Illinois native Mo Pitney won himself a legion of new listeners in the UK following his tour over here last summer.
Now he’s back with a new double A-side single, Boy and a Girl Thing and Clean Up on Aisle Five, and is set to wow another wave of country fans when he plays the pop-up stages at C2C: Country to Country 2018 in March.
I caught up with Mo recently to talk about playing C2C, his latest single and the possibility of new music in the future. Read on to find out more…
You played your first UK shows last summer – how was that?
Oh, it was great. I got to take my family on the first trip over – my brand new baby was six months old at the time, and my wife and my parents and brother and sister came which was really special. We got to see all the scenery and the history and just everything over there. It’s one of the most memorable trips we’ve had. And then the audience was just really receptive to what we were doing. I mean, all around it was a great experience.
Did you find you got a different response from the UK audiences compared to other places you’ve played in?
The audiences in England – I think they’re an audience that loves singer-songwriter music and good traditional country music, and has a real reverence and respect for that. I think it explain it that’s there a larger group of people that have that kind of reverence and respect in the UK. So you can pack a larger room full of people that really understand and wanna know what makes an artist an artist, and that’s what I think is most special about going over there.
And now you’re coming back over here in March to play C2C – what can people expect from those shows?
I think our show’s gonna be a little bit stripped down as we’re not able to bring the full band. It’s gonna be either, depending on what stages at what time, either me on a stool playing or my brother and sister. It’s kind of a stripped-down acoustic show which we love to do, and it gives me more of an opportunity to give the stories behind the songs and kind of tell people why I wrote them or what the inspiration is. And then just communicate with the audience and just play things that mean something to me. I’ll play stuff off the record and then hopefully I’ll let you guys hear some of the new things that will probably show up on the next record. And I’m sure I’ll also play some old country songs.
Why did you pick Boy and a Girl Thing and Clean Up on Aisle Five for the double A-side?
I think those are kind of the two polar opposites of the spectrum of what I do. Some of the more light-hearted stuff you might find in Boy and a Girl Thing, and then one of the slow ballad, really meaningful songs on the record was Clean-Up on Aisle Five. And I think this was able to show you both sides of who I am, and I think that’s why we leaned that way to use those.
You’ve also just released the video for Clean Up on Aisle Five – can you tell us more about that?
Yeah, we actually filmed it a long time ago – it’s been sitting in the can for a very long time. We did a lot of editing and then we forgot about it for a little while, then we remembered ‘hey, we should probably put that out’. So we’ve been working on it and just released it. But it was fun to do. It was a little awkward at times being that my wife was standing behind the camera while I was reminiscing with an actor, but I still got to stay in my own bed that night [laughs]. But yeah, it was the first one that I actually did all the acting in and things like that, and I learned a lot and I had a great time doing it. Sometimes it’s awkward for me to watch but I’m still glad that we released it and did it – I think it’s the right thing.
You’ve mentioned your album [Behind This Guitar, released in 2016] a couple of times. Do you have a favourite song on the album? Were there any songs that were particularly easy or difficult to write?
I think Clean-Up on Aisle Five came pretty easily, and that’s probably one of my favourite songs on the record. Take The Chance is another song, as far as me just having a song that I just love listening to. If I do listen to my own music which I don’t do very often, I might turn on something like Take the Chance because it’s just fun to record and it’s easy listening. That song came pretty easily. But I do like also Give Me Jesus – I’m sorry I haven’t been able to pick one, but it’s one of the more meaningful ones on the record.
Tell us a bit more about your writing process…
It’s always different. Sometimes I’m sitting at home by myself and a song shows up. Sometimes I gotta call my buddy and get on FaceTime and finish it with him, and sometimes I schedule a songwrite like I’ve done today. We’re sitting at Curb Records in our publishing house and we blacked out five or six hours to see if we can come up with one or two ideas. We’ve already written one song this morning and you caught me in the break between the two, so now we’re trying to get a second one started. Inspiration can come from anywhere – sometimes it has to turn into a job where I just go in and I try to put my hand to the plough and make something happen, and sometimes God just gives them to you while you’re walking along. It’s just always interesting to see how they come about.
Do you ever get writer’s block? If so how do you work through that?
There’s just seasons. There’s seasons where I find it hard to record or hard to perform or hard to write. I’m thankful that so far some of those seasons have been interchangeable, where if it’s a season where I’m not writing much it might be because I’ve been pretty covered up with travelling and performing, or it might that God’s telling me I need to do some recording or whatever. So you can get kinda blocked up but if I kinda switch up my routine sometimes you can get things going. That’s not to say I haven’t had kind of down periods in my life where almost nothing felt like it was going right. I think we all face that; you can get discouraged or anything like that. Those times are learning times – times where I gotta be patient and know that I’m not God and I need Him to go before and just give me a little inspiration and wind so I can keep going, and that’s OK. Just take it a step at a time.
Is there one song that you wish you’d written?
There’s a lot of songs that I wish I’d written. I’m trying to think of one… A song called Remember When written by Hugh Cresswood is one, but there’s more like singer-songwriters. There’s things I’ve run into over the years that I absolutely love and it’d probably take me about 20 minutes to tell you them all [laughs].
You’ve played the Opry and the Bluebird before – is there anywhere else that you’d want to play at in the future?
I’m more connected to the audience than I am the stage I’m on. If it’s a great audience in a bar or just a small listening room then I’d be just as thrilled to play that as the biggest stages in the world. I will say that Red Rocks in Colorado – that whole scene there in the US, I’ve always wanted to play that one and it’s one that sticks out in my head.
What’s next for you?
We’ve got some touring going on this year and obviously going overseas once or twice – there’s some things in the books which I’m excited about. I think for the next month or two I’ll probably do some recording. We’ve been gathering my favourite songs over the last three years to see if I can find a bunch of songs worthy enough for a record, and I’ve been looking for a couple of outside songs too. So hopefully in the next four or five months we might have a record in our hands – I know that’s the goal. And I’m sure a single would come out before the record came out. It’s a little contingent on the label and when they decide they wanna move forward, but I hope that’s sooner rather than later.
Mo Pitney’s album Behind the Guitar and new double A-side Boy and a Girl Thing and Clean Up On Aisle Five is available now. Watch the video for Clean Up On Aisle Five below: