Despite Mo Pitney’s 2020 album title, Ain’t Lookin’ Back, the country singer/songwriter freely reminisced with American Songwriter about each stepping stone in his music career. “The first two records I made were birthed out of a flood of multiple songs,” Pitney begins.
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His first album, Behind This Guitar (2016), features the hit single “Boy & Girl Thing” and got people talking about the Illinois-born artist. “Country” sways as a backroad anthem while other tracks like “I Met Merle Haggard Today” and “Take The Chance” solidify Pitney’s carefree approach to life and love.
Four years after his debut album, Pitney released Ain’t Lookin’ Back. His second offering showcases a more sure-footed, mature artist at the helm of his artistry. “We had 30 or 40 songs that I ended up deciding that these are possibilities for the next album. Then I started listening to outside songs,” Pitney explains. “The closest thing I could say that inspired bringing the ocean into order is when I heard ‘Ain’t Lookin’ Back.’
“[‘Ain’t Lookin’ Back’] had a twofold meaning in that the song was very personal to me at that point in my life,” Pitney continues. “I was really needing to let go of decisions that I’ve made or ways that I’ve been treated or all the things that humans go through. I was at a turning point where it was very crucial that I was able to let go and not look back and not carry what was behind me, with me. So I decided to make [‘Ain’t Lookin’ Back’] the centerpiece of the album, which it finds itself in the middle, and build around that. Once that showed itself, then the other songs, little by little, fell into place.”
The twelve other songs include tracks like the syrupy-sounding “Local Honey,” a song that was unexpectedly inspired by a text message he received from his mother. “I was actually walking into a write with nothing to write about with Wil Nance and Adam Wood, and my mom texts me and she just said ‘local honey,’” Pitney says. “Which I tell people because I was all grown up and married [with] kids, so I didn’t think she was sending me a grocery list to bring home. I walked in and I said, ‘My mom just texted me this, could it be a song?’ And about two hours later, we had written the song.”
Tracks like “Right Now With You” are Pitney’s ode to a love that lasts, and the lyrics express his desire “to fly in the face of our culture’s lack of commitment.” The chorus guarantees a public declaration of faithfulness when he sings, ‘Cause I still wanna kiss you in a crowd now / Sing my love songs out loud now / Let everyone that I know now know I wrote ’em bout you.
“Mattress On The Floor” continues Pitney’s impassioned approach to his second album. Largely influenced by his marriage—Pitney tied the knot with musician and vocalist Emily Bankester in 2016—the song oozes with charming soundscapes. On the other hand, standout tracks “Ain’t Bad For A Good Ol’ Boy” flexes Pitney’s country swagger, and “Old Home Place” showcases his bluegrass roots.
Despite Pitney’s fondness for this collection of songs, the singer/songwriter expresses a desire to go even further with his craft. “You make music from a place with as much as you know about yourself and your likes and your loves in the world and all of that at that time,” Pitney says. “And it seems like the moment you put it in the can, two days later, you’ve learned something new… I think moving forward I’m going to change the way that I make records.
“I just feel clearer about making art than I ever have in my entire life,” Pitney states, revealing that he’s working on a new project. “I have a mission or a goal for my life that’s more than just, ‘Hey let’s make music and try to get radio to play it and make a bunch of money and have a good retirement and then say sayonara to the world.’ I hope that the music doesn’t only serve my pocket, but it really does serve the world for the better… I feel like I am ready to come out of the gate—running out into the world with the music that is to come. I think that the music that I’ve already made has been a foreshadowing or a reflection of that.”
The first step in this new direction is a new release of “Old Home Place” that showcases the all-star band that was present for the first recording. Pitney hints at more bluegrass-focused efforts in the future and remains ever hopeful about what is yet to come. Overall, Pitney has proven that his music has, and will be, an ever-evolving staple in country music.
Photo by Jeremy Cowart.