Mo Pitney's "Clean Up on Aisle Five" earned the country newcomer a standing ovation during his Grand Ole Opry debut last year -- but if not for a woman he met on a flight, that moment might never have happened.

Struck by an attractive woman seated next to him on the plane — "I tell people that almost never happens. I can't ever get lucky on an airplane," he jokes to Buffalo, N.Y., radio station WYRK — Pitney began a conversation. Unfortunately, things didn't start out the way he'd hoped.

"... So, I wasn't going to let my opportunity fly by since it doesn't happen every day. I asked her what she was doing and if she was leaving home or headed home and what she did for a living," Pitney recalls, "and then I asked her what kind of music she listened to, and she said, 'Anything but country.' Strike one for me.

"So, we talked a little bit longer, and she asked me what I did, and I said, 'I make music for a living,' and she goes, 'Oh, really? What kind of music?' So I just lifted up my boot, and I said, 'I rap,'" Pitney continues. "She says, 'You're lyin', you sing country music,' and I said, 'Yeah. Since you hate it, I'm going to make you listen to one song.'"

Pitney decided to try to convert the country music hater, and he gave her his music to listen to.

"I picked ["Clean Up on Aisle Five,"] the country-est song on the record, and I guess I tried to freak her out," he says. "I played it for her, and she took one headphone off, and she says, 'I'm warning you, if I don't like this, I'm probably going to shut it off,' and I was like, 'Alright, you're the kind of audience I like to play for. I like to have a little bit of challenge!'

"I let it play," Pitney adds. "She let the whole thing play, so that was a plus."

And the woman's response to the track surprised Pitney.

"She took the headphones off, and she said, 'I don't know what kind of country music that is, but I love it, and you made me believe every word and feel something.' She said, 'I have to hear the rest of your record.' So I let the rest of the record play on, and we had a new country music convert by the end of the flight," he says. "I say that just 'cause I thought it would be interesting that a more traditional sound is what converted her."

That experience inspired the singer to play "Clean Up on Aisle Five" at his Opry debut a few weeks later, despite people urging him to play something more upbeat.

"I just barely introduced myself and played this song," Pitney says, "and the song got a standing ovation, and it made the first night at the Opry a really sweet memory that I'll never forget."

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