A week after I spoke with Nathan Moore from his home in Staunton, Virginia, he arrived in Vermont for a couple of shows. His thoughts and ideas conveyed in our conversation rang loud and clear during his captivating performances. He's a musician that is in a constant state of becoming, always in the present with wide-eyed curiosity.
Every time I see him play, he never rests on his laurels. He takes risks, trying new magic tricks and telling stories to see how far and loose he can get with the audience. But it's always a new song that seems to set the tone and keep you on your toes. This time around it was a song called "In the Basement." I mentioned to him how that song went straight to that deep spot -- chills and tingles caused by hearing something as vulnerable as the truth -- and he said, "Yeah, I trembled when I finished writing that one." That's Nathan -- he wears it all on his sleeve, in his one-of-a-kind way.
His latest release, called Folk Singer, is fitting for how he's been spending a lot of his time during the past two years: developing his solo show. After releasing two gems, 2007's In His Own Worlds and 2008's You Yeah Smoking Hot, with full bands that showcased diversity both sonically and in his songwriting, Folk Singer is a refreshing change a pace that features just Nathan with his guitar, voice, and harmonica. And with Nathan, it's all about the songs. Folk Singer has vibrant storytelling with high ideals and beautiful observations, shrewdness on human behavior, and many of those unguarded, intimate moments are captured with delicate and crushing honesty. He just keeps getting better with age.
(Editorial Note: Nathan is also one of the world's finest bakerball players.)
I actually fell asleep singing one of your songs last night.
[laughs] Oh really? Which one?
"Yea Yeahy." My friend Paul was playing it on guitar‚ and I was lying in bed. We sang it together and I think we sounded pretty good. I think it fell apart about halfway through…
That happens to me too.
Congratulations on the new record‚ Folk Singer.
Thanks‚ man‚ they keep coming.
I watched the video you did with Relix. You mentioned that because it's a new label [The Royal Potato Family]‚ that it kind of feels like it's a debut in a way. And then you said‚ "Well maybe I should have just put out a record with a lot of the classics." And you're like‚ "I shouldn't be saying this." [laughter]
That's right‚ I remember now. I haven't seen that‚ but I remember saying it.
Anyway‚ I think the record's great. But what do you mean by that‚ and what would be the classics?
Well‚ I guess I realized when I got on the road‚ especially after seeing a lot of other bands‚ a lot of bands when they put out a record they tour around and they play just that record‚ or some kind of version of that. As old as I am‚ that's like a whole new idea to me‚ to see bands do that‚ really touring in support of an album and pushing it like that. I was touring around and I was not playing a lot of songs off the new record just because that wasn't really what was hitting me to play. The songs I did almost every time were "Understand Under‚" "Rubberball‚" just different ones like that. My solo show's still a baby--I guess it's about two years old now--it's really just starting to take its first steps. And seeing how my solo shows are playing out‚ I was thinking that maybe it would have been smarter of me if I had just done the core group of songs that I always play when I'm playing. Then I would already be sort of ahead of the game in terms of touring a record.
The last time we spoke--when you were just starting to do the solo tour--you mentioned there's some kind of magic in the new song process‚ and you can't really ignore that. I imagine that was part of this as well‚ putting out this album. These songs were really just hitting you at the time.
Exactly. There's two ways of looking at it. One is that a lot of people know my history‚ know I've been doing this for a really long time and I've put out a hell of a lot of records‚ and to put out a record in that continuum of work‚ that lineage. For people who have been listening to me all along the way‚ I always think in terms of them when they want to hear the new stuff. But then when I got into working with Kevin [Calabro] and realized that a whole new world was opening up to me and a lot of people would be hearing me for the first time‚ the idea struck me that maybe I should do more of an introductory kind of thing where I try to show a lot of different sides of myself.
Right. I think this record has that‚ in terms of the range and capacity of your songwriting ability. There's the social commentary‚ more of the metaphysical ideas‚ and then there's a lot of capturing quiet‚ personal moments as the record progresses.
I think I got pretty lucky. I think you're right. I covered some ground.