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Country star Justin Moore was destined to perform in front of an audience

There’s something about sports and country stars. Toby Keith played for the USFL’s Oklahoma Outlaws, Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line pitched for Florida State and Chase Rice was a linebacker at the University of North Carolina.

Justin Moore is convinced if he was taller that he would have been a professional athlete as opposed to a singer-songwriter.

“I was obsessed with sports throughout high school and if I kept growing and didn’t stop at 5-foot-6, I think I would had a different life playing sports,” Moore said from his Poyen, Arkansas home. “There was nothing I enjoyed more than being on a baseball field or a basketball court.”

Moore, 38, started playing guitar in the fifth grade and sang in church. “They needed someone in the choir since not a lot of people can sing on key,” Moore said.

While in high school Moore jammed with his uncle’s Southern rock band. “But I never thought about music as a career at that point,” Moore said.

After returning home to Poyen, with two weeks of college under his belt, Moore informed his family he was dropping out. “I told my parents I’m not going back,” Moore said. “My dad thought I was talking about that day and said, ‘You don’t feel good?’ I said, ‘You don’t understand. I’m never going back to college.’ ”

Moore’s father suggested he give music a shot.

“I said I didn’t know that you could play music for a living,” Moore said. “My father was incredibly supportive of me. I remember saying, ‘If I try my luck with music does that mean I don’t have to go to college?’ and he said yes. So I gave music a shot. I went to Nashville and got a publishing deal a year later.”

It’s worked out very well for Moore, who has eight number one hits on the Billboard country chart, such as “If Heaven Wasn’t so Far Away,” “You Look Like I Need a Drink” and “Somebody Else Will.”

Moore, who will perform Saturday at the First Interstate Center for the Arts, is showcasing his latest album, “Straight Outta the Country,” which effectively mixes traditional and contemporary country.

The standout track is “We Didn’t Have Much,” which is catchy and poignant.

“That song takes me back to when I was growing up,” Moore said. “I think a lot of people can relate to it. But the song reminds me of how important simplicity is. Why not go and work in your garden? Do we really need so much? I think about what the song conveys. I think it’s a good song for the pandemic.”

Moore has a great deal of balance with family, career and his hobby, sports.

“I have no regrets,” Moore said. “I love what I do. I think part of the reason I enjoy it so much is that I feel that same sort of adrenaline when I’m about to perform as I did when I was about to play sports. Stepping onstage is kind of like the feeling you get when you’re introduced before the start of a basketball game. But music has given me this amazing life. I’ve had a great deal of success and I’ve had some unusual things come my way.”

One of the more unexpected experiences was Moore recording Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” with Crue vocalist Vince Neil. “That was the most random thing I’ve ever done,” Moore said. “My label President (Big Machine CEO Scott Borchetta) was putting together a tribute album of Motley Crue. So I had the chance to sing with Vince Neil. “Home Sweet Home” is such a cool song and it’s so rooted in country music. The funny thing is that I said that I was going to do it in its original key and Scott said that I couldn’t do it because it was too high. We cut it without him knowing it and I hit it in its original key. I got to meet the guys in Motley Crue. I wondered how they were going to be to this little guy in a cowboy hat but they were all very cool. That experience was all a lot of fun!”

So is co-hosting a morning radio show. Moore talks sports from 6 to 10 a.m. every weekday morning on 103.7 the Buzz, (https://1037thebuzz.com/) based out of Little Rock. Moore never misses his radio gig even when he’s on tour so that means that the married father of four pre-teens will wake up at 3:30 a.m. to talk Razorbacks. Why in the world would Moore torture himself with such a brutal schedule?

“I guess I do it because I’m an idiot,” Moore cracked. “I guess I do it because I love sports.”

Moore loves sports so much that he coaches his daughters’ softball teams when he isn’t on tour.

“My favorite thing is being with my family and I love coaching the kids,” Moore said. “I have children that are 12, 10, 8 and 5 and it’s just the greatest experience raising them. With sports you learn how to lead and learn how to have success and deal with failure. That experience helped me deal with the music business. I went through my share of failure before I had some success. Family, music and sports are my life.”

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