When Niko Moon first penned “Good Time” as a songwriter, no country artist wanted to record the song. It was pitched all around Nashville, but everyone said, “no thanks.” Still, Moon believed in the song, and later on when he became an artist, he made sure the song was on his solo project. Interestingly, the song became his platinum-selling debut single earlier this year. “Good Time” attracted more than 325 million streams, helping to catapult Moon to number one on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart.
With a musical persona comprised of a mix of hooky melodies, shrewd wordplay and edgy, electronic beats, Moon has been named an artist to watch by CMT, Amazon Music, MusicRow, NY Country Swag and more. And notably, Moon was a very successful hit songwriter before he signed his label deal as an artist with Sony Music.
Years ago, a chance meeting with a then unknown Zac Brown became a pivotal turning point in Moon’s career. Impressively, he co-wrote five of Zac Brown Band’s number one hits: “Loving You Easy,” “Homegrown,” “Beautiful Drug,” “Keep Me In Mind,” “Heavy Is The Head. He also co-wrote Dierks Bentley’s hit, “Gone.”
Touring currently with Lady A on the trio’s What A Song Can Do Tour, Moon recently released his debut album Good Time, that also includes his new single, “Paradise to Me” and his single. “No Sad Songs.”
We are pleased to present this new Q&A interview with Niko Moon. He talks about believing in a song when no one else does, the most important lesson he learned from Zac Brown, and the story behind “Good Time.”
BC: People sometimes call it an overnight sensation, but you’re definitely not that. You’ve been in the business for how long now?
Here’s the video of Niko Moon’s #1 hit, “Good Time.”
Niko Moon: Oh, wow. I don’t even know. Over a decade. When I started playing music, I was 15 years old. I started playing bars when I was 23.
BC: I read that your parents wrote songs as a hobby.
Moon: I was brought up in a musical home that appreciated music. They really did a great job nurturing my curiosity not just in music, but how music worked and how songs were made.
BC: Was there a time when you felt like you had a special knack for songwriting?
Moon: To be honest with you, I don’t really think I have a knack for it. I just obsessively love it so I’ve just worked at it since I was a kid. I don’t know that I had a natural talent for it, but I had a natural obsession for it. I think that’s more important. If someone really loves something and you work at it enough years, you’ll get good at that thing.
BC: How does the songwriting process generally work for you?
Moon: I always start with the foundational idea for the song, which is maybe the last two lines of the chorus. Like with “Good Time,” the idea started from the last line: “Like a bobber on a wet line; I’m just trying to catch a good time.” To me, that’s really half the song. Once you’ve got the idea, and you see that the idea is good and it’s catchy and clever, then all that’s left now is to write the song. But if you start off with an alright idea, then you can only shine it up so much with clever melodies and lyrics. For me, I spend a lot of time making sure the idea for the song is great. Once I get that, then I’ll usually go straight to the music—get the music chord progression feeling like that idea, and then move on to the melody and start singing over that music until I find a melody that I really like…and also feels like that idea. And then the lyrics. It starts with the first lyric, but then all the other lyrics don’t come until the very end.
BC: Is that where you feel your greatest strength is in songwriting with the lyrics, or are you equally strong with developing the melody?
Here’s the video of Niko Moon’s new single, “Paradise To Me.”
Moon: I think I’m a blend of both. My dad is a drummer, so that was the first instrument I learned. I love producing and engineering. I make all my own music here at my house. I have a recording studio here at home. I love every part of it. I love the songwriting part, the producing part, and the performing part on stage. I don’t know…maybe the world will end up making that decision for me on where I’m better at as far as the melodies or lyrics. I love every part of it the same.
BC: For a while, you were focusing more on the songwriting, and then you had the opportunity to step into the artist side. How would you compare writing for other artists versus hitting the stage as a performer?
Moon: It’s really different. I love every aspect of this business. That door (as a songwriter) opened up for me first as far as doing this for a living. I was grateful and happy to be a part of music in any way that I could. I just always wanted to be a part of music. So, I ran through that songwriting door as fast as I could, and it’s been awesome. I love writing for other people. I love getting into the mind of another artist and helping them be the best that they can be. There is something really special about me doing my own stuff. When I’m writing a song, I’m not thinking how would they sing it or what would they say. I’m just doing me, which is really nice. I always have felt like an artist this whole time even though the songwriting door opened first. For me, it’s a matter of finding the right time to come out with my own music and show the country world how I hear country music and how I do country music. Now is that time.
BC: You have an interesting approach to country music that mixes the traditional and the infusion of some of the Atlanta, GA hip-hop vibe.
Moon: I grew up about an hour outside of Atlanta. I was into country and Travis Tritt lived about 15 minutes from me, and Alan Jackson lives in Newnan, about 30 minutes from me. I was highly influenced by those guys. Country music was telling my life with the lyrics, and that’s what I am a country artist. I love country music. But I was also really close to Atlanta, and that music was everywhere growing up. I loved the way that the drums sounded. I just thought they really impacted and hit you in the chest. When I hear country music in my mind the way I would make it, it’s very country but I want it to hit you as well.
Here’s the video of Niko Moon’s single, “No Sad Songs.”
BC: When you were putting together your album, Good Time, did you have a certain focus or theme that you wanted to get across?
Moon: For sure. It’s [not only] this album, but also my whole purpose in music is to make music that makes people feel good, that makes people happy. I love people, and I love making people happy with music. I write sad songs for other artists, and I love to write a good sad song. But for some reason, I feel in my gut that what I’m supposed to do personally with my own music is to make really feel-good music. I’m really inspired by (reggae legend) Bob Marley, not really musically or instrumentally, but his mentality. When you listen to Bob Marley, he just makes you feel better about everything about life. Everything’s going to be alright. I want to do that with country music and my music. That’s why I called the record Good Time, because every song is good time music. I wanted to make an album you can put on in those moments where you’re hanging out with your friends or your family and you want to have a good time. It’s really simple, but hey, I’m a simple guy, and that’s what I feel like I’m supposed to be doing.
BC: You definitely come across as somebody who is relaxed and chilling and having a good time.
Moon: Man, I appreciate it. I’m just grateful. All I’ve ever wanted to do, is do music and the fact that I get this opportunity to get my music out there in a major way. As we all know, there are thousands of really talented songwriters and artists here in Nashville. Many of them are deserving of the opportunity to get their music out there on country radio and the major streaming platforms. Fate has smiled kindly on me and has given me this chance to be one of those lucky few. I can’t help but feel happy. I’m feeling blessed.
BC: How did your big hit, “Good Time,” come together?
Moon: I wrote that song when I was full-time songwriting, and I hadn’t made the decision to start making my own music. I wrote the song with my buddies Jordan Minton, Joshua Murty, and Mark Trussell. We pitched it to pretty much every country artist in town, and nobody wanted it. Literally no one wanted it (laughs). That’s how it goes sometimes. To be a songwriter in Nashville, you have to have some really thick skin. There’s going to be a lot of times when you think you have something special and no one else is going to recognize it, but I believed in myself and I believed in the song. I knew the song was special, but for whatever reason, no one else wanted it. That’s okay. In the end, I think it was meant to be because that song was always meant to be mine. When I decided a couple of years later to make my own album, that song had always stuck in the back of my head. I dusted it off, and I told my wife, “This one has to be on the album. It feels so me.”
Here’s the video of Zac Brown Band’s hit “Loving You Easy,”
which was co-written by Niko Moon.
BC: As a songwriter, you had a lot of success with the Zac Brown Band, with 5 #1 hits together.
Moon: Meeting Zac was a really pivotal moment in my musical life. If I had never met him, I wouldn’t be here right now. So many things came from that chance encounter in Georgia before he had blown up in a national way. We just met at a bar and became friends and start writing together. I’ve learned so much. I’ve learned the difference between a good song and a great song from him. I think the most important thing I learned from him was the importance of being true to yourself. I think he’s absolutely relentless about his conviction of staying authentic to who he is regardless. I find that inspiring when another artist is that way. When I decided to make my own music, it made me take a deep look at myself—who I am, what I’m about and what my sound is—and stay true to that and not conform to being anything other than that.
I think of all the #1 songs with Zac, “Homegrown” is probably the one closest to me because I wrote it about my hometown. It’s just a typical town. It’s not like the 8th Wonder of the World is sitting in the backend of my county. I love where I’m from, and it’s got a special place in my heart. Why is that? From the outside looking in, someone driving through there would be like, ‘Whatever.” It’s just another town. I started thinking what’s so special about it. It’s the fact that my family and so many of my friends are there and all these memories that I have there as a kid are tied to all these locations around town. When I look at my hometown, I don’t see it the way other people do. I didn’t want to write it so the listener would think about my hometown. I wanted to put it in a way where they would think about their own hometown and why they love where they’re from so much.
BC: Your career is going strong right now. Do you have any bucket list items you want one day?
Moon: For me, my main focus is putting out the best music that I possibly can and connecting with the people that dig my music. I hate to say the word “fans”—I call them “fam” because I think of them as a musical family—I try to simplify everything in my life as much as possible. I’m a little bit nebulous when it comes to my goals for music. My focus is on them and doing everything I can for them, to let them know how appreciative I am of the fact that I got this life that I’m living right now, making music for a living, because of them. Without them, I’m just some dude at my house playing guitar for myself.
Bill Conger is a freelance writer for various publications including Bluegrass Unlimited, ParentLife, Homecoming, and Singing News and is currently writing a biography on The Osborne Brothers with Bobby Osborne. He can be reached at [email protected].