Kip Moore was adrift, not really sure what to do after college. He knew he wanted to write music but wasn’t sure how to make that happen.
So the native of tiny Tifton, Ga., moved to Hawaii, lived in a hut for $50 a month, and found himself.
Makes sense, right? Not really, but the big island of Hawaii was where the dream took shape for one of country music’s rising stars. He’ll be an opening act for Lady Antebellum at next month’s show at the Huntington Center.
“Solitude breeds thought. There was 100 percent solitude out there,” Moore says of his six-month stay on the island. “I would be in this amazing valley, and I’d be the only person out there, just sitting around thinking. I surfed every day and realized that even in paradise I wasn’t happy, and I wasn’t going to be happy unless I was doing music for a living.”
Pretty cool story, right?
Moore took the plunge and moved to Nashville, but it wasn’t like label execs were waiting for him. He kicked around town for five years, eventually landing a publishing deal and getting cuts for Jake Owen and Thompson Square.
He continued doing the bar band thing. His dad, who was his musical inspiration, told him he needed to play more Hank, because that’s what people wanted to hear.
“I said, ‘Pop, you don’t get what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to make a living playing my own music, and one day they are going to be singing my stuff.’ I wish he was around to see it,” Moore says.
His father died in 2011 before he signed a record deal with MCA Nashville after five more years of paying his dues. That big break yielded his debut single “Mary Was the Marrying Kind” — which flopped. It hit No. 45 on the charts, which is a really bad start for an aspiring artist.
“Record labels don’t take time to develop an artist. If you don’t work out pretty quick, they are done with you.”
But song No. 2 did work out.
“Somethin’ Bout a Truck,” a simple song about simple living, resonated with a whole lot of people and became a charttopper for Moore.
“I’m just glad that song popped because I knew I didn’t have long if it didn’t. Then you’re damaged goods. I spent 10 years to get to that point. I had no resume. For me to try and get a job at 30 years old,” he says, trailing off. “Everyone around me was building stability, investing, having babies. I put all my chips in one basket, so it was a pretty scary, vulnerable feeling knowing it could all be stripped away.”
But it wasn’t all stripped away, and it has kind of turned out how he hoped while floating in the Pacific. Major hits have followed with “Beer Money” and “Hey Pretty Girl,” and a sophomore album will be arriving in April. Moore promises it will be intense and more in your face.
And you know what? His fans are singing his music back to him, just like he promised Pop.
“There’s not a better feeling in the world than to hear them singing your stuff.”
Brian Dugger’s column on country music appears in The Blade the last Saturday of every month. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DuggerCountry.