It’s a long way from Tumbler Ridge to the gilded palace of singles that is Big Loud HQ in Nashville. But this year, Joey Moi celebrates five years of Big Loud Records.
Producing, engineering, mixing, songwriting and playing on country music releases from Jake Owen, Florida Georgia Line, Dallas Smith and many others, Moi has made a transition from his early days working in Vancouver with Nickelback and My Darkest Days and other rock bands to being a Nashville insider.
He is nominated as producer of the year at the 2020 American Country Music Awards, so he may have another new statue to place alongside his ACM single of the year (Florida Georgia Line’s H.O.L.Y.), vocal event of the year (This Is How We Roll; May We All) and several Country Music Association and Canadian Country Music Association awards.
Born in Whitehorse and raised in Dawson City, Gambier Island, Tumbler Ridge and other locations, Moi certainly has country in his blood. It almost seems predetermined that he, Big Loud Shirt founder Craig Wiseman, Kevin (Chief) Zanuk and Seth England would come together to establish Big Loud Recordsand its other divisions.
But his taste for twang is tempered by his love of the big pop hook and driving choruses. If Moi has any obvious signature, it’s that the music made by his acts plays bigger than the pop-up stage at the local state fair. This is arena and western music, made for air-punching along to as the pyrotechnics explode. In 2013 alone, Moi had 12 singles chart, which earned him the nickname “the Wizard” from Florida Georgia Line.
That magic touch didn’t remain a secret for long.
“A lot of people from all around come to Nashville and it can be a little difficult to integrate into because they go about things differently here, beginning with the incredibly high level of respect given to the songwriters,” said Moi. “You need to really serve them almost equally to the artist and then they give you the songs you want.
“It’s a big change from working with some weird group of rock kids who grew up together grinding out this album in a really isolated Petri dish scenario to working with all these songwriters and incredible studio musicians to make a project happen.”
Moi likens lining up players for a particular song to being like the owner of a sports franchise deciding on offensive and defensive lines.
He says the creative pulse in the country music scene is frantic. The depth of talent to draw upon is daunting at times. When you hire someone for a session, you often really do book them with time constraints in mind.
“In the rock world, working with a bunch of kids in a band, it’s kind of crude and more about taking time to grind it out,” he said. “Here, it’s all about efficiency, and you bring in musicians who all speak the same language and work so quickly that you get so much done in a short time. Honestly, it took me a few years of doing everything on my own to learn their language to get to the point I’m at now where I know how to ask for what I want them to do, who works best for what and so on.”
Reflecting upon the fifth anniversary of Big Loud, he says he has been having the most fun time of his entire career in the past few years.
Each of the partners plays to their specific skills and the distribution of duties means that the quartet of founders rarely ever find themselves venturing into one another’s realm. The combination of “a brilliant team, a brilliant group of partners and access to so much music is wonderful,” and it now employs over 40 people.
Canadian actor and singer Mackenzie Porter is one of the artists on the Big Loud roster who is benefiting from the relationship. While her career took a turn when she was hired full time to the cast of the lamentably cancelled Netflix series Travellers, she’s back with a new single (Seeing Other People) that builds on the popular These Days, which came out just before the pandemic landed. She laughs about being in the position to really go after music full time again, just as COVID-19 halted touring and more.
“Joey had always been a larger-than-life producer in the industry who worked with a bunch of people whose sound and style I loved, and I kind of scrounged my way into his studio one day through a friend,” said Porter. “After that hang, I cold emailed him and asked him to produce my record, and we began a process of me getting to know all the other Big Loud team and being brought in. I think he’s the best producer in Nashville at the moment, with a sound that has really fixated on country radio now.”
Noting that Moi’s mix of pop and country suited her sound perfectly, Porter says Moi knows how to craft a hit. She wants to see his touch take her music to the next level, and thinks it’s only a matter of time.
“I’ve done a lot of virtual shows and one taped TV segment and I’m going into the studio constantly writing and working on the new album,” she said. “The great thing about being on Big Loud, and Joey being directly involved, is that if I have a great new tune, he’ll turn it around in a week and it will be great. I really love how things around there work that way.”
Watch for Porter’s next single to drop early in the fall.
As for whether Moi thinks Nickelback will ever join him in Nashville to record the country album many fans have speculated the group will one day make, he isn’t saying anything definitive. His move to Nashville came just as rock radio was becoming home to Katy Perry and Taylor Swift and the “rock” sound was going country. Now, he sees rock making some kind of comeback, but thinks it might score with some added twang, too.
“Look, if any songwriter can do that, Chad (Kroeger) certainly can,” said Moi. “Just listen to Rockstar or Photograph, both of which are very literal, country lyric type tunes, that were tailored for a rock audience and did phenomenally well. I’d be interested to hear that.”
In the meantime, Big Loud has big plans in place and Moi’s producing will play a big part in them.