By Maxim Mower
Niko Moon has always operated with a vibrant, uplifting palette of energising yellow hues and soothing indigos - as his album covers underline - but there's something subtly different about his new project, BETTER DAYS, compared to 2021's GOOD TIME.
When the genre-fusing, beat-driven artist decided to launch his solo career after penning a slew of hits for Zac Brown Band, Morgan Wallen and Rascal Flatts, Moon's lead single, ‘Good Time’, introduced listeners to a mission statement that was concretised on the first song on his subsequent album, ‘No Sad Songs’.
However, amidst all the beachside anthems and carefree earworms, the self-professed ‘Happy Cowboy’ has never shied away from the mental health struggles that have driven his desire to radiate joy through his music. BETTER DAYS consolidates this, with Moon mining his experiences with anxiety and panic attacks in order to craft a project that's still unmistakably optimistic, but that shifts the emphasis onto hard-fought positivity, rather than untethered elation.
If GOOD TIME was the shot of sonic caffeine to start your morning, BETTER DAYS is the comforting herbal tea you turn to as the enthusiasm starts to wear off and the day's stresses begins to weigh a little heavier.
Moon explains, “GOOD TIME is Chapter 1, and Chapter 1 is all about celebrating the magic of life. With BETTER DAYS, I’m digging deeper into why passion for positivity is so vital to mental health and wellness”.
With this in mind, the ‘Paradise To Me’ songsmith is donating 100% of the proceeds from the BETTER DAYS title-track to his new non-profit, the Happy Cowboy Foundation, which aims to promote the importance of therapy and broaden its accessibility.
While opening up about the challenges he's faced was intended to help listeners, Moon underlines how this has also been a healing experience for him.
“Talking about my passion for mental health in the music has been a therapy unto itself," he explains. "The more I connect with people about positivity, the more meaningful life becomes”.
Make no mistake, though, despite delving into personal difficulties, BETTER DAYS is still pervaded by the refreshing joi-de-vivre that underpins every Niko Moon song to date. This recipe for sunny, rose-tinted lyricism and vitalising, cascading melodies has been concocted alongside his wife, Anna Moon, Niko's No. 1 collaborator.
At the end of 2023, the two took the stage together for a heartwarming Opry performance, a duet that Niko cites as one of his favourite live moments so far.
“Singing with Anna feels like home," Moon admits. "She’s not just my wife, but my co-writer on almost all of my music, so being able to perform together has been a huge bucket list check!”
In 2022, the couple co-wrote and released a warm, touching ode to their daughter, Lily Ann, ‘I Can't Wait To Love You’, while Anna was pregnant. It's the powerful humanity and vulnerability of songs like this, along with Niko's tribute to his father, ‘Without Sayin’ A Word’, that makes his unwavering positivity all the more affecting.
It's a combination championed by one of Niko Moon's primary musical inspirations, Kenny Chesney, who Niko describes as “a huge influence of mine."
Moon adds: "He brings people together under the banner of good times, sunshine and country music – my kinda guy”. When the prospect of a collaboration is mooted, Niko jokes, “From your lips to God’s ears!”
Some will inevitably find reasons to dismiss the R&B-inspired drum patterns and unashamedly buoyant ambience of BETTER DAYS, but don't be fooled by Niko Moon's charming, perennial smile and his penchant for lyrical levity.
There's a depth to this album that showcases the Texas native's unique and captivating artistry. It's a project that highlights Moon's evolution from the protagonist of GOOD TIME, while still emphasising to all that there are even BETTER DAYS ahead.
Additionally, Moon spoke about his blockbuster new collaboration with HARDY, his decision to cover The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's ‘Fishin’ in the Dark’ and more:
“We met in Nashville and have always had a great vibe every time we’ve written together. I really love HARDY’s unapologetic commitment to being himself, it’s that kind of authenticity that I love about my favourite artists”.
“‘Fishin’ In The Dark’ takes me to a place of country living at its best. Just hanging out by the lake making memories. That’s what life’s all about: making memories”.
“Everyone needs to talk to someone at very difficult times in life, but not everyone has the means to do so. I founded the Happy Cowboy Foundation to help these people. If you're in need of therapy or would like to donate, please check out happycowboyfoundation.org”.
“I am absolutely going international this upcoming year! Tour dates are being finalised now so keep an eye out...!”
For more on Niko Moon, see below: