Photo Courtesy of Valory Music Co.
An avid outdoorsman, Justin spent six hours doing press interviews from a bass boat in the middle of Manhattan's beautiful Central Park Lake. Fans could watch and listen live online as the singer/songwriter answered questions about his new album, released today (June 21).
The Boot joined Justin in Central Park to find out about his favorite song on the album, the story behind his latest smash single and his approach to fatherhood the second time around.
How did you come up with the idea to host a media day in the middle of the lake?
The record label told me I couldn't find a place to fish in New York City, so I had to prove them wrong! [laughs] This is fun. We try to get out on the road any time we can and fish, hunt or whatever we have the opportunity to do outdoors. This just proves to people that you can do it anywhere; it's all across the country. I teamed up with Cabelas and NRA Country, and I'm trying to spread the gospel.
You wrote most of the songs on 'Outlaws Like Me.' How do you feel this album shows your growth as an artist?
I'm fortunate that I'm at a record label that trusts me as a songwriter as much as they do. I wrote 9 of the 10 on my first album, and I wrote 11 out of the 13 on this album. I'm very proud of it. I think it's the best songwriting I've ever done. I get to hone in on what I want to say and do as an artist even more than I did at the beginning of my career.
I've found out who exactly my fans are, so that's a huge advantage going in to write for another album. This album is a little more country, which I'm proud of. People look at me like I'm crazy when I say that, because the first one was pretty country. I think it's a little more diverse than the first album.
Many of your songs are very personal, including 'Flyin' Down a Back Road.' Are you ever afraid to reveal too much as a songwriter?
I'm not. I think it matters to people who you are as a person and what you go through as a person. If it's personal to me, it's probably personal to a lot of other people as well. So I try not to hold anything back. I think that's one of the reasons we've had a lot of success over the years. People really know who I am and feel like they're a buddy of mine. The fact that they know I'm going through stuff just as they are, even though I get to do this for a living, that has really helped us out. It's genuine.
That song in particular, I was talking to my songwriter friends at the time about all this stuff we used to dream of. "What if this happened?" and "could you imagine if that happened?" and that's where that song came from. The fact that we've been able to experience the stuff that we have over the past three or four years is just mind-blowing.
Photo Courtesy of Valory Music Co.
Is there a song on the new project that means more to you now than when you first wrote it?
'Outlaws Like Me' is my favorite song I've ever written. It's the title of this album and it's a really personal song to me and has made me a better person. If it has that effect on one person out there, then I'm doing my job as an artist and a Christian.
'If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away' is your fastest-rising single to date, yet it was the very last song you chose for the record. What are your requirements for choosing songs written by others?
I have to relate to it, obviously. We were through with the album when I heard this song and I thought, "Man I can't not cut this record." The songwriters did a great job, and the first time I heard it I just thought, "This is a special record." They don't come along very often like this. The experiences I've had with losing loved ones was portrayed in this song, so I felt really close to it and it turned out to be a big record for us.
Speaking of loved ones, you're expecting a second child.
We are. We feel very, very blessed. The last one was such a shock to us that my wife and I are gonna try to enjoy the whole process of this one.
How is it being away from your family while on tour?
It's tough. My wife and daughter travel with me probably every other week or every third week. That makes it a lot easier. As much as I can see them, it's important.
Do you test out your new material on your wife and baby girl?
My wife. She's brutally honest. She'll tell me if she loves it or hates it. She's a good one to bounce it off of.
Given the success of your first album, was there any fear of having such a tough act to follow?
You know what, there wasn't. I'm a pretty laid-back guy and pretty even keeled. I don't get too worried or too excited about anything. It sounds crazy, but I don't make albums so they sell a lot or so they're critically acclaimed. I make albums that I'm proud of and that I know my fans like. You gotta let the chips fall where they may. There are so many variables that I can't control in this business, so I really don't worry about the pressure.
You've been living in Nashville for nine years now. What's surprised you most about the town?
It's tough. It's really competitive. But I can't complain about Nashville. It's been great to me and my family, and we've enjoyed a lot of success and a lot of that's due to a lot of people in Nashville.
When you first started out, your dad played a demo over the phone for record executives on Music Row.
He did. That shows you how stupid we were at the time and had no idea what we were doing. My dad is a huge part of me being here today. If it weren't for his support and him letting me know I could do this and being such a great role model, I would have never even got started in this business.