Though his latest album took him a bit out of his comfort zone, with tinges of rock and pop, the 33-year-old Moore has always been rooted in traditional country.
“Growing up where I did in south central Arkansas, if there were five stations on the radio, four of ’em were country,” he noted.
The 27-year-old Scott, meanwhile, could have easily developed the exact same musical tastes, given that his dad played with the likes of Freddy Fender and Freddy Hart, and because he lived in such a rural part of Louisiana that the nearest town was a 15- to 20-minute drive away. Still, he made it a point to broaden his horizons, and that’s reflected in songs that make frequent use of pop and rap.
“I listened to all the radio stations in the region I grew up in,” Scott said. “Country-wise, I grew up loving old-school Keith Whitley, George Strait and Tim McGraw and Alan Jackson — guys like that. But into high school, I started listening to Maroon 5 and Kings of Leon. And at that time, you had guys like 50 Cent and Lil Wayne and T-Pain, and guys like that. So it was a wide spectrum of music that I listened to, but I feel like that’s what’s really shaped the artist that I am.”
What Moore and Scott have in common, though, is that they’re two of the hottest acts in country today.
Moore’s debut album peaked at No. 3 on the U.S. country charts, and his subsequent three albums have all gone to No. 1. He’s also had seven songs go to No. 1 on the country charts. As for Scott, he was the No. 2 most-played new artist on country radio in 2017, and he’s racked up 300 million on-demand streams, 100 million YouTube views in 2017 alone, as well as 2.6 million streaming-equivalent songs. His hit single “My Girl” went to No. 1, achieved platinum status and wound up the seventh-most-played song of the year on country radio, bolstering his self-titled debut LP.
All of that — plus the December birth of his son — has made life a bit of a whirlwind.
“It’s been life-changing, for sure. Going platinum, going No. 1, watching the fanbase grow — even on a personal level, having my first kid. It’s an adventure in my life,” Scott said. “I couldn’t really ask for anything more.”
As for Moore, he’s just happy to see the risks he took with his last album, 2016’s “Kinda Don’t Care,” pay off.
When he arrived in Nashville more than a decade ago, he couldn’t persuade many songwriters to work with him, so he wound up writing “probably 90 percent” of the songs on his first three albums. He made himself enough of a star in the process that would-be collaborators were soon lining up.
So the decision was made in the writing process to take “Kinda Don’t Care” a bit off the beaten path.
“We really wanted to almost make ourselves uncomfortable — as funny as that sounds — at times. And we did that. … We did some things from a studio standpoint, trackwise and even song-choice-wise that I wouldn’t have done in the past, you know?” Moore said. “Our previous single, ‘Somebody Else Will,’ is a song that I never would have recorded seven, eight years ago. When we put that out, I was a bit apprehensive — I didn’t know if radio and the fans would dig it or look at me like I had three heads. Fortunately, they went with us on it, and it became our seventh No. 1 record. So, yeah, I’m proud of the record, I’m proud of the album, I’m glad we did that. It’d be one of those things where I’d always have wondered, ‘Could I have pulled some of the things we did on that album off?’ had I not done it, so I’m glad we did it.”
One other commonality between the two men is that they’re both planning to have new music out in 2018.
Scott said he’s got four or five strong songs already written, and February will see him release a series of videos featuring “stripped-down versions” of some of those tracks. He’s hoping a full album will be ready by the summer.
“We’re just writing whatever hits us, whatever inspires us, and really, hopefully, whatever people can relate to,” he said. “That’s my biggest deal — I wanna write music that, when I go onstage at night, or when people put a CD in their car or put on Spotify or whatever, they can go, ‘Man, I’ve lived that,’ or ‘I’ve done that,’ or ‘I can relate to that.’ ”
Moore said that after writing only three of the tracks on “Kinda Don’t Care” himself, he’s taking the lead on its follow-up again.
He wanted an old-school approach — in terms of putting his fate in his own hands again, as well as more literally, in the sonic composition of the songs.
“It’s probably going to be the most traditional-sounding album I’ve ever made. I’m a fan of people who make a different album every time rather than doing the same thing over and over. Certainly, I’m cognizant of that when I go make new albums,” Moore said. “I went in and told my label president — and fortunately he was super-supportive — that I wanted to make an album that sounds like it coulda come out in 1992. That was my favorite era of country music, the early ’90s. That’s when I grew up loving country music, when I was an 8-, 9-, 10-year-old kid, learning to love music. That’s what I probably feel I do best, from a writing standpoint and from a singing standpoint. … So I’m going back and doing what we did on our first album or two and trying to write as many as I can. It’s been a fun process; it feels like it did a decade ago.”
In the end, despite their different tastes and approaches, the pairing has worked.
While Moore concedes, “When I turn on the radio, I would prefer to hear a George Strait song than a rap song,” he understands and even appreciates Scott’s ability and desire to put his unique spin on country music.
“As an artist and, I guess, a member of the country music community, I just always say, ‘Hey, everybody be true to who they are as an artist, and if that’s rap-country, rock-country, pop-country, whatever-country, then I’m totally cool with it,’ ” he said. “But I think the different styles of country music over the past six, seven, eight years have helped grow our genre, which is good for all of us, regardless of if you’re a little more like me or the complete opposite of me. I’ve never liked every song on the radio, and neither have you or anybody else out there. I think now, when you turn on the radio, there’s a little more variety, a little bit of something for everybody, and I’m fine with it.”
With Dylan Scott
When • Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Where • Maverik Center, 3200 S. Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City
Tickets • $33.75-$46.75; Smith’s Tix