Justin Moore Talks Growing Up, Saying Goodbye and Passing the ‘Wife Test’
Justin Moore had three years to pen the songs on his second album, 'Outlaws Like Me.' That sounds like plenty of time to record 13 tracks, but in between tours with Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley and Miranda Lambert, becoming a first-time daddy and keeping up with media requests, the singer says finding time to be inspired was a challenge. One could call his new album -- which was released on June 21 -- his "growing up" album. The title track is one he calls the best song he's ever written, because it changed his life.
Moore opened up to Taste of Country about the pressures of being a father, husband, and touring country singer. He says he's handling fame much better than he did during his early years. He also talked about trying to sound like Hank Jr., and why 'Grandpa' never became the radio hit it seemed destined to become.
There aren't any songs on 'Outlaws Like Me' that sound like they're specifically about your wife, or your baby daughter. Is that intentional?
I think it's subconscious. I don't think it's anything I set out to do. I'm not really one of these guys that can sing the sappy "I love you til the end of time" kind of thing. And there's nothing wrong with those, it's just really not me. And I know my audience, too. My audience doesn't want me to come out there and sing ballad after ballad. They want to drink beer and party for a couple of hours.
[My daughter] has definitely affected my writing and the way I live my life. So I think she did indirectly affect a lot of these songs. I'm not necessarily talking about her in a specific way in any of these songs, but she definitely affected them. Going back to 'Outlaws Like Me' -- she definitely affected that. She made me grow up and become a man, and that's what that song talks about.
How do you stay connected to what is going on at home when you're on the road?
You know, we do the Skype thing, which is kind of tough because when I can do it, they can't do it and vice versa. My daughter and my wife will be coming out on the road with me every two or three weeks. We have two buses rolling this year, so it definitely makes it a lot easier.
Do your songs typically have to pass the "wife test" before they get released?
If I did that I don't know if I'd ever get to cut a song [laughs]. She's a tough critic, she's a tough sell. She's honest with me. She and my mom are the most honest two people I know. One of the songs on the last album, my mom's like, "I don't really like that." And I'm like, "I do." And my wife's the same way.
Did your grandfather's passing having anything to do with not releasing (fan favorite) 'Grandpa' to radio?
It actually did. We were talking about the next single [from Moore's debut album] and ... I was pretty messed up over that. He was my hero. It was pretty rough on me. I thought the song would do well, and I knew my fans really loved it. I wanted to get it out there, but I really, honestly didn't want people to think that I was using my grandpa's passing to my advantage, to create a story, to make a song a hit. So I just decided that it was probably best not to do that. Maybe I'm giving people too little credit ... I didn't want to deal with any negative criticism toward that.
Are the faster, more upbeat songs easier to write than the more poignant, emotional songs?
Not necessarily, because country music is so lyric based. If you've got one line in there that's suspect people critique the crap out of it. So we try to really take the time to make sure it's right and not cheesy. Tempo songs are sometimes tougher to write because you have to fit it in a specific spot. The melody has to be in specific spot, just the way that the grooves are.
When you sit down to write certain songs, are there specific artists that have came before you in the back of your mind?
Yeah, absolutely. Nobody is ever gonna be George Strait again and nobody's ever gonna be Hank Jr. again and you could continue that list all day long. I think as long as we're attempting to be that, or be that good ... it makes you write better songs, record better songs. If you wanna be the best, you gotta act like the best. They're not still around doing what they're doing by accident.
You write a lot with your producer Jeremy Stover. Is it just easy when you two get together?
When you have as little time as I do to write, you obviously have to be a little more flexible where you write and the time it takes to write. To write with the same group of folks is really comfortable. They know what I want to say, and we all know each other's tendencies, and it's a comfort zone thing.
Do you find the songs that you're most proud of are less likely to become fan favorites?
I would have maybe said that four or five years ago. I've learned through songs like 'Small Town USA' and 'If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away' that if it's really, really personal to me, it's really, really personal to a lot of other people as well because I'm just like my fans. I just have a really cool job. I just watch the show from the other side.
People can tell when things are real and things are genuine and people can tell when they're not. And I think that they appreciate the real stuff more than the stuff is just made up.
Watch Justin Moore Perform 'If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away'