Mo Pitney discusses his balance of family, faith, and music
When it comes to country music, longevity and tradition is the key to success. Mo Pitney may be a newcomer to some, but he has gained respect for many music legends. The young singer songwriter has learned the ropes of the industry while playing alongside his family. He and his wife recently celebrated with the birth of their daughter. His debut album, “Behind This Guitar,” has garnered attention by those that yearn for traditional country music.
Mo Pitney will be headlining the WFKY Froggy Field Party in Eminence, Kentucky, on Saturday, August 12, 2017. He will be joined by Erin Enderlin, Dillon Carmichael, as well as a local singer-songwriter stage hosted by Jamie Tingle. For more information on the concert, be sure to check out www.froggykycountry.com.
Mo Pitney recently sat down and talked with Kentucky Country Music on his recent success and maintaining his faith in this ever changing world.
Kentucky Country Music: Being on Country Family Reunion, Larry’s Country Diner, and the Merle Haggard Tribute Special on RFD-TV, how did you choose the songs that you sang?
Mo Pitney: They ended up sending over a big list of songs on both the shows (Country Family Reunion and Merle Haggard Tribute) that would fit well for the day. I was able to pick out my favorites especially the Merle Haggard one, “Farmer’s Daughter.” That’s by far my favorite Merle Haggard song. It’s the sentiment of a father’s love for his daughter in that kind of humble farm like country way. It has always really moved me and I was always thankful that I got to sing that song.
You got the chance to meet Merle’s sons at the tribute. Have you and any of them got together to write or perform after the RFD-TV special?
MP: I haven’t and I got to meet all of them in passing. I met Ben (Haggard) a couple of times and then the other two, I met them only on the show. I look forward to talking more with them and hanging out. I just have to see how that all plays out. I don’t ever want to force anything like that.
With the song, “Country,” you were able to connect with country music legend Bill Anderson. He’s been on those RFD-tv shows as well with you. How did you initially connect with Bill Anderson?
MP: I was on Curb Record, and still am. Bobby Tomberlin is a writer at Curb. When I first started to hang out at the writer’s meetings, I met Bobby. We hit it off right away and he actually told me a couple of days after I met, “hey I’m writing with Bill Anderson next week if you want to come and sit in with us.” So the first time Bill and I got to meet was the day we were writing together. That is actually the day we wrote “Country.” That’s a pretty cool story.
Did you ever expect the fan response that you got from that song?
MP: Even as things kind of started growing on the charts, saying up until now, sometimes we worry how to bridge the gap between an older audience and a younger audience. That seems, since I moved to Nashville, to be the struggle. It’s happened in its own organic way. It’s been a slow climb and learning a little bit of how to make music and how to touch on a wide spectrum of topics that can make a broader audience happy, but still be myself. It’s been a little interesting dynamic, but we’re more than pleased with how it’s responding. People are responding to it and I’m a little blown away by it all.
One thing that has struck out with you, and even with artists such as Josh Turner, you are not afraid to speak about your faith. You are not afraid to speak out about your way of living, your music, and family. How have you been able to balance your music career, family, and your faith?
MP: This business is a funny one. It’s not really normal for family life to be sleeping in a different hotel every night and can make things difficult. It’s caused me to doubt whether or not I should keep doing this. So I don’t know if I’ve found the perfect balance of how to do it. I do know that I keep Emily and the baby on the road as much as they are able to; like every time we take the bus and that really helps.
As far as my faith goes, I can’t survive without my Creator. Sometimes I feel like I’m far from Him and suffocating. Even if I don’t live it perfectly, which is whole heartedly my desire and I want people to know the Gospel. I know it’s the only hope this world has. I just know it in the depths of my core. I can’t help but be quiet about it. I don’t know if I have a proper balance or not, but I just try to bear witness to the truth everywhere I go. I know I need it. I’ve met a lot of people who express their heartaches, failures, and discouragements and really express their need for help as well. I guess I know where it is and all I can do is point to it. As long as people know that I’m fallible and He’s not.
Is there a particular Bible verse or hymnal that you go back to that uplifts you during the hard times?
MP: In this part of my life, it’s been a number of verses through the difficult times. In Philippines, “He will complete the work that He started in me,” has been one that I’ve gone to. Romans 8 Verse 34, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died and more than that who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.”
The enemy is a real one in this world. He really loves bringing up our past and he really loves to get us discourage and tell us that God’s finished with us. The only way to fight it is to fight it with scripture. I think the last couple of months I’ve gone through just a low spot feeling far from God and feeling afraid that I’ll fall away or take a wrong path being on the road in the music business. So I really had to hold onto those promises that it’s up to Him and not up to me and He completed it all 2000 years ago.
Being around the legends of music, has there been a particular piece of advice from one received that stuck out to you?
MP: Depending on who I was around, I think the best piece of advice I’ve gotten musically is to always be yourself. I think people are not starving as much for old traditional music like they’re starving for people that are honest and know who they are as artists. I think the reason we gravitate to the same things like Merle Haggard and Roger Miller, and these great artists – the reason why we want to get back to them is because they knew who they were. They just let the music pour out of them and the audience knew and believed what they were singing. I think the best advice I can maybe give, and have received, is to find out how God created you and the sounds that come out of you. Don’t be someone you’re not. Be honest with what God has equipped you to do and do to the best of your ability.
It does seem like the ones with career longevity are the ones that have been true to themselves and not someone fake.
MP: Anything that’s fake, cardboard-like, tends to be washed away really quickly. If you put a piece of metal out in the yard, it stays for a very long time.
What can fans expect from your show at the Froggy Field Party?
MP: We’re not really big on lights and backflips and things like that. It’s really about the music. Everybody that’s there will be playing from the heart and hoping to connect with the audience. Any lights or anything on stage we have is all in an attempt to enhance the song and what’s being sung with hopes that it connects with the audience in really special ways.
I written with Erin Enderlin twice, but it has been a long time. I look forward to seeing her and performing a show with her as well.
For more information on Mo Pitney, be sure to check out his music online at www.mopitney.com.
Jessica Blankenship is the owner and founder of Kentucky Country Music website. The Berea College graduate has been a music journalist and historian for over 20 years. She enjoys providing concert photography, reviews, historical articles, red carpet event coverage, and exclusive interviews of your favorite musicians. Jessica is proud to be a Kentucky Colonel and alumni of the FFA and 4-H Clubs. In 2018, she was named one of Laurel County’s Ten Under 40 Award Recipients. In 2019, she was a member of the Inaugural class of BRIGHT Kentucky as part of Leadership Kentucky. She has been featured on the Kentucky Music Preview podcast, Hollercast podcast, Overtones radio show, WFKY Nashville News Roundup, KET, and more. Beyond music, she enjoys traveling, helping her community, collecting gnomes, and Volkswagens.