Joey Moi is on a tear. The veteran producer/songwriter/engineer is fresh off the release of Morgan Wallen’s historic new LP One Thing at a Time, for which he produced all 36 of its tracks, and now, thanks to the success of the album, he becomes the first person to spend 100 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Producers chart (dated March 25).
The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 (dated March 18) with 501,000 equivalent album units earned in its opening week, according to Luminate. Not only is that the largest week of 2023 for any album (in terms of units earned), but it’s the largest week for any country album since Taylor Swift’s Red (Taylor’s Version) opened with 604,500 units in November 2021.
The set has also been a streaming juggernaut, as its 36-song tracklist tallied 498.28 million on-demand official U.S. streams in its first week, making it the fifth-largest streaming week ever for an album, after the opening weeks of Drake’s Scorpion(745.92 million in 2018) and Certified Lover Boy (743.67 million; 2021), Swift’s Midnights (549.26 million; 2022) and Drake and 21 Savage’s Her Loss (513.56 million; 2022).
One Thing at a Time‘s second-week numbers (259,000 units) were enough to help it fend off TWICE and Miley Cyrus to tally a second week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. The last country album to log its first two weeks at No. 1? Wallen’s own Dangerous: The Double Album in 2021, which Moi also produced.
Singer-songwriter ERNEST, who’s credited as a co-songwriter on One Thing at a Time and is featured on the set’s “Cowgirls,” credits Moi as the through line on the whole album.
“I think about how many country music acts Joey Moi has helped craft into a sound, and how different all of those sounds are,” ERNEST told Billboard in a recent interview. ”My sound is a little more traditional, like [an] Opry band. [Fellow collaborator] HARDY’s got the rock stuff, and Morgan’s down to go the 808s route. But Joey is able to make it sound really f–king good every time.”
Moi reaches the 100-week milestone on Country Producers thanks to 33 production credits on the latest Hot Country Songs chart (dated March 25) – with all but one from One Thing at a Time. (See full recap at the bottom of this story.)
Billboard launched its Hot 100 Songwriters and Hot 100 Producers charts, as well as genre-specific rankings for country, rock & alternative, R&B/hip-hop, R&B, rap, Latin, Christian, gospel and dance/electronic, in June 2019. (Alternative and hard rock joined in 2020, along with seasonal holiday rankings in 2022.) Only two artists have reached the 100-week milestone on a producers chart: Tainy (119 total weeks at No. 1 on Latin Producers), and, now, Moi on Country Producers. Kirk Franklin recently became the first artist to score 100 weeks at No. 1 on a songwriters chart (gospel).
Moi has been a consistent hitmaker on Billboard’s charts since the early 2000s. He notched his first charting song on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2003, with Nickelback’s “Someday,” which climbed all the way to No. 7. He returned to the top 10 with the group’s “Photograph” (No. 2 in 2005), “Far Away” (No. 8; 2006), “Rockstar” (No. 6; 2007) and “Gotta Be Somebody” (No. 10; 2008).
It wasn’t until 2013 that Moi returned to the Hot 100’s top 10 via his work on Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise,” featuring Nelly, a No. 4-peaking hit that also spent 24 weeks on top of Hot Country Songs (a record at the time) and three weeks atop Country Airplay. He’s scored eight additional top 10s on the Hot 100, all since 2020, thanks to his work with Wallen.
Last week, nearly 20 years after “Someday” debuted, Moi achieved his first No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 as a producer, when Wallen’s “Last Night” reached the summit. It became the first shared Hot 100 and Hot Country Songs No. 1 country song on the Hot 100 by an unaccompanied male solo artist since Eddie Rabbitt’s “I Love a Rainy Night” in 1981.
“It’s kind of mind-blowing,” Moi tells Billboard of his success. “You’re lucky if this happens once in your life, or at all in your life.”
In addition to his production work, Moi is a partner and president of A&R at Big Loud Management, which he founded in 2011 with Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer/partner Craig Wiseman, CEO/partner Seth England and Kevin “Chief” Zaruk. The label, which also features Lauren Alaina, ERNEST, HARDY and Jake Owen on its roster, was named Billboard’s No. 1 Hot Country Songs Label in 2021 and 2022, largely thanks to Wallen, while Wallen’s “Wasted on You” and “You Proof” finished 2022 as the Nos. 1 and 2 year-end Hot Country Songs titles of the year.
Shortly after the March 3 release of One Thing at a Time, Moi spoke with Billboard about his historic milestone on Country Producers, his latest project with Wallen and how he ventured from producing rock music in Canada to spearheading the year’s biggest country album in Nashville.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.)
Taking a look at the recent chart listings, you’ve produced a No. 1 song on Billboard‘s Country Airplay chart (Wallen’s “Thought You Should Know”), a No. 1 song on the Hot 100 (Wallen’s “Last Night”), the No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 (One Thing at a Time) and now you’ve spent 100 weeks as the No. 1 country producer in the U.S. How does it feel to reach these milestones and see yourself at No. 1 in all these areas?
I feel like I have a lot of cool friends that have got us to this place. You never really think anything like that is going to happen, and you don’t even really realize it’s happening. I’m an introverted studio rat, and I just keep my head down and keep working and keep feeding the company songs. You lift your head up and all of a sudden you’re doing an interview for Billboard over some crazy numbers.
You grew up in Canada and primarily worked with rock artists at the beginning of your career (Nickelback, Theory of a Deadman). How did you get involved in the country space and Nashville community?
Growing up, I remember when CMT first came to Canada, and I thought it was amazing. I would sit in front of my television with CMT on and I would try and play along with my stupid little nylon string guitar that I had at the time and try and learn the songs, and I just kind of fell in love with country music and became a fan. Fast-forward two years through college, I started making some rock music with [Chad Kroeger] of Nickelback, who’s a great songwriter and was also a great country fan. We would always bond over country songs and rock songs and stuff. We would listen to everything: rock songs, metal songs, pop songs, country songs. We were living that à la carte music life even back then before all the DSPs came out.
Then the top 40 chart kind of changed. All of a sudden the Dr. Luke and Max Martin era took over [the pop] chart, and guitars and drums and guys who sang with gravelly voices weren’t as relevant anymore.
Then you started seeing those rock flavors happen in country music. I remember me and one of my dear friends, Dallas Smith, who is a Canadian country artist now and was originally in a band called Default, which was an early project that I had worked on—we decided to come to Nashville for some songwriting, because he was going to pivot out of rock and roll and go country. My first trip was to come down here with Dallas and try and convert this rock guy into a country singer.
I came down here and did some co-writes. I met my current business partners here the first day I got into town and we wrote songs for a week down here with all these great songwriters. I ended up coming back, and I just fell in love with the place. It felt like country was moving more into that [rock hybrid], more energetic, contemporary production and style. It really felt like the right move for me to make.
I fell in love with the city. I fell in love with a bunch of people here, and picked up my whole life in Vancouver and moved it down to Nashville and I haven’t looked back. It was a pretty easy transition. I was able to take all of my rock chops and continue using them here.
Your first big country hits were Jake Owen’s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” and then Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise,” both of which were No. 1 Country Airplay hits. “Cruise” even reached the top five of the Hot 100. How did those happen?
[“Barefoot Blue Jean Night”] was my very first country single that I ever got to produce. There’s a roundabout way it was introduced to me. Jake Owen asked [songwriter Rodney Clawson] to produce some music and Rodney said, “Well, why don’t we bring Joey in because he’s a producer and I’m a songwriter, so it’ll be a great combination and we’ll cut some songs?” We went in and one of my very first record productions was with Rodney on a Jake Owen song. And Jake, being the guy he is, was down to take a risk with a long-haired rock guy who had been working in Canada for 15 years. We cut four songs and then, in the 11th hour, “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” showed up in a demo form.
It ended up being Jake’s biggest single, and it happened to be my very first entry into country music down here. And that sort of opened the door to everything else that’s happened — that kind of put me on the map. Florida Georgia Line showed up after that, and we could always point to “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” for validation.
You must’ve felt destined to be in the country space after seeing those early songs do so well, no?
Yeah, and whether I liked it or not, there was definitely a lot of opportunity that came from that. The Jake songs turned into another Jake record, and the FGL songs turned into finishing that record and a record after that, and then it just started snowballing. Now I’m sitting here in the building of our own record company and publishing company and management company. The snowball keeps snowballing.
How did you first meet Morgan Wallen?
I believe it came from an agent friend of ours, Kevin Neal, who was originally involved with Florida Georgia Line. Kevin was like, “Hey, you got to meet this kid. He’s a really good singer and he’s got some songwriting chops, you guys might be inspired by his voice.”
By that time, we had already started [Big Loud], and Morgan came into my studio here on Music Row and sat down on a couple stools with his original guitar player, Sergio [Sanchez], and they played three or four songs that Morgan and his friends had written. But then he played an Eric Church cover, of “Talladega,” and he sang it absolutely perfectly. Hearing him sing his own songs is one thing, but [“Talladega”] is a smash song and he sang every lick, note-for-note, and it was perfect. He didn’t even know how good he was at that time.
I remember Seth and I gave each other a look across the room like, “Holy crap, this kid is amazing.” At that moment we knew we had to somehow get Morgan as a part of the family and start making music with him. It started with a publishing deal just to get him in here writing songs. I think one of his first writes was the song “Chasin’ You,” which ended up being a No. 1 Country Airplay hit, and the rest is obviously history.
Getting Eric Church on the new album for “Man Made a Bar” must’ve been a full-circle moment for all of you.
He’s obviously one of Morgan’s favorite artists. And for me, I was a somewhat big Church fan — I think he’s awesome. I love the records that him and [producer] Jay Joyce make. I just love their approach to everything, how they live in that alternative-but-mainstream space. He was just a blast, we sat around for probably three or four hours to shoot the shit, talking about golf or talking about anything. Morgan and I were just laughing, looking across the room at each other, just giggling. Can’t believe the whole thing’s happening.
You’ve worked on all three of Morgan’s studio albums now: If I Know Me, Dangerous: The Double Album, and now One Thing at a Time. This new album has already outperformed the first two. How was it different in the studio this time around compared to the previous two albums?
In the beginning of an artist’s career, you have a lot of obligations. [Morgan] was touring aggressively at the time and developing his career, so from Wednesday all the way through to Monday, he was gone. I would literally have Morgan for two days a week to come in and sing and get his opinion on the music. And then when we’re finishing songs and closing up mixes, we’re usually doing it remote. I’m sending him songs and he’s got to approve it on his phone or get some headphones or find a stereo somewhere. We were just so remote.
For Dangerous, we did a lot better with the calendar and he was able to be a lot more present. He was there for the majority of the songs we cut, but there was still a lot of obligations where he had to go take off. He was still touring and playing shows, and then he’d sneak back in and we’d allocate a couple of days here and there for him to come sing and knock it out. We were still doing a remote process because it was in the middle of COVID, so we still we had our challenges.
This is the very first record that Morgan was able to sit beside me in the room from the very first beat to the very last beat, for every single vocal take, for every single part recorded, for every hour of me mixing every song. It was really cool to have him sit with me the whole time, and for us be able to develop a real shorthand communication as to what we thought about the songs, and have him weigh in on creative ideas and the directions. It’s just so much easier. It’s really stressful when you’re shifting the direction of the song by yourself and the artist isn’t there, and you’re like, “Okay, well, I hope he likes this.” But we didn’t have to do that this time. It just made it a lot more fun.
How do you wrap your head around releasing 36 songs on an album and how do you keep the quality up with every one?
My saying is, there’s only one way to eat an elephant, and that’s one bite at a time. It can get overwhelming with the amount of work you have to do, but I’ve got a pretty meticulous Excel spreadsheet where I can mark my progress and keep myself and my anxiety levels low. It allows us to create freely and have fun. But as long as you just have enough days to get it done, it’s not that bad. You just have to stay methodical and make sure you get your tasks done for the day, and eventually you’ll get to the end of it.
Once you get about a third of the way through, you do start to get overwhelmed at the amount of work you have to get done. And then once you get to that 50% point, you’re like, all right, we’ve got this many days left and it’s only taken us this much time to get here, and I’ve got Morgan for this much time. You start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
One of Morgan’s great abilities is he’s a prolific songwriter and he’s got a great group of very passionate collaborators that always spend a lot of time writing with him in mind, and would kickstart some ideas and bring them in. And then outside of that, you’ve got everybody in town who’s on the peripheral still writing, trying to get a song on the record. We had a lot of music coming our way.
It feels almost like a reversed approach. Many artists will release an album, and then release a deluxe version a few weeks later with a whole slew of new tracks to keep the momentum going. But for this album, it seems like you took a “here’s everything we’ve got” approach, and released it all at once.
Yes. And again, if it didn’t all show up upfront, we would probably choose the other method of like, “Here’s the first chunk and then here’s the next chunk and here’s the chunk after.” Usually, with the staggered release [approach], there are still songs coming in, or they’re still cutting songs and they’re adding to it. There’s a whole bunch of different circumstances which lead to artists doing that. It could be influenced by their touring schedule and how that aligns with their cycle. There’s a million ways it can happen, and a million different things that can affect why you release a certain way.
But just the sheer fact that Morgan is such a good writer and he’s got such a good camp of people around him that he collaborates with, we cut 42 [songs] and we peeled six songs off that are still great songs.
A lot of the beats on the album sound like they were influenced by hip-hop, like “180 (Lifestyle),” “I Wrote the Book,” “Cowgirls”).
You have to be careful and kind of selective as to what topic you’re saying over top of those [beats]. Thankfully, Morgan has got one of those universal voices where country is his main format, but he can sing on a trap beat like that and make that beat sound like a Morgan Wallen song. And he can sing on a real super-dry country-ass track, and that sounds like a Morgan Wallen song, too. I mean, we’ve got some old rock flavors on there as well, but his voice still brings that into his project. His voice is truly the glue to all those genre flavors that we add in there.
We’ve attempted that with some different voices before and landed flat on our face because some people are just only a country singer and that’s it. Or they’re just a pop singer and that’s it — they’re not multilingual, you know what I mean?
At this point, Morgan seems to be in a commercial league of his own, especially in the country space. His streaming totals are comparable to Taylor Swift and Drake. What is it about him and his music that you think resonates with people and makes him a pillar of the music industry right now?
He’s very honest. He’s very particular about what he says and how he says it. He’s just truly authentic, and I think we’re just in that era of authenticity where people really gravitate towards that. He comes across as kind of a normal small-town dude, and he makes sure that what he is saying is honest and that the fans can relate to what he’s saying. I could be wrong, but that’s my scientific theory on the whole situation.
oey Moi’s Production Credits on the Latest March 25-Dated Hot Country Songs Chart
Rank, Artist Billing, Title (co-producers in addition to Joey Moi)
No. 1, Morgan Wallen, “Last Night”
No. 2, Morgan Wallen, “Thought You Should Know”
No. 3, Morgan Wallen, “You Proof” (Charlie Handsome)
No. 5, Morgan Wallen, “One Thing at a Time”
No. 6, Morgan Wallen, “Thinkin’ Bout Me” (Charlie Handsome)
No. 9, Morgan Wallen, “Everything I Love”
No. 11, Morgan Wallen, “Ain’t That Some”
No. 12, Morgan Wallen, “I Wrote the Book” (Jacob Durrett, Cameron Montgomery)
No. 14, Morgan Wallen feat. Erich Church, “Man Made a Bar”
No. 15, HARDY feat. Lainey Wilson, “Wait in the Truck” (HARDY, Derek Wells, Jordan M. Schmidt)
No. 16, Morgan Wallen, ”’98 Braves”
No. 17, Morgan Wallen, “Sunrise”
No. 19, Morgan Wallen feat. ERNEST, “Cowgirls” (Jacob Durrett)
No. 22, Morgan Wallen, “Whiskey Friends”
No. 24, Morgan Wallen, “Devil Don’t Know”
No. 26, Morgan Wallen, “Born With a Beer in My Hand”
No. 27, Morgan Wallen, “Dying Man”
No. 29, Morgan Wallen, “Tennessee Numbers”
No. 30, Morgan Wallen, “Neon Star (Country Boy Lullaby)” (Jacob Durrett)
No. 31, Morgan Wallen, “Tennessee Fan”
No. 33, Morgan Wallen, “Hope That’s True”
No. 34, Morgan Wallen, “Keith Whitley”
No. 35, Morgan Wallen, “Me + All Your Reasons”
No. 36, Morgan Wallen, “I Deserve a Drink”
No. 38, Morgan Wallen feat. HARDY, “In the Bible”
No. 39, Morgan Wallen, “Single Than She Was”
No. 40, Morgan Wallen, “180 (Lifestyle)” (Jacob Durrett)
No. 41, Morgan Wallen, “F150-50”
No. 42, Morgan Wallen, “Wine Into Water”
No. 43, Morgan Wallen, “Days That End in Why”
No. 45, Morgan Wallen, “Good Girl Gone Missin’” (Charlie Handsome)
No. 47, Morgan Wallen, “Last Drive Down Main”
No. 48, Morgan Wallen, “Me to Me”
No. 49, Morgan Wallen, “Outlook”