It has been a long road for Justin Moore, but the wait has paid off.
Moore has been named one of the break-out country artists for 2009, and he's hitting the stage tomorrow during the kick-off concert for The Augusta Chronicle 's birthday bash.
His self-titled debut album includes the No. 1 hit Small Town USA , plus Backwoods , How I Got to Be This Way and Back That Thing Up .
The 26-year-old isn't a newcomer to Augusta. He has performed in the city three times.
"There's a few spots across the country that you really remember. A handful of spots that you kind of seem to show up in more, and that's one of them. So we're looking forward to coming back," Moore said last week as he was on the road in West Palm Beach, Fla., with the Brad Paisley tour. He'll be traveling with the tour for the rest of year.
Moore has been singing since childhood, but he never thought about pursuing a career in music until his father suggested it.
"I started playing music my senior year in high school and ended up falling in love with it. I've been very, very blessed in the last couple of years that I have a lot of people around me that care about my career," Moore said.
After high school, he joined his uncle's Southern rock band and moved to Nashville, Tenn., in 2002. He began looking for songs at publishing companies to help him land a record deal, but he wasn't getting the material he wanted. So, he decided to write his own.
AT ABOUT 20 years old, Moore met a young producer, Jeremy Stover, who became his producer and introduced him to respected industry executive Scott Borchetta, who was preparing to launch a new music company, The Valory Music Co. Borchetta told Moore that he would give him a record deal if he could be patient with him.
It took four or five years for everything to fall into place, but Moore said it was worth the wait. Now he's among the ranks of artists such as Reba McEntire and Jewel on the company's label.
"In this business, in Nashville in particular, you generally only get one shot. I thought if I could get one shot at this, I wanted to take it with him. Honestly, it's been the smartest decision I've ever made in my life," Moore said.
Moore wrote nine of the 10 songs on his debut album. It's unusual for a new artist to have so much creative control, he said. One of the most exciting moments of his career has been performing at the Grand Ole Opry, where he played his favorite song from the album, Grandpa , while his grandfather listened backstage.
It's surreal to think how far he has come, Moore said.
"It feels incredible. Where I come from, this kind of thing is unattainable. For us to have enjoyed the success we have over the past two years has kind of been mind boggling to me," Moore said.
MOORE GREW UP in the small town of Poyen, Ark., which inspired his No. 1 hit song. His music is a cross between country and Southern rock music.
"I grew up listening to country because that was all there was around there and it was describing how I was growing up. The songs were written about me, so I thought. That's why I gravitated towards it," he said.
Moore is a husband and father now, so fans can expect songs that reflect this new phase of his life.
"I had a daughter, and that changes you. My writing has obviously changed. It's done like me and grown up a little bit. I'm pretty excited about that," he said.