Originally published in the Sept. 2, 2013 issue of Country Weekly magazine, featuring Brad on the cover.
Front and center in Justin Moore’s living room, arranged strategically beneath the enormous flat-screen TV tuned to the Disney Channel, is a hot pink microphone stand.
No, it’s not Justin’s. (You go ahead and suggest that to the guy who has a song titled “I Could Kick Your Ass.”) The stand in question belongs to his 3-year-old daughter, Ella, who is deciding with what song she is going to entertain her captive audience of mother, baby sister and, of course, dad.
“Sing ‘Point at You’!” mom Kate suggests, hoping to have Ella belt out her husband’s latest hit single.
But Ella will have none of it. “No! That’s a boy’s song,” she fires back, and proceeds to perform a song she’s “written” all by herself.
Clearly, Justin isn’t the only star in the Moore household, a modest home at the end of a cul-de-sac in Benton, Ark., just a half hour or so from Justin’s birthplace of Poyen, Ark., population 300.
After nearly 10 years of living in Nashville, Justin took advantage of his recent success and returned to the region where he was raised.
“It’s been really important to me to move back here, for a long time. Fortunately, I finally got to the point where I could, personally and professionally. Of all my buddies, I was the one kid who never wanted to move away from home, and I’m the only one who ended up doing it,” says Justin, seated in his office, which is decorated in a mix of manly and musical. A mounted smallmouth bass Justin caught and a “Posted” sign of his grandfather’s, riddled with bullet holes, hang on the wall amid a row of record-sales plaques and signed guitars.
“Nashville was great to me. I have a lot of great friends there and I can’t complain, but it just wasn’t home. All my family are still here in Arkansas, my mom and dad, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins,” he continues. “It was important for me that my kids grew up getting to see their grandparents. It’s been really good for me personally, in the respect that I see my mom and dad a couple of those days. I get to go to church where I grew up and I get to help out the communities that I love and care about and am from. And, as an artist, it’s been good for me because it’s where I draw a lot of inspiration from.”
The fruits of that inspiration can be heard on Justin’s third album, Off the Beaten Path, set for a Sept. 17 debut. A tour-de-force release, Off the Beaten Path features Justin duetting with Miranda Lambert and Charlie Daniels, a wealth of radio-ready singles and a song about big butts that Justin says, amazingly, has been a hit with his female fans, including wife Kate. (Look for more on the album in an upcoming issue of Country Weekly.)
The most appealing part of the exodus back to Arkansas for Justin, however, was that he wanted his daughters—Ella and her little sister, Kennedy—to grow up in the same nurturing environment he experienced. “I want my kids to grow up where I did, go to school where I did,” Justin says.
Ever the family man, Justin often brings the brood on the road. Sitting outside near their in-ground pool as dog Hank pads around—“Kate wanted a little sissy dog, and I said, ‘Fine, only if I can name him,’” Justin quips—Justin and Kate sip iced tea and open up about the logistics of touring.
“They come out every two to three weeks, as much as Kate can stand,” says the star, who has a separate bus just for family.
“Road life is a little hard with two kids,” admits Kate, “because they’re confined in a small space.”
Recently, Kate and Kennedy stayed behind for a weekend run, leaving Justin some precious father-daughter time on the road alone with Ella.
“Everybody goes, ‘So where’s your nanny?’” Justin says, recalling the reaction of those on the tour. “I go, ‘I didn’t bring one!’ We act like we work hard, but we don’t have a lot to do during the day. The only time I have to worry [about Ella] is when I’m onstage. Fortunately I have a great crew and band out there, who I trust with my life.”
As well as with his little girl.
“I sat with Art!” yells Ella, walking over to sip her mom’s tea.
“Yes, she sat with Art, my production manager,” Justin deciphers. “She wanted to come and she kept going, ‘I want to go to work with you!’ I said, ‘OK, but during the show, you’re just going to have to stand on the side of the stage and watch.’”
During time off, Justin took Ella to a fair he was playing that evening and to a mall.
“And she got a dollhouse, a pair of boots . . . all kinds of stuff,” Kate teases.
“Well, of course,” Justin say matter-of-factly. “She asked for it.”
That seems to be Justin’s parenting approach to both of his daughters, as well as with Kate. During a tour of his home, he points out the toy-filled rooms of Ella and Kennedy, and praises his wife’s decorating sense in their own bedroom, with its enormous bed. “We almost couldn’t get it inside,” Kate says, laughing.
Being surrounded by three women has changed Justin, he says.
“Prior to having Ella, I was the stereotypical guy who wanted all boys. But after having her, and then adding Kennedy, I don’t care if I ever have a boy. I think I’d be pretty mean [as a father] if I had boys,” he says. “I was listening to an interview with Tim McGraw not too long ago. [The reporter] asked, ‘What did you learn from living with all these women?’ He said, ‘I think they’ve taught me patience.’ And I agree with that. You just have to be patient and let stuff roll off your back. Not to be chauvinist in any way, but women are emotional.”
“Oh, God,” Kate says, rolling her eyes. But she does agree that her husband has mellowed.
“I think he does have more patience,” she says.
“I’m a pushover,” Justin deadpans.
“Yes, he’s a pushover is what I’m trying to say,” Kate agrees, smiling.
Even Justin’s life on tour has been altered since becoming a father.
“Having a family has dramatically changed my goals out there on the road. I don’t drink as much as I used to. Now I get on the bus and put my pajamas on and go to bed, instead of having a nightcap or two,” he says. “I think a lot of that stuff changes the older you get.”
Justin and Kate met when they were only teenagers, each on their own senior trip vacations in Panama City Beach, Fla.
“We were the ones who weren’t acting all crazy and the fool. We were cleaning up our drunk friends,” Justin says.
“Taking care of everybody,” Kate adds.
“It’s kind of cheesy, but we just sat around and talked and hung out. We’ve been together ever since. This is going on our sixth year of being married,” Justin continues, reflecting on the wonder of those Panama City days.
A wonder his daughters will never know, if it’s up to their protective father.
“When we had Ella, I asked him, ‘What will you do when Ella goes to senior trip and brings a boy home?’” Kate remembers. “And he said, ‘There’s no way she’s going.’”
“I’ve seen what can happen!” Justin defends. “She might come back dating a musician.”
Or, if Ella’s living room showcase back inside the house is any indicator, she may just become one.
Justin only smiles and adjusts his daughter’s mic.