Justin Moore Gets Candid About Life, ‘Late Nights and Longnecks’
Justin Moore has always been a fan of the classics. That's part of the reason the soon-to-be 35-year-old chose to record his new album Late Nights and Longnecks at Castle Recording Studios just south of Nashville.
"A lot of older records that influenced me and my career were tracked there," Moore tells Taste of Country.
Built in the late 1920s, the Castle served as a clandestine gambling spot for infamous gangster Al Capone during his travels between Chicago and New Orleans. In the 1980s, the space was turned into a recording studio used by legends ranging from Johnny Cash to Merle Haggard to Emmylou Harris.
It makes sense, then, that Moore touts Late Nights and Longnecks as one of his most "traditional" country albums to date. "I think this is the most mature album I've ever done," Moore says. "And I know every artist says their newest album is their best one, but I really think this is the best songwriting on any album I've ever done."
Moore says his previous album Kinda Don't Care was a departure to an extent — a more "progressive" album that albeit still spawned plenty of mainstream success and charted at No. 4 on the all-genre Billboard 200 albums chart. With Late Nights and Longnecks, it was all about getting back to roots. That includes Moore holing up in Florida with a few friends to write the whole record — which is precisely how he and producer Jeremy Stover wrote his first album more than a decade ago.
As the recording home to Moore's upcoming fifth album, the notoriety (and credit list) of Castle Recording Studio stands in stark contrast to the man who lives an uncommonly quaint life in Arkansas — several hours from the hustle and bustle of Music Row.
"I live in Arkansas in a town of 300 people," says Moore, who spent the early part of his career living in Nashville before moving back to the town he grew up in. "I wasn't happy living in Nashville, but it has nothing to do with Nashville. I wouldn't be happy living anywhere other than where I'm living right now. I wouldn't be a good dad. I wouldn't be a good husband. I wouldn't be a good artist."
Back home, Moore is known as much for being a softball coach as a country star. "I know everybody and everybody knows me, but it ain't from this," Moore says as he gestures to the room surrounded by cameras and equipment. "It's because I'm from there and I'm not treated differently than anybody else. Last night I was at ball practice at the park with every other dad and mom out there, tossing soft balls to little girls in 40-degree weather."
Moore acknowledges his cache among Music City dealmakers might take a hit for it, just by the sheer fact he's not around to hobnob as much as other artists. "I've probably missed out on some opportunities and awards because I don't live [in Nashville]," he says. "But I wouldn't be here if I didn't live in Arkansas."
There's plenty of praise for small-town living on Late Nights and Longnecks (and as the name suggests, plenty of drinking, too), which Moore co-wrote in its entirety with longtime collaborator Jeremy Stover and a handful of close friends. Moore might be one of the only country stars who waves the small town flag while actually still living a very "small town" lifestyle.
But he's quick to point out that, except for a few key songs, it's not a literal album for his current lifestyle as much as it might have been in the past. For instance, he doesn't party "nearly as much as I used to," and the heartbreak tune "On the Rocks" (an album standout) certainly doesn't represent Moore's current family life. But every story is certainly inspired by the every day dealings of Moore's surroundings.
Love Traditional Country Music? You'll Love Cody Johnson
And then there are tunes like "That's My Boy" and single "The Ones That Didn't Make It Home," which both hold serious personal significance.
"That's My Boy," in particular holds a special place for Moore, who had a son about two years ago. "[Producer Jeremy Stover] and I were sitting in his hot tub on the second night of our three nights of recording drinking beer, and I looked up at the sky and thought, 'Man we oughtta write a song called 'That's My Boy,'" Moore recalls.
The only problem was the next day was their last day to record and they had to be in the studio at 10AM. So he and Stover called co-writer Casey Beathard, who joined them at 8 the next morning. They wrote the song in an hour, went to the studio, played it acoustic for label head Scott Borchetta, and tracked the rest that day.
"The whole thing happened in 12 hours, and that's the first time that ever happened to me," Moore says. And while Moore has written songs with his three daughters in mind, this marks his first tune specifically about one of his children. And yes, he's fully aware he'll have to atone for that with his other kids. But it should be noted Moore doesn't schedule a show if his daughters have a softball game, if his Dad of the Year status were ever in question ("Some people think I'm crazy for that," he laughs).
It's those songs that keep Moore going on the days he's not quite feeling it. "Anybody who tells you it doesn't feel like a job sometimes is lying to you," Moore says. "Those days when you're sick and you've been gone a week and you feel like, 'Man I don't want to be Justin Moore tonight, I just want to be Kate's husband.'"
And as far as songwriting goes, Moore doesn't hold the same hours as typical country songwriters. "I don't do the whole write every day at 10 thing," he says, referencing a typical Nashville songwriting schedule. "I write when I have an idea and I feel like it. So I might not write something for two months and I might write three songs in two days. If it starts to feel like a job, I don't do it."
But it's all about perspective, too.
"You just have to take a step back and say, 'Hey, stop being an idiot, you're very fortunate to do this,'" he continues. Something that really puts that in perspective: playing for the troops and his reverence for military members, instilled in him at a young age from his parents and grandparents.
That respect is exactly where "The Ones That Didn't Make It Home" came from. "I don't care if you're on this side of the aisle or that side of the aisle," he says. "You can talk about politics until your head pops off your neck, but surely the one thing we can agree on is those men and women need to be supported. This song gave me the platform to say that."
Late Nights and Longnecks comes out April 26.
These Country Artists Are Keeping Traditional Country Alive:
How Well Do You Know '90s Country Music?