If you’ve heard Justin Moore’s “Why We Drink,” then you already know that he’s always down for a good time. That spirit carries over into his newest album, Late Nights and Longnecks.
“Five albums in, I had the most fun recording this album that I've ever had,” Moore tells CMT Hot 20 Countdown. “I believe it's my best album to date. I think that's pretty special to be able to say that and actually believe that.”
In this exclusive interview, the Arkansas entertainer talks about his songwriting process, the inspiration he gets from his family, and the mission behind his latest No. 1 hit, “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home.”
CMT: Let’s start by going back 10 years since your debut album. Does it feel like 10 years has passed?
JM: At times it does. And at times you feel like, “My goodness, where did that decade go?” It's one of the things I'm probably most proud of about my career. The album came out 10 years ago, I believe in August if I'm not mistaken. So we've been doing this in this capacity now for… when you talk about radio tour and all that, for 12 years, from when I signed a record deal. To still be here talking to you this long after is something I'm proud of. Yeah, it's wild, man. It really is.
Something's going right.
Yeah. I've made some bad decisions and we've gone the wrong route some of the time. But apparently we've made enough of the right decisions over the course of our career to still be here. I tell people all the time, the coolest thing about it to me is I'm still getting to walk on stage and play music for people and they're still showing up. I don't know what to attribute that to, but I'm certainly thankful for it.
Would the Justin Moore of today recognize the 25-year-old?
No, we were just reliving some of those stories before we came out here to talk to you. It's amazing I'm still alive, much less still doing this successfully. Obviously a lot of things have changed. I've been married now for 12 years and have four little kids, so that certainly changes your perspective on life. And anything that we do with our personal lives affects our artistry and songwriting. So things have definitely slowed down a bit for sure. But it's a good thing.
Do you still have those late nights?
Oh yeah, it just takes a little longer in the morning now to recover from those late nights and longnecks than it used to. And there's a few less of those late nights and longnecks than there used to be. But as it pertains to this album, we recorded and wrote this album like we did back then. You know, my first couple of albums, I was living in Nashville. My producer and I didn't have kids at the time. We were single and we would pop down to the beach, which is about six-and-a-half, seven-hour drive from here in Nashville and rent a motel -- not a hotel, a motel -- and drink beer all day and write songs.
Most of the material on my first two albums came from those type of trips. We even recorded a lot of the vocals down there in a little hole-in-the-wall studio in Destin. And so fast forward to now. My wife and I have had a place down there for a while and I said, “Man, I really want to make the most traditional country album I’ve ever made. Why don't we get four, five, or six of our best buddies that we like to write songs with and go stay at my house and do it like as a retreat?” And that's what we did. So there were a few late nights and longnecks in order to write this album, but that was all for work purposes.
How did “Why We Drink” come to you?
“Why We Drink” is actually a song that came from my mom. I'll explain because if I leave it at that, she'll be upset. Get on me. So my mom and dad live, I don't know, five or six hundred yards in front of my wife and I, which when we need babysitters is great. All other times it's not necessarily as great. But no… my wife and I are really close to my parents. We were at Friday's or Chili's or something like that a year or two ago without the kids.
My dad doesn’t drink, and my mom and my wife and I do. So I ordered a drink and then I ordered five, six more. My mom goes, “Son, why do you drink so much?” And I go, “Mom, I really don't know. Let me think about that.” I get to thinking about it. I go, “I can't find a reason not to.” I drink when my team loses and when my team wins. You know, for all kinds of reasons. So I had this idea to write a song called “Why We Drink.” It's a really fun song.
In “That’s My Boy,” your son's whole life is basically planned out.
I know. I kind of describe myself. I hope he's a lot better than I am. But yeah, I've written songs since becoming a dad that probably have been affected by being a dad, or have undertones of me being a parent. But I've not written one until this that specifically talks about a child.
We were done with day two of three days of tracking the album. We tracked it at a place called The Castle, which is a really famous studio outside of Nashville. My producer lives out near there. I don't live in town, so I usually stay in a hotel, but I was staying with him because it was near the studio. He has three boys, and I’d just had my first. That night after we tracked, I said, “We need to write a song called ‘That's My Boy.’” That’s a saying that's been around forever. I’m going, “Man, I can't believe nobody's ever written this.”
So anyway, long story short, we texted our good friend Casey Beathard, who is all over this album as a songwriter. He also has sons. … We were supposed to be at the studio, I think at 10, and he came over about 8:30. We wrote it in about 50 minutes and went right to the studio and recorded it. That's the first time that's happened in my career, that you write a song basically on the way to the studio. As you know, there's usually so many channels it has to go through before it ends up on an album. So, to have the idea, and eight hours later write the song, and an hour later to record the song, it is unheard of.
The idea for “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home” started in your concerts, right?
It did. We had a song out eight or nine years ago, “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away.” It was obviously a big record for us. And No. 1 songs are great for a multitude of reasons. You know, it's good for your career. It's fun to experience. The label throws you a party in Nashville. Everybody talks about it. Your parents pat you on the back and tell you how important you are.
But I learned with that song how powerful country music is. I had grown men bawling and squalling and they told me about how that song helped them through losing their spouse or their mother or father. I thought, “Man, this is really, really special.” I took note of that. I thought, “If we could do another song that could impact people's lives in a positive way, that would be really, really special.”
I had a grandfather retire out of the Navy and one in the Air Force, so I always talk about our military servicemen and women as I'm leading up to playing “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” live. That even goes beyond our military, to our police officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses, etc., etc. I always end it by saying, “We'll send this out to the ones who didn't make it back home.” I've done that for eight or nine years now. I don't know why it took me eight or nine years to think, “Man, that’d be a good song title,” but I guess better late than never. …
My goal for the song is that it has the same impact on people as “Heaven” did. I think we're starting to see that out there. The message, even though it’s about the military or a Marine in a combat, is also a celebration of life. It's all-encompassing. It's specifically a story about a young man who lives his life in war, and I'm hopeful that this song does the same thing where people can apply it to their own lives however they see fit. I really do think this song has the opportunity to do that.