Kip Moore stockpiling songs while surging up country charts

Kip Moore is song-banking on his future.

It’s all good today for the Georgia singer, who turned 34 on Tuesday. He’s up for the Academy of Country Music’s New Artist of the Year in Sunday’s televised awards. And he performs twice this weekend; once at the “ACM Fan Jam” at Mandalay Bay on Sunday, and Saturday as part of the “Party for a Cause” lineup outdoors near The Linq.

Things are going so well, Moore is planning for the day he might not be so motivated.

“ ’Cause I know that at some point my creative juices will run out,” Moore says. “I was hungry for so long, living in (grungy) dives and playing (grungy) dives, which had me so inspired to go somewhere else.

“There’ll come a time when that will go away, because I’ll be playing nothing but arenas and life will seem good, and I sometimes am scared that I’ll run out of that creative headspace,” he says. “So I’m gonna keep my songs.”

All 700 of them.

That’s right. Seven hundred, not 70.

“There’s a whole lot in the vault,” Moore says. Ever since he was 21 or 22, “I just have been a writing machine. Writing two songs a day for several years. A lot of people have never even heard them. There’s been people trying to get ahold of a lot of them recently, but I’ve kept them for myself.

“I’m trying to plan on a long career here, man.”

He’s off to a good start. Moore points out that his debut album “Up All Night” only seems more than two years old because it’s had four hit singles, including the ubiquitous “Somethin’ ’Bout a Truck.”

He hasn’t rehearsed an acceptance speech, but he’s in it to win the New Artist category where he is up against Justin Moore and Brett Eldredge. “I tried to write a memorable record. I tried to write a great record. I’m trying to beat everybody, that’s just the way my competitive juices flow,” he says. “I didn’t say, ‘I’ll get it one day,’ I was like, ‘Let’s get this (thing) now.’ ”

Moore’s rough-hewn style follows in the wake of Eric Church, whom he toured with in 2012. Both redefined the country singer-songwriter as more Springsteen rocker than smooth crooner.

“I definitely think guys like Eric have kind of paved the way for people like me, who write all their own music and do things a little outside of the box,” he says. “There’s always people who come before you who are examples of ‘Hey look, I know what I’m doing so let me frickin’ do it.’ I’m thankful for guys like that.”

Ratings for the ACM broadcast continue to shoot up; the CBS broadcast reached a 15-year peak last year, with more than 15 million viewers. The awards have shaken off their once-stodgy image with Super Bowl-funny (or at least bizarre) video promotions. One has Moore in a workplace lunchroom watching a guy simultaneously prepare a sandwich and chat on the phone about a disgusting medical problem.

If that ain’t country, what is? Or is it?

“I get kind of weird with that stuff. I’m not a self-promotion kind of guy, and I get a little uncomfortable with a lot of these kind of situations,” he says. On the other hand, MCA Nashville “has learned to trust me and let me live out my vision,” so the least he can do is play along with a gonzo promo.

“I realize how much they’ve invested in me and how much they’d like to see me get that award, so I’m kind of playin’ ball with it a little bit. It’s just not my style, you know.”

The ACMs will take a one-year break from Las Vegas next year to see how many fans they can pack into the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium. In the meantime, Bob Romeo, the Academy’s president, steps us through this year’s events, including the decision to move the free concerts on Fremont Street to a ticketed benefit at The Linq.

■ “ACM Party for a Cause.” The big change this year is that a two-night benefit will be the first ever staged in surface lots east of the new Linq retail court and High Roller observation wheel, replacing the free concerts on Fremont Street.

Romeo says the stipend from Las Vegas Events for the Fremont Street shows were paid right out in expenses, while the ability to control entry and charge admission near the Linq is an investment that could help monetize the event down the road. Eventually, Romeo adds, he would like to “really blow the festival up into a citywide event” that would bring Fremont Street back in the fold, too.

This year though, fans will pay for entry into the festival grounds and support different causes each night.

Friday’s show is “Outnumber Hunger Live!” battling hunger at the community level with headliner Rascal Flatts and performances by Danielle Bradbery, Justin Moore, Cassadee Pope, Thomas Rhett, Florida Georgia Line and The Cadillac Three. If you notice how many of those artists happen to be on the Big Machine label, it’s no coincidence. The label will be filming the sets for future use including cable TV. The festival runs from 4 p.m. to midnight in the area east of The Quad by Koval Lane; admission is $45 per day or $65 for both days.

Saturday’s show is “ACM Lifting Lives,” benefiting military support organizations. Keith Urban headlines a bill that includes Lee Brice, Brett Eldredge, Tyler Farr, Kip Moore, Joe Nichols, Jerrod Niemann, Chris Young, Love and Theft and Pamalee. The festival runs from noon to 2 a.m.; admission is $45 per day or $65 for both days.

■ The awards show itself. In past years, producers might have tried to keep wraps on details such as The Band Perry opening this year’s broadcast by turning “Chainsaw” into a big production number. Or that there will be a salute and special award for Merle Haggard from proteges including Garth Brooks, Miranda Lambert and George Strait.

This year, those details have been doled out as bait. “I don’t know if anything is a secret anymore,” Romeo says. “We hope it drives viewership.”

The Haggard tribute salutes the legend’s 50th year of making music. Romeo points out that he is the rare “triple crown” ACM winner to progress from the new artist award to Male Vocalist of the Year to Entertainer of the Year, something that’s only happened seven times in the history of the awards.

The live show starts at 5 p.m. at the MGM Grand Garden, with the broadcast delayed for primetime viewing at 8 p.m. on KLAS-TV, Channel 8.

■ “ACM Fan Jam.” In 2011, the Academy figured out how to leverage that only-in-Vegas quirk of two arenas sitting across the street from one another. Most tickets for the MGM awards go to record labels and corporate sponsors. But the more affordable “Fan Jam” at Mandalay Bay fields cutaways during the broadcast and offers a post-show, off-camera set by Florida Georgia Line.

During the broadcast, fans will see new artist nominees (Kip Moore, Justin Moore and Brett Eldredge) and a duet by Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line punched up by stunts from the Nitro Circus. 5 p.m. Sunday, Mandalay Bay Events Center.

■ “All-Star Salute to the Troops.” For the past few years, the producers have amortized their production costs and the stars’ availability by taping a second show inside the MGM arena on Monday.

This year’s general theme pays tribute to the armed forces and includes performances by George Strait, Merle Haggard, Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum, Florida Georgia Line, The Band Perry and others. The show will be broadcast May 20 on CBS.

Despite the collective star clout, this one was shaping up as the deal of the week, with a Groupon offer putting up tickets for $80. Perhaps the letdown feel of a Monday evening is one reason Romeo says that when the ACMs return to Las Vegas in 2016 after skipping a year, the outdoor “Party for a Cause” shows might be filmed for the extra concert instead.

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.