For the past decade Joey Moi has helped reinvent the country music landscape and craft the Big Loud sound for acts like Jake Owen, Florida Georgia Line, Morgan Wallen and Hardy. This week the rock turned country producer and partner at Big Loud reigns atop Billboard’s Country Producers chart for the 42ndweek, besting Dann Huff who previously held the record for 41 weeks. Moi is also the second producer to spend more than 10 weeks at No. 1 on the publication’s all-genre Hot 100 Producers chart (13 weeks) behind Louis Bell (17 weeks).
Moi got his start in the music business working with Nickelback. While attending Vancouver’s Center for Digital Imaging and Sound his audio production assignment included recording early demos of the band. Moi’s relationship with Nickelback continued after graduation as he started working at Greenhouse Studios, eventually becoming an engineer for their 2001 album Silver Side Upand then serving as co-producer for the band’s next four records.
“That really kicked down the door for me, early on,” Moi tells me of his experience working with Nickelback. “That was probably the first 12 to 16 years of my career on that whole rock and roll train out of Vancouver.”
Moi soon noticed a shift in rock music as the genre was being pushed outside of pop radio to rock radio formats while pop music moved into a different sound in the mid-2000s. Rock artist and friend Dallas Smith had been telling Moi for years he wanted to make a country record so in 2008 the pair began setting up co-writes in Nashville and traveled back and forth from Canada. Some of the first people Moi met were current business partners Seth England and Craig Wiseman of Big Loud, an independent entertainment company that now houses publishing, management and a record label.
“We hit it off right away and became very good friends. They embraced me and helped me start developing as a songwriter,” he says of England and Wiseman. “We ended up dreaming together and felt like we would be great business partners together.”
England and Wiseman introduced Moi to Jake Owen, who was signed to RCA Records Nashville at the time. Moi began working with Owen and co-produced several songs for his 2011 record Barefoot Blue Jean Night including “Keepin’ It Country” and “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” which would go on to become their first country song to hit No. 1.
Moi says “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” came in late in the recording process for Owen’s 2011 album. He recalls having already cut the majority of the songs for the project and only had $2,500 left in the recording budget to work on the song.
“It was barely enough money. I came from an environment where I was building drum tracks and beats, and we were constructing songs on the computer the whole time,” he says of his time as a rock producer. “Due to the nature of not having enough money, we ended up creating this pop beat that sounded totally different for country music at the time. We’d been making music like that in rock the whole time, so I had no idea that was going to be deemed a new sound in Nashville. I just thought we were doing something that we had always done. It turned out to be a pretty loud moment for Jake and for all of us. It was pretty cool.”
It’s this experimental sound that Moi would continue with Florida Georgia Line. In 2011, Moi helped establish Big Loud Management alongside Wiseman and England with FGL being their first signing. He’d go on to fuse country, rock and hip-hop beats into their trademark sound while serving as producer for the duo’s first four albums. As a producer, Moi has amassed 11 No. 1 songs on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, 27 No. 1 songs on the publication’s Country Airplay chart and eight Top 10 hits on the all-genre Hot 100. He also was named Billboard’s No. 1 Hot Country Songs Producer of the Year in 2013, 2014 and 2016.
While recording 2019’s Can’t Say I Ain’t Country with Florida Georgia Line, Moi kept hearing demos by songwriter Michael Hardy. Impressed with the range of storylines and lyrics within the songs, Moi says he was fascinated with Hardy’s ability and command of melodies. After meeting the songwriter and spending time with him, he urged Hardy to consider an artist career. He is now signed to Big Loud Records.
“I’m not certain if the artist thing had really been on his mind. We slowly started talking about it and he had some apprehensions about going out and having to do a radio tour with a song that wasn’t going to work,” Moi recalls. “We formulated a plan with Seth England, who was helping put the strategy together that would make him feel comfortable that he could still be a songwriter.”
Both fans of rock music, Hardy and Moi came together to make “unapologetically aggressive rock country” Moi says. Hardy fondly recalls Moi calling him up and offering to be his producer.
“He’s been my favorite producer since Nickelback,” Hardy says. “I thought about it really hard and I realized that that opportunity has presented itself to me so strongly that I think I would be a fool not to take it. And that’s exactly what I did. [Moi] just gets it. Our creative relationship is around rock and roll really, and how heavy we can make our music.
“Working with him is fun and we’re never afraid to push boundaries. … He’s very meticulous about getting that vocal. If you listen to all the songs that Joey has produced, the vocal sounds so good, and there’s so much confidence in the singer’s vocal. That’s because he spends so much time on making sure that that’s a believable and true, good vocal. [In] country music, telling your story is everything. He really makes sure that you’re getting your point across in the studio.”
Moi produced Hardy’s 2019 collection Hixtape, Vol. 1 and 2020 debut album A Rock, which includes No. 1 single “One Beer” featuring Lauren Alaina and Devin Dawson. He also produced Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album which has spent the past six weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart.
According to Billboard, Wallen’s project has spent the most weeks atop the chart for a male artist since Drake’s Views, which amassed 13 weeks in 2016. Dangerous also marks the first country album to spend its first six weeks at No. 1 on the chart since Garth Brooks’ The Chase in 1992.
In addition to being a producer, Moi serves as partner at Big Loud. In 2015, Moi and his partners founded independent label Big Loud Records. He says he limits himself to a few office meetings a week so the majority of his time is spent playing to his strengths, which are being in the studio listening to songs, producing and finding passion projects.
“I’ve learned over the last five years since we’ve done this label that there are so many integral departments that end up touching the music and they’re so valuable,” he says. “It takes an army of people and they’re all so talented in their own departments. It’s truly become such a huge team sport for these records to get out.”
The past year has presented trials for Moi and Big Loud with Covid-19 closing the office for day-to-day operations and an artist on their roster making headlines. In early February, Big Loud announced they were suspending Wallen’s recording contract “indefinitely” after TMZ published video of the singer saying a racial slur outside of his Nashville home.
“Obviously, we all love Morgan. He a sweet kid at heart. He truly made a mistake,” Moi says. “He’s taking all the right steps. He’s having all the right meetings. I feel like he’s on the right path to rebuild everything. He has our support. We care about Morgan as a person. … He just made a mistake and he’s going to find his way back.”
While Covid-19 has brought its hurdles to the music community, Moi says he’s busier than ever. The pandemic has brought all Big Loud’s artists who are normally on the road back to Nashville and they all want to make music.
“I’ve moved my studio setup home and I’m working out of my house,” he says. “Everybody’s in town. That’s how Morgan ended up with the double album. Everybody’s in town writing songs and they’re anxious about not being on the road so their next knee-jerk is they want to put music out. A lot of that falls on my shoulders to keep knocking songs out so it’s been a very busy 2020 and 2021 here.
“I haven’t missed a beat, which is good. I haven’t been bored. I haven’t felt cooped up in my house. I’ve always had something to do or another deadline. That’s kept me very occupied. I’m pretty grateful for that.”