By Vernell Hackett
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Kip Moore arrived in Nashville on New Year's Day in 2004, with a guitar and a suitcase. Appropriately enough, he was driving a truck. Eight years later, his first No. 1 hit was called "Somethin' ‘Bout a Truck."
The single has sold more than 1 million copies. Moore's first album, "Up All Night," debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard country album charts in April. It has since sold almost 200,000 copies.
It's all pretty heady stuff for someone who has quickly become one of the biggest up-and-coming country music acts.
"Every time I step on that stage, I'm loving it. Now that I've had some success, I'm even more fearful of losing it," Moore told Reuters.
The newly minted Nashville star has just joined country music sensation Eric Church on Church's "The Blood, Sweat and Beers Tour."
"I'm depressed when I don't get to do music," Moore said in an interview. "Having to go back to doing something I don't like and am not passionate about would be a tough thing."
Though he appears to have hit it big quickly, the 32-year-old Moore built his career steadily. He started in small clubs near his hometown of Tifton, Georgia, and then moved on to Hawaii, where he started to hone his craft before he realized he had to go to the heart of country music to learn the business.
Once settled in Nashville, Moore immersed himself in the songwriting community, but it took two years to work up enough nerve to share his songs with other songwriters.
Once he did, observers began to see a range of influences in his music. Moore, however, can remember the song that made him want to be a songwriter.
"I could name so many, but I have to say it was ‘All Good Things' by Jackson Browne. So many of those songs I was listening to when I was five, six, seven years old was because my dad was listening to them, and I listened because I thought he was cool," he said.
"I loved Bob Dylan, who today would be a country songwriter and singer. Songs like ‘Against the Wind' by Bob Seger. I can specifically remember riding on a fishing trip with my dad and listening to that song."
The youngster listening to his father's music wasn't old enough to understand what the lyrics were about, yet he was drawn to the stories in the songs, whether they were country, rock or pop.
Church, 35, who received five Country Music Association award nominations this month, gave Moore high marks for his authenticity as well as his vocal style.
"I like the grit in his music," Church told Reuters. "There's a lot of integrity in the kind of songs that he writes and the way he sings them and the way they're recorded, so I'm looking forward to get on the road with him."
MAKE WAY FOR THE CAP ACTS
Moore is being hailed by critics as a country act who could broaden the genre's fan base. Some critics are even dubbing this new baseball-cap-wearing group of young country musicians, which includes Church, the "Cap Acts" vs. the "Hat Acts."
Moore shakes his head at such labels.
"People will try to give this new generation a hard time, but music is always evolving," Moore said. "When Webb Pierce was out, that was what was going on then, but then Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash came, and they were doing music that was so different from Webb. Then Garth (Brooks) came around after Cash and those guys, and it was like ‘Wait a minute. This isn't country.' You are always fighting that battle in music, no matter what genre you are in."
The songs on Moore's album have garnered comparisons to artists as wide ranging as Bruce Springsteen and Kris Kristofferson.
Moore's voice lends itself to the sexiness of "Somethin' ‘Bout A Truck" or "Up All Night," but has no trouble going straight into "Reckless," a rocking tune that begs the listener to be patient with the singer and the mistakes he makes through the process of growing up.
"I've been playing the many styles of music I do for a long time," Moore said. "I try not to focus on what people say too much because there's nothing I can do about it. All I can do is focus on staying true to the style of music I write and sing because that is the only way it's going to come off as honest."
(Editing by Nichola Groom, Jill Serjeant and Jan Paschal)