“Honestly,” Southern Push
Michael Moore was supposed to be a pro athlete. Growing up in Eastern Kentucky, he earned 14 high school Varsity letters, excelling in everything from soccer and basketball to track, volleyball and golf.
But fate’s a funny thing. Ashland, Kentucky has bred country music royalty The Judds, Keith Whitley and Billy Ray Cyrus. “There’s something about mountain music,” Moore muses. “I must have drank enough of the water.” But singing, he reasoned: “Naw, I can’t do anything with that.” Then a local musician approached him to record demos—and heard the voice of pro. Moore was urged to perform at the Ohio Valley’s annual multi-artist Highway 23 Jamboree in Ashland.
“Some people skydive. Some bungee jump. I found my rush singing before a crowd,” Moore says. “That feeling of butterflies was the most exhilarating thing I ever felt.” This time, Moore indulged fate. He auditioned for USA Network’s “Nashville Star,” ultimately ranking in the national top 24. Country WUBE-FM (B105) Cincinnati also embraced him and saw to an invitation to perform the “National Anthem” at the Taste of Cincinnati Festival. There, country superstar Dierks Bentley grabbed the budding singer by the hand and said, “You need to pursue this. You’re that good.”
Moore says, “I thought, screw it. I quit a high-paying job where I was probably secure for life and moved to Nashville.” And now, alongside guitarists Travis Wilbourn and Carl Lindquist, he is at last sporting Varsity stripes as a fulltime musician, via country trio Southern Push, whose indie debut full-length “Honestly” is due this summer. It was helmed by multiplatinum producer/engineer Mike Krompass (Smash Mouth, Nelly Furtado, Jordan Knight, Natasha Bedingfield).
The 10 songs on “Honestly” are so chock full of potential singles, it’s tough to pick a standout. First release “Our Way” is a frothy pure country poesy to steadfast love that has “breakout” branded across its maddeningly catchy chorus. Its accompanying video clip showcases the artist’s no-hold-barred persona as a cutup: “Singers are always told to be so damn serious, but let’s have some fun and laugh at ourselves. Making people smile: Isn’t that my job?”
Good-timin’ rock-infused “Messed Up Good” is a worthy follow-up, with its kaleidoscopic whirl of guitars, keyboards and fast-talking tale of “the girl next door gone Hollywood”; while harmony-soaked “Freedom” is the ultimate storytelling sing-along highway cruising anthem. “Tennessee Sky” offers a midtempo chug-along guitar-driven chorus, in which Moore sends a dedication to his distant lady; and emotive ballad “Nothing Left To Save”—one of two tracks Moore co-wrote—offers the universal love-gone-wrong song.
Then there’s the title track, “Honestly,” so thematically potent and yearningly delivered, it could quiet the rowdiest crowd. Moore admits, “That’s my favorite song on the album. Mike Krompass and I went through 6,000 songs for ‘Our Way.’ After 30 seconds, I said, ‘That’s in the “go” pile.’ If there’s a No. 1 song on this album, ‘Honestly’ is it.”
The group’s decision to mesh country with semblances of rock, pop and strands of gospel comes from Moore’s mandate to buck the genre’s boundaries—and thus the name Southern Push. “I love Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban, but I’m also a fan of Huey Lewis and the News and En Vogue,” he says. “We’re country, but there’s no reason a band can’t play Loverboy. We’re Southern, but let’s push it forward a little.”
And now, with the release of “Honestly,” the time has come for Michael Moore and Southern Push to share their wares with the masses. “When I started performing 10 years ago, I was just satisfied to take a chance,” Moore says. “But if I let myself dream, sure, I want to be bigger than Garth Brooks. Knowing that I’ve impacted someone with a song is my joy. I can’t imagine anything better than making the whole world smile.”