There are very few country artists who are sure of who they are as Mo Pitney. While many of stars have changed sounds repeatedly to keep up with what’s current and hot, Pitney prides himself on staying true to who he is.
Raised in Rockford, Illinois, Pitney started playing drums as a kid before picking up his first guitar at around 12 or 13. From there, his love affair with music continued as he learned his way around banjo, mandolin, dobro, bass, stand up bass and a bit of steel guitar. Despite the fact that he’s dabbled in many instruments, Pitney is humble about his skills. “What I’ve come to realize is that I have a lot more to learn on guitar,” he admits. “There’s a lot more that I’d love to learn on guitar.”
If you’ve heard his music, it’s clear that Pitney is inspired by the classic troubadours of country music, including Keith Whitley, Randy Travis, Don Williams, Merle Haggard, George Jones and Roger Miller. In addition, he names a few non-country influences, such as James Taylor. “I probably listen to more of his records than almost anyone…and Randy Newman, I love his music.”
On his first single “Country,” Pitney and his co-writers attempted to bridge the gap between all kinds of country fans.
That song as far as a first single, best explains what I’m trying to do. It’s a an uptempo song that has some heart and meaning to it,” Pitney says. “I got to write the song with Bobby Tomberlain and Whisperin’ Bill Anderson and the day that we wrote it the song was about trying to bridge the gap between all people that love country music.
Pitney has finished recording his debut album, which he hopes will be released on Curb Records in late October. All but one of the tracks was written by Pitney, and ironically, the one he didn’t write may be the title track, “Behind this Guitar.” Pitney hopes that fans love what they hear.
The fans can just expect to hear my heart on there. I just tried to be myself and not be influenced by what’s on the radio now or anything like that. I just tried to stick to what I wanted to hear on my own record.
When it comes to his favorite songs of his own, he admits that they change with his mood. He lists “Clean Up on Aisle Five” as a regular favorite as well as a Dean Dillon co-write called “Take the Chance.” However, when it comes to naming a song he wishes he wrote, Pitney doesn’t miss a beat, naming “The Song Remembers When” by Trisha Yearwood. “That’s one of my favorite songs and I really wish that I had written that.”
Pitney made his Opry debut last year, receiving a standing ovation for his performance of “Clean Up on Aisle Five.” He admits that everyone wanted him to perform an uptempo track, but he listened to his heart.
Something in me told me I needed to play a ballad and I picked “Clean Up” and it was amazing…that first night, first song we got a standing ovation, or the song got a standing ovation. I ended up playing the single write after that which was cool because I wrote the song with Bill Anderson and he introduced me that night.
While having a song on the radio and receiving a standing ovation may be considered “making it” in the eyes of many, Pitney admits that his views are different (and refreshing) than most.
My views of ‘making it’ are different than other people: If I can be out playing music that I love personally, I don’t care how many people are in the audience or if I’m on the radio,” he admits. “If I can make a living playing music I love then I’d say that I made it, but to be number one on radio, I don’t know if that’s be making it for me if I didn’t get to play the music that I love. When I was sitting on the edge of my bed playing music I love, I felt like I made it.
As Mo Pitney gears up to release his album, he sticks to the best adivce he’s ever received and that’s to simple be himself. “Any small bit of success I’ve had has been God-orchestrated and me having the ability to stay myself and not be influenced by anyone.” And as he continues, he wants his fans to know one thing.
When people listen to my music, I want them to know that what I’m singing about are things that I’ve lived through and that I really believe in, and I try not to be fake. I try to be the real person and living the life that I’m singing about.