Justin Moses is an award-winning multi-instrumentalist celebrated as one of the most versatile musicians in all of acoustic music. A prominent Nashville session musician, he has appeared on stage or in the studio with an endless list of diverse artists. In 2018 and 2020, he was named Dobro Player of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association. His new album, “Fall Like Rain,” released on Mountain Fever Records on Jan. 22. And now, we’re going to get to know Moses a bit better with this 5 Questions segment before finishing up with an exclusive performance for DittyTV (below).
1) Let’s first get some background on you. You developed an interest in mandolin at a very early age, and it seems your interest in music really took off. So where did you grow up, who were your early musical influences, and then what instruments do you play?
I grew up in the small town of Madisonville, Tenn. My dad played guitar and my mom played piano. I grew up hearing them play quite a bit, so there’s no denying that they’re early influences. They played a lot of music in church, and much of my early exposure to music was gospel music. We listened to groups such as the Primitive Quartet, The Principles, and The Isaacs. My family got heavily into bluegrass music around the time I was 12. We were then listening to groups like Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Alison Krauss & Union Station, and The Bluegrass Album Band. After starting with the mandolin at age 6, I went on to learn guitar, bass, banjo, dobro, and fiddle.
2) Let’s move to your touring with major acts such as Dan Tyminski, Ricky Skaggs, and The Gibson Brothers. Do you have a specific memory that just seems too good to be true or a bit surreal?
There have been several too good to be true and surreal moments for sure. I experienced so many firsts while touring with Dan—getting to play the Grand Ole Opry for the first time, filming a music video (while riding on a train from Oakland to Los Angeles and seeing the beautiful coastal scenery), getting to play at some of the biggest festivals in the country such as MerleFest, Rockygrass and even Stagecoach. But a couple of the most surreal moments were with Ricky Skaggs. Soon after I started working with Ricky, we played at Vancouver Folk Fest, and after our set Steven Seagal took us to a sushi restaurant that had been shut down just for him. We had so much delicious seafood while hanging with someone I’d seen in movies. And a few years later, Ricky had made friends with Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees. One night he came to the Opry, and there I was … playing banjo … on “Stayin’ Alive”… with Barry Gibb! For me, that was the very meaning of surreal.
3) And you’re married to another prominent name from the bluegrass world: Sierra Hull. How did the two of you first connect?
Sierra and I first met at a bluegrass festival. We played music together some in her early teenage years. I had a lot of fun playing music with her and her family, and we became great friends. After I moved to Nashville and had a gig with Ricky Skaggs, Sierra started calling me to fill in some with her band in between other gigs. As we traveled and hung out more, we connected in a deeper way, and our friendship developed into the love we share now.
4) Speaking of Sierra, she is but one guest performer on your new album, Fall Like Rain, which is really an exquisite collection of songs. What can you tell us about recording that album and working with all your guest collaborators?
The album was so much fun to put together! I’ve had the good fortune to work with some of the best of the best musicians and singers in bluegrass music over the past decade or so. And I wanted to have as many of them as possible be a part of this record, while still showcasing what I do both vocally and instrumentally. Shawn Lane and I sang together in the band Blue Highway, but we hadn’t captured that on a recording yet. Well before that I was in the Dan Tyminski Band. Dan is up there with my all-time favorite singers, and I’ve known since before I got to be in his band that someday I wanted to record with him. Del McCoury is a legend in bluegrass and one of the nicest human beings in the world. I’ve gotten to be around Del and his family quite a bit the past few years, and they’re so much fun! It was a real honor to have him on this record.
5) Finally, let’s talk specifically about “Fall Like Rain.” The song kicks off the new album. It’s also one of the songs you’re sharing with us in this exclusive DittyTV performance (see below). What’s the story behind that song, and how did it become the title track for the new album?
I was searching for material for what would become this new record. So, I called up a friend of mine, Keith Garrett, who writes some great songs, to see if he might have something that would work. He told me he hadn’t been writing much at the time, but that he’d been listening to this Eric Clapton song that would make a great bluegrass cover. The song has a high note in the melody that he knew I could hit since I tend to sing quite a bit of tenor harmony. After I checked it out, I agreed that it would be a cool song to cover acoustically. I knew it had to be the first song on the record at the end of the first day of tracking. I was listening to playback, and the musical groove is what I wanted to set the pace for the album. And I thought the title just had a good ring to it, so it became the album title as well.
Thanks, Justin, and we are excited to offer this DittyTV exclusive performance from you and Sierra Hull right here.