Justin Moore is in an emotional funk.
“I keep walking by my guitar and just not picking it up,” the multi-Platinum selling country artist tells American Songwriter from his home in Arkansas. “I mean, I’ve written one song in six months. (Sighs.) When this whole pandemic thing started, I was doing really good, but then I hit a wall. I’m bummed out, to be honest.”
Heck, he has every right to be. A road warrior at his core, Moore was one of the many artists who found their 2020 come to a screeching halt due to the pandemic. Not only did the country music hitmaker have to postpone his Late Nights and Longnecks Tour, but he wondered aloud if his light-hearted single “Why We Drink” would even connect with country music fans at a time when many of their very own livelihoods were crumbling.
In short, it did connect with country fans.
In fact, “Why We Drink” is now Moore’s eighth Billboard country airplay No. 1 hit of his career.
“As a songwriter, I think there are going to be a wave of songs pertaining to this pandemic,” admits Moore. “But personally, I want to be careful of not taking advantage of this moment in time. I also don’t just want to write about the pain of this time. Heck, I think people want to hear songs that get their mind off of all that. They wanted a good drinking song.”
So Moore gave it to them.
Granted, looking back, Moore says that songwriting didn’t come very naturally for him during the early days of his career.
“Oh, I wrote some awful songs in the beginning,” he remembers with a chuckle. “But there came a point that I was just not finding the material song wise that I wanted to record for myself. I just wasn’t getting those songs. (Laughs.) Let’s face it. Tim McGraw was getting the good stuff, and rightfully so. I was a nobody. So I really had to work on truly writing songs for myself.”
From there, songwriters such as Rhett Akins, Jeremy Stover, Casey Beathard and David Lee Murphy served as mentors of sorts for Moore during those crucial days, teaching him how to take what he wanted to say and put it in the somewhat tricky parameters of a song. And in 2009, Moore hit that magical, songwriting sweet spot with his first number one “Small Town USA.”
“I frankly didn’t think it was a hit, but my label did, and fortunately, I was wrong,” Moore laughs of the song that was written by Moore alongside Brian Dean Maher and Jeremy Stover.
Through the years, Moore followed it up with a slew of number one hits including “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home” and “Lettin’ The Night Roll.”
“I can’t imagine not being a songwriter,” he says. “No one says what you want to say better than yourself “
Moore has been able to also get to number one with a healthy dose of humor on songs such as “You Look Like I Need a Drink” (written by Rodney Clawson, Matt Dragstrem and Natalie Hemby) and “Bait a Hook” (written by Moore alongside Rhett Akins and Jeremy Stover.)
“I remember when I was just breaking in, I heard Brad Paisley sing ‘I’m Going Miss Her’ and thinking that not a lot of people would be able to do that,” remembers Moore. “I mean, Hank Williams Jr. did it well and Blake Shelton did well recording those kinds of songs even if he didn’t write them. But there definitely was a void there that I thought I could fill every once in awhile.”
And yes, Moore was laughing alongside co-writers David Lee Murphy, Casey Beathard, and Jeremy Stover a year or so ago at his beach house when they wrote “Why We Drink” in a span of ’20 or so minutes.’
“I remember David (Lee Murphy) saying ‘cause its Friday, cause its Monday’ and knowing we had something,” Moore says of the song which also has an accompanying music video that was filmed at his Arkansas home. “Before the pandemic hit, we were out on the road playing it, and it was just one of those songs that the crowd could sing the chorus to from the very first time they heard it.”
And yes, he can’t wait to hear that sweet sound again.
“It was so weird to see ‘Why We Drink’ go up the chart without going out and playing it,” explains Moore, who recently announced the September release of his Live at the Ryman album. “At some point, we will get to play it and see the fans react to it first hand, like we are supposed to.”