When Mo Pitney talks about the many meanings of the word “country” in his debut single, simply titled “Country,” he knows of what (and where) he speaks. A native of Cherry Valley, Illinois, Pitney’s early music education was rooted in bluegrass. But Pitney, one of Rolling Stone Country‘s Artists You Need to Know, has since become one of the most promising young acts in mainstream country music.
The singer-songwriter has already earned a standing ovation on the Grand Ole Opry and co-written songs with veterans such as Country Music Hall of Famer Bill Anderson and writer Bobby Tomberlin, whose many cuts include “One More Day” for Diamond Rio. The first time Pitney sat down with the two, they talked for hours about their varied lives, finding common ground in their love of traditional country artists, many of whom Anderson had worked with during his career.
“We spent half the day just talking about life in country music,” Pitney tells Rolling Stone Country. “What country music was, what we thought it was and what it meant to us. We talked about Bill’s long life, my short life and Bobby’s medium life, and how, even with all the age difference, we were all pointed to the same artists. I’m an old soul and I always lean towards the older artists: Ray Price, Buck Owens, Roger Miller, Merle Haggard. Not only just saying I like Merle Haggard, but studying his music.”
Although they hadn’t planned to write a song that addressed country music and the country lifestyle they all shared, Pitney says the idea to address the word “country” was too tempting. But one aspect of the song that he wanted to avoid was making it all about himself.
“I was very careful,” he says, “because a lot of people who write a song about what country is, it normally points to the singer – ‘this is how country I am.’ I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to get out of the way of the song and point towards ‘this is what I think country is.’ The song is more an anthem for the word ‘country’ and for the lifestyle and the music so that other people can hold onto that. I don’t want the attention on me; I want the attention on country.”
Watch Pitney perform the song in the video premiere above.