Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Niko Moon Talks Perfect Day In Atlanta, New Songs For Summer, And How Keith Urban Inspires Him

Atlanta native Niko Moon is a rising country singer and songwriter known for his blend of country, pop, and R&B beats. Moon initially gained attention as a songwriter in Nashville, where he co-wrote songs for artists like Dierks Bentley, Morgan Wallen, and Zac Brown Band. It was no easy journey for Moon, having performed for years before ever gaining any recognition for his musicianship.

Moon launched his solo career in 2020 with the release of his debut EP titled Good Time. The title track from the EP, and his first ever single, became a significant hit, reaching the top of the Billboard Country Airplay chart. His music is characterized by catchy melodies, laid-back vibes, and lyrics that celebrate the best parts of life.

Prior to his solo career, Niko Moon collaborated with Zac Brown and Ben Simonetti under the name “Sir Rosevelt,” experimenting with a mix of electronic dance music and pop elements. Now, Moon is touring around the US and is preparing for his These Are The Days Tour that will start in September. His newest single “These Are The Days” was released today and is sure to be the song for all those lake days this summer. 

We had the chance to meet with Niko Moon at CMA Fest where we talked about his songwriting process, his inspirational gumball machine, and how Keith Urban has inspired some of his practices as an independent artist. 

Your song “BETTER DAYS” is out. I think it’s the perfect summer song. What’s your favorite summer activity?

I’m on a boat, going slow, with my dog. I love Old Hickory Lake. My really good buddy Zac has a house on the lake. My manager also has a house on the lake. Just put me on a pontoon going slow, and I’m good, you know? It’s just nice to kind of slow things down. I think life is really busy. Those little moments of reprieve are great. 

You write a lot for yourself and others. Do you write differently for yourself versus when you’re writing for other people, or do you just write songs and see how they feel?

I definitely write differently. Every artist is super unique. My goal when I’m writing with others is to identify what makes them great and then shine a light on it as hard as I can. It’s a fun game to play because it’s a little bit of a Rubik’s Cube. 

Sometimes you just know someone is compelling you. You don’t know why, you just know they are. I think when it came time for me to start writing my own songs, it just came naturally because I was able to refine the ability to get to the root of someone quickly or over time, so I can get to the root of myself. 

The only other difference when I write my own music is it has got to be positive. For other artists, I’ve written a lot of sad songs, a lot of heartbreak songs and stuff. I don’t have anything against writing them. It’s just for my personal artistry. 

Niko Moon Talks Perfect Day In Atlanta New Songs For Summer
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

You have a new song with Hardy. What was that process like working with him?

Fantastic. I think he is one of the most talented songwriters I’ve ever written with. I’m saying it because he really was. Every writer is different. With him, we kind of came in, we hung out for a little bit. We wrote with a guy named David Garcia on “AIN’T NO BETTER PLACE.” He’s a really fantastic producer here in town. I remember he had the idea, and that’s usually where it all starts. 

The ideas would be like, ‘ain’t no better place in the country than the country.’ I was like, ‘I love that.’ I think David grabbed his guitar and started playing that riff to the hook. That’s how that one got going. We wrote that song that day. It pretty much sounded exactly like it sounds now, five hours after we started writing it. Sometimes it can take months and months. 

I usually go for a feeling when I’m writing. I just kind of keep working on it until it feels right. I typically write the song and then refine it for days, think about it for days. I think about all the lines or anything that could be better. That song just kind of happened. That’s the thing with great songwriters is that seems to happen a lot with them, they just come out easy.

It’s a little bit like dating too, when it comes to writing songs with a lot of hit songwriters. It’s a chemistry thing. I think sometimes you can get two amazing creative people together, but for whatever reason, they can’t make something that’s meaningful together. I just try to lean in to the people that things work really well with and just do that more with them, focus on less people, write better chemistry with the right people. 

Niko Moon Talks Perfect Day In Atlanta New Songs For Summer
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

What’s your favorite CMA memory? 

I think today was my favorite CMA memory, playing the Riverfront Stage. I just added it to the souvenir collection.

I took a picture of the “AT CAPACITY” sign before your set today. They didn’t let anybody else in.

Sam, my booking agent just told me it was at capacity. Like, bucket list check mark to make. I’ve been on a health and wellness journey for a few years now, and I went through a period where I was only eating once a day, and I played Riverfront last time during that time, and I almost passed out. 

That’s why I’m thinking back to my last memory of being on that stage performing. I remember everything being very blurry and thinking I might pass out. So today, I was feeling basically the exact opposite, just feeling really comfortable and great. Then, being able to announce the new tour, These Are The Days Tour, and announcing my very first Ryman show.

I’m so excited about it. I’m calling it These Are The Days because my new single I’m getting ready to drop that I’ve been teasing the past couple weeks is called “THESE ARE THE DAYS.” It’s basically like a lake life anthem. 

Niko Moon Talks Perfect Day In Atlanta New Songs For Summer
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

You’re currently on tour. Are there any cities you’re looking forward to?

I’m looking forward to them all, but did you know, Albuquerque is higher up than Denver. It is 32ft higher in elevation than Denver. I remember this because we opened up for Lady A in Albuquerque one time, and I remember standing out looking out at the venue and thinking, ‘I feel kind of high up, what’s the elevation here?’ I looked it up and it was like 6000 ft. 

Do you have any fun travel stories you could share with us?

I’ve been pretty lucky with travel, but I could tell you about the worst gig I ever had. I was playing this Mexican restaurant back when I wasn’t able to garner enough attention for my own music. I could only get people to participate in listening to my voice if I was singing other people’s songs. So, I was a cover band artist. 

I was playing this acoustic cover set for 150 bucks and free margaritas. When I got there, the guy was like ‘Hey, man, it’s really packed. I’m gonna need you to set up in the foyer.’ We walked up to the front of the restaurant and as soon as I saw what he was talking about, I was like, ‘Oh, no, you can’t be serious.’ 

You know when you walk into some restaurants and there’s a little room with a stand of newspapers, and then you open another door into the actual restaurant. That’s where he had me set up, that little middle room. I was one foot away from the front door. When people walked in there, I was singing “Sweet Home Alabama” in their faces.

Another time was when I had been gigging for almost five years. Every single night I’d been grinding my ass off. I have been playing for years around Atlanta. No one’s paying attention. A kid walks up to me and he’s just watching me play. That actually had some glimmer of hope for me, because he’s the only person at that moment in my life I felt cared about me trying to do this music thing. 

I was like, ‘Hey buddy, what do you want me to sing? I’ll sing you anything you want.’ He was like, ‘Oh, I’m good, man. I just want some gum.’ I was like, ‘What?’ I realized I was sitting in front of a gumball machine. I was in the way of the gum. At that moment, I was like, ‘Dang, I just got beat out by bubble gum. Bubble gum is more important than the music I’m making.’ 

I remember riding home that night and being 99% sure I was about to quit and just thinking, ‘I can’t do this anymore. No one cares. I love this with all my heart, but I don’t think it loves me back. It’s been years of this and I’m getting no traction here.’ Then I made a promise to myself to keep going for another few months. 

Literally like four weeks later, I was playing in a bar in Carrollton, Georgia, and Zac Brown was in the back of the bar and saw me playing. My whole life changed that night. It’s just unbelievable. In my recording studio, I have a gumball machine next to my desk to remind me to never give up. No matter how much you feel like giving up, never give up if it is something that you truly believe.

Niko Moon Talks Perfect Day In Atlanta New Songs For Summer
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Any Sir Rosevelt reunions coming about?

You never know. I mean, we talk consistently, so never say never. It was a fun side project and a fun experiment, mixing electronic music and country music together. 

What’s your perfect day in Atlanta?

I’m probably going to grab lunch at Carroll Street Cafe, which is this little cafe shop right next to the loft I used to live at, where Anna and I first lived together. I remember ordering breakfast and then going down there because I could literally walk to the cafe, get it and come back. That’s the restaurant where we basically went on our first date. I would do lunch there, and then I would go to Piedmont Park and go for a walk because that’s my favorite park in Atlanta. 

Then I would go catch a show at Eddie’s Attic. I love Eddie’s. I’m a songwriter at heart. I think at the end of the day, no matter how big the shows get, I’m very intimate with my feelings about songwriting, and that is an atmosphere where you can hear a pin drop and it’s really cool. You just get to hear every word of the songs. When you see a songwriter performing there that you really admire, it’s really powerful.

Niko Moon Talks Perfect Day In Atlanta New Songs For Summer
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

You remind me a little bit of Keith Urban when you talk about playing so much. He plays every day, everywhere. He’ll play at the airport, the bar.

I’ve never met him, but I know a bunch of the guys in his band and have written with a bunch of them. My co-producer toured with him for a while, and everyone has told me that he is obsessed with the music, that he’s always playing his guitar. Another thing that I heard, and I really took it to heart, was that when he does a new tour he gets his management to make him a booklet of every single person on the tour.

I knew a guy who was the guitar player in the pre-opening band. He never met Keith in his life. He ran into him and he’s like, ‘Oh, hey, Jimmy. How’s your day going?’ I’ve been told by people close to him that he makes these cards before every tour of every single person. Their face, their name, what they do, everything. He memorized that. I was really inspired by that. 

I remember I’m an independent artist now. I’m not so much with the corporate mindset anymore. When I was at Sony Records, I remember memorizing the entire directory. My first day when I walked in the doors at Sony, I knew everyone. I did that because he inspired me to do it. 

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Amy Harris
Amy Harris is a writer and photographer who has been traveling for 20 years and flown over 2 million miles to visit over 80 countries on 6 continents. She is a freelance photographer for Invision by Associated Press, AP Images and Rex/Shutterstock. Her work can be seen in various publications and websites including: Rolling Stone, AP Images, National Geographic Books, Fodor’s Travel Guides, Forbes.com, Lonely Planet Travel Guides, JetStar magazine, and Delta Sky Magazine.

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