Press Release: Justin Moore To Perform At NCAA March Madness Music Festival In Phoenix March 31st
The idea with this tour and the stops along the route were selected as "Small Town USA" venues, which is not the norm for these two chart-topping artists, who are used to playing huge arenas in major cities. This decision gives fans in these areas the opportunity to be a part of the tour, who otherwise may not be able to travel several hours away for a concert. It is also a unique way for the artists themselves, to play these smaller venues and spend some time with the grassroots fans, so they are not forgotten, which usually tends to be the case with some major headlining tours. This tour has the feel of an appreciation tour, for the fans and radio alike, by not focusing on the high dollar concert ticket prices and by selling merchandise items that are affordable.
Morgan, whose debut album, Vinyl, was released on September 30, 2016, started the show off as the supporting act for Moore and Brice, however, he could have easily filled a slot as a co-headliner himself. Morgan came crashing into the country music scene with his number one single, “I Met A Girl”, written by Sam Hunt, last year and received high praise from radio, industry leaders, peers and fans alike. Some are comparing him to a “mid-career George Strait” and saying that “country music is alive and well with guys like him coming on the scene.” Morgan released his follow-up single, “Missing” which is currently climbing the charts, making this the start of a great year just one month into 2017.
Morgan captivated the crowd and you would have thought he was a seasoned professional at this “mega-country star stuff” yet he is as down-to-earth and humble as they come. Morgan also treated the audience to a cut off the album titled, “I Know Who He Is”, which was written by Eric Church as a song for his grandfather who suffered with Alzheimer’s. As someone who has lost a grandparent to this disease, this song touched my heart probably more than the others. The amount of heart and soul that was delivered during this song by Morgan, gave the impression that Church must have written it with Morgan in mind to bring it to life.
Next to take the stage was co-headliner, Brice. Brice started his set with a video montage of his career up to this point, including photographs of tours he has been a part of, shows he has played and the people who have been alongside him throughout his career, set to his song “Friends We Won’t Forget”. However, it may surprise many that Brice is not new to the country music scene by far. This former Clemson linemen, relocated from his South Carolina hometown to Nashville to pursue a music career after he sustained an injury that would not allow him to return to football.
Brice started his career writing chart-topping songs for country superstars, such as Garth Brooks, with “More Than a Memory” in 2007. He made history with that song as it was the first single to debut at number one on the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart. Brice recalled, being that this song was so personal to him, “I was thinking about keeping it for myself when Garth Brooks called, and that changed the whole dynamic." Needless to say, Brice's stock rose in Nashville after Brooks’ success with his song. In the same year, Curb Records signed Brice to their label, and he began working towards his own solo career.
Brice’s debut album, “Love Like Crazy”, was released in 2009. The title track reached number three on the Billboard Country Chart as well as breaking a 62-year-long record as the longest-charting song in that chart’s history. It was dubbed “Top Country Song of 2010” by Billboard Year End. Following the major success that he had with his debut album, it might seem unattainable to achieve even more out of the next one, yet in 2012, Brice released that second album, “Hard 2 Love”, which surpassed the previous release and went Gold. His sophomore release followed with three number one singles, including “I Drive Your Truck”, which received the CMA and ACM Award for Song of the Year.
Brice came out on stage pumped and ready to enjoy this evening in Kentucky even asking, “Ya’ll don’t have anywhere to be do you? Would it be ok if we just stayed and partied all night?”. There were no objections, only cheers, were heard in response. Brice was clearly not leaving anything on the table for this audience and while, as an artist and performer, I am sure his goal was to “do his best”. What came across for me personally as a fan and as a journalist, was that he was genuinely having fun performing for the crowd and made sure to show his appreciation for their participation in singing along with his songs and for helping to make these songs successful. At one point in the show, Brice stopped, took off his guitar, removed the custom leather guitar strap, autographed the body and handed it to a specific fan close to the stage stating, “Man, I appreciate you, you have sang along with every lyric, to every song”. That is nothing short of authentic appreciation, and there is not a way to replicate those moments. They are unforgettable memories.
During “I Drive Your Truck”, which Brice dedicated to all service men and women, the venue lit-up with cell phone flashlights and lighters as he delivered it with the same heart-felt emotion as it was written. You could barely hear the band, and even forgot it was there at times, hearing only Brice and the audience singing this beautiful tribute song.
Brice ended his set, walked off the stage leaving everyone expecting the lights to come back up for the intermission. Instead, he came back and sat down at the piano, saying “ya’ll didn’t really think I would leave without doing this song, did you?”. As he went into the song that he wrote for his wife prior to their wedding, “I Don’t Dance”, the crowd went crazy. Brice, as expected, was on-point with everything about this song. This is a special one, as I am sure it is to so many, and like all the great country songs, it will be around for years and years to come.
Last and certainly not least, Moore was up next to close out this extraordinary night with the American Made Tour.
This is Moore’s third tour as a headliner. With each tour, he gives more, no pun intended, and more of himself to the performance and the audience. He has a unique ability to connect with the crowd and it tends to come off as just one of the guys on stage, having a great time with thousands of his closest friends.
Moore opened his set with “Backwoods”, which was his second Top 10 hit on the Billboard Charts in May of 2010. Moore co-wrote this song with two other writers, one of whom is a guitar player for him, and hails from a very small town in Pike County, Kentucky. He is no stranger to the small town way of life, considering Moore’s hometown of Poyen, Arkansas, where he still lives today, has a population of 292. It seemed fitting to start a show off in a small Kentucky town, with this song, paying homage to the co-writer’s hometown, as well as getting this crowd rowdy and ready to close out the night on a high note.
Throughout his career, Moore has enjoyed five Number One singles since his start in 2008, including his anything but big city anthem "Small Town USA"; the show-stopping tribute to those we have lost, "If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away"; the song for that he wrote as a pledge to his wife, Kate, "Til My Last Day”; “Lettin The Night Roll” and his newest Number One, “You Look Like I Need A Drink”; in addition to the previously mentioned Top 10 success with "Backwoods”. These hits don't really tell the whole story of “who” Moore is, or what makes him different compared to any other male artist in country music. To understand that stark difference, take a moment to look at the song choices he makes, because they are almost always some type of a “statement song”. In a way, he uses these songs to allow the audience to see into his life, not just how he was growing up, but what has continued to be a way of life for him. Look at Moore’s single, “Point At You”, co-written by Rhett Atkins, which was the lead single from his Off The Beaten Path album in 2013. This single acknowledges every wild hair that Moore has and points out all the best parts of him, embodied in his wife. The contrasts described herein are some of the most honest and truest things about most red-blooded American males; get loud, get rowdy, then come home and be the solid family man, who is dedicated to those basic, standard, moral guidelines that make you who you are. In his single “Old Back In The New School”, Moore is all about the things that last in life, the things that make memories and make someone who they are, the wild times, enduring values, making for a way of life worth living, and being proud to do so. There is a poignant moment here in the chorus of this song where Moore says “Just ‘cause something’s hip don’t make it cool, let’s put a little old back in the new school” wherein he has always contended that just because something is “old” does not mean it will not work, whether in the music industry or as a way of life.
Moore has a willingness to be country, while still having an edge to his style of country. With his heavy twang derived from his thick Arkansas accent, he has a strong tenderness in his voice as well as a bit of an edgy bite to it. This has allowed him to break out of the “norm” and try something that strays slightly from what he has been comfortable doing with albums in the past. His newest album, Kinda Don’t Care, which is Moore’s fourth studio album, was a deviation from his previous comfort level and yet, he himself made mention of the fact that he felt that to grow, both as an artist and with your fans, you must step out of that box and although it can be nerve-racking, it is sometimes necessary. The process was different with this album and Moore explained in our previous interview, that he wanted to make sure he was selecting songs that stayed true to who he is, while going out on the edge just a little, expanding as an artist and he added that he was hopeful that his dedicated fan base would be happy with the growth and different direction with some of these new tracks. Moore has always had an interesting way of negotiating the good ole boy, redneck reality that's defined today's hardcore country fan while earning many new fans along the way. Most will say that they enjoy the music, that it sounds as if he has lived their life, that he is as authentic as they come, and everyone agrees that Moore is here to stay for the long haul.
While Moore is known for saying exactly what he means and does not shy away from the tough topics, I would be remised if, as a journalist, I did not make mention of the twitter comment made by Moore, that had Kentucky Wildcats fans (known as #BBN) up in arms and acting like bullies on a playground, in which he said “Sure would be fun to see how good the hogs bball team would be with all the guys in the SEC from AR, actually, playing at AR.” Just an hour before his set, Moore tweeted “Look forward to kissin and makin up with one of my fav places to play, KY, tonight in Corbin. #nomoredrunktweets I promise cat nation” as a way of extending an olive branch and hoping that a misunderstood tweet, taken out of context, would be forgiven. While Moore “showed up” and came out as usual, ready to party and put on an outstanding performance, there were some members of #BBN in attendance that just could not let it go, which is unfortunate for them as they spent their time chanting about a basketball team and missed the party that the rest of us were attending. While I realize, giving my opinion here may open the door, once again, to those “fans”, I also am someone that is not known for shying away from saying what I think. I will say one final thing about the whole “tweet heard across wildcat country” which is, while Moore did not directly mention a specific team in his original tweet, it was clearly taken very personally by certain individuals in the state of Kentucky. Please remember that whether it is politics, sports or any other subject, everyone is entitled to their personal opinions, with social media being a format for them to express themselves on any topic they choose. The reaction to this by so many was embarrassing as a Kentucky resident and does not define how the entire state feels.
On this night, in Corbin, Kentucky, Moore gave us an array of songs, including all the aforementioned Number One singles, thanking radio and fans alike for helping push these songs to their success. Moore’s track, “I Could Kick Your Ass” was a fun song to watch Moore perform, and while this song was only a digital release in 2008, it worked perfectly for this show, considering the tensions in the arena and Moore laughed while singing the chorus, as if to say “come on guys, it was a tweet”. From the hits “How I Got To Be This Way”, “Bait a Hook”, “Small Town Throwdown”, to songs like “More Middle Fingers”, “Somebody Else Will” from the newly released album, Moore kept the audience engaged and enjoying the party. During the middle of his show, he did pause for a moment and express appreciation for all first responders, noting specifically that police officers go out there every day, laying their lives on the line for all of us. He dedicated his hit “If Heaven Weren’t So Far Away” to all of those who sacrifice selflessly.
Moore did not disappoint, giving us all he had that evening, and as a fan, there is nothing more you can ask from an entertainer.
The combination of these three artists on this incredible tour could not have been better. Personally, having seen Morgan, Brice and Moore, live previously but independent of each other, I can say that I could not have dreamed of a better line up. It is moments like Brice giving a fan the guitar and Moore sharing the news of a new baby on the way, that that will make each stop of this tour special. No one will have the exact same experience and that is an anomaly for live shows these days. A true fan of music, no matter the genre, can feel when an artist cares about what they are delivering in their performance and when they care that you spent your hard-earned money on a ticket to see them. Morgan, Brice and Moore, in every note, every lyric, and every song they sang, gave us amazing talent, a lot of laughs, a few tears of emotion, and overall, three of our buddies came to Kentucky and threw a party that we all did not want to end.
I look forward to catching this tour again before it comes to an end. Make sure you do not miss the American Made Tour coming to a city near you.