that you say that, I've done a lot of them and a lot of them have been my heroes. I did a little with Charlie Daniels and I did a couple with Hank Williams, Jr. and I've been really, really blessed. But my favorite artist of all time is Dwight Yoakam. I've gotten to meet and become friendly with Dwight but have never done anything; I haven't gone to that well just yet. I always said that I was gonna wait until I had the perfect song to do that. Hopefully that will still come along at some point.

Your music is often considered to lean into traditional country territory. On the new record, however, there are a few tracks that crossover into distinctively contemporary territory (“Somebody Else Will" and “Goodbye Back"). Did you find yourself coming out of your comfort zone to record these tracks and was that part of the plan before stepping into the studio?

Yes to both. It was our goal to keep the traditional roots on this album but also to get outside the box a little bit and do some things where we can show the audience and radio that we've grown a little bit. But I did have apprehensions about it because we've been a flag bearer for traditional country and there's still that on this record. I mean the new single is as country as you get. Fortunately the fans went along with us and “Somebody Else" was a big song for us. It proved to me that we can do this if we want to. With that said, if I had the opportunity to make the album that I want to make without anybody inferring, then I'd probably go with Mark Chesnutt or Clint Black, one of those guys. So that's what I'd like to do on this next album. I've written about 30 songs so far, but don't have anything recorded, and have no idea when it will be out. But I am super excited about it!

Talking about that, what can you tell us about the next album and are you performing any of the new material on the current tour?

Yeah, that's the album I was just talking about. Like I was saying, for “Outside Riders" I've probably written about 30 songs for it so far and have a lot of songs on hold. I am excited for it, but I don't have any idea when we'll record those or when we'll get the album out. Might be late this year, maybe early next year. We're not playing any of them yet, 'cause honestly, I don't know them that well. And if I don't know them, then the band certainly doesn't know them! We just got to get in and get some recordings first!

In 2014 you were awarded an ACM Award for new artist of the year, which was a bit long in coming. Does winning an award at that level change your perception at all of yourself and your music?

Maybe at the time it did and it mattered to me a whole lot at that time. When we got that award, we'd been out for six years and no disrespect to the guys who had won awards up to that point that had come out around the same time as us, but we had sold more albums and had more hit records than most all of them, and for whatever reason, we'd never gottne the 'nod' so to speak. That award was validating at the time and meant a whole lot to me. But I don't know, getting older, having kids, things changing, whatever it is, I don't really worry about that stuff anymore. I realize now that I didn't get into this business to win awards. If they come, great, if they don't, that's great, too. To have the opportunity to play music for a living, to do something that I absolutely love is the main thing. God's blessed me with all of that and I'm very proud of what we've been able to accomplish.

I know family is very important to you and you welcomed your first son into the family last summer — congratulations — is it difficult for you to juggle a headlining music career with family?

It's definitely not easy and it's a balancing act for sure! Before I had a family, you'd go out on the road where it's crazy, then try to get back and get some rest. Once you have a family, that flip-flops. Four kids and a wife later, there's never a minute of down time, so now you go out on the road to get some rest! Nowadays five minutes after a show, we're all in our pajamas instead of getting crazy! With family the thing is, you have to make it a priority. If it matters to you, then you make it a priority. My family is more important than music right now, playing music is my job and I love doing it, but I'm always a daddy and a husband first. As long as you have your priorities right, God will make the balancing act work, if you will. We try to do the best that we can and make the most of the time we have together.

Justin Moore visits the Resch Center on April 21 with special guest Dylan Scott. For more information visit JustinMooreMusic.com. Tickets are available through TicketStarOnline.com.

Aimee Suzanne Kruse-Ross is writer and glass artist residing in Green Bay, Wis. When not writing for Frankly you may find her blogging at BananaSeatTenSpeed.com, selling lampwork beads as Monte Verdi Lampwork or teaching a class at the Assemblage Studio.

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