Nathan Moore – Poet, Wordsmith, Songwriter


As singer/ songwriter Nathan Moore answers the phone, the first thing he tells me is he has just gotten two flat tires at the same time.   Despite this bit of bad luck, Moore is quick to move the conversation towards his stunning new album, Folk Singer.

After finding himself alone on the road without a band for the first time in many years, following the end of his original band ThaMuseMeant, and in between work with his other band, Surprise Me Mr. Davis (with The Slip and Marco Benevento), Moore decided to record an album that captured where he was a singer/songwriter.  And where he was, was by himself with his guitar, and his ever powerful words.


Honest Tune:  How is the tour going?

Nathan Moore: I am actually at home at the moment.  The run has been amazing.  Really fun. It isn’t over yet though.  I’m heading out Thursday, and then out to California opening for Leon Russell and playing a festival and a couple of good house parties. Then out to Florida to join up with the Davis boys.  Summer is not over yet. 

HT:  How is it getting these new songs from the album on stage in front of people?

NM:   Well I am still learning about this whole touring an album business, I am not the best at it.  I realized a couple of weeks into the tour that I wasn’t even playing that many songs off the record and it wasn’t on purpose.  I am such a slave to the moment that I was just reading the room and just pulling from my pockets whatever song seemed to fit the moment.  I recently saw some good friends of mine the Low Anthem, and they played their album live, and I had a revelation that I was supposed to be doing that {laughs}.  So I am still getting my brain wrapped around these ways.

HT:  I think you have a nice built in audience who is receptive to what it is ever you do.

NM:  That is true.  I am also doing a lot of gigs where I am playing to a lotNathanMoore1.jpg of new crowds, the label and manager are trying to get me open for different people and different mixes, so there are a lot of gigs where I am trying create that great first impression.

HT:   I think the album lends itself to a great first impression.   What is it about this folky sound you have on the new album that drew you in and made you want to put pen to paper?

NM:   Well the process wasn’t really any different that it has been for me since I was twelve years old.   I have always written my songs alone in my room on an acoustic guitar.  Even songs that I then bring to a band always start as folk songs, so in that sense it wasn’t a real creative departure.   After the TheMuseMeant finally broke up I found myself back home in Virginia touring by myself.  So definitely the whole identify of the solo folksinger thing is a lot more immediate than it has ever been before, so the idea of making a record that was more representative of what you would see when you saw me live was perfect.  A lot of it was wanting to work with Kevin (Calabro) and talking with the label.  It was probably the path of least resistance and pragmatism as opposed to some creative revelation.  I really wanted to work with Kevin, but I had a limited budget and we needed something that represented my solo sound because that is a lot of what I have been doing.  So I just went into the studio and laid down my latest tunes, the most recent batch.  It was really easy and fun; I knew exactly how I wanted them to sound when I went in and I get ‘em down. 

HT: Was there any fear of doing it alone? 

NM:  It was surprisingly comfortable.  I had a lot of good support from friends and fellow artists.  A lot of times I will spend these endless sleepless hours in my bedroom alone creating these home recordings, and think I am making some masterpiece. I use drums loops or play drums myself, and do all these things myself.   I remember playing it for Brad and Andrew (Barr from The Slip) in the car one day, and they got to this one song where it was just me and my guitar.  And Andrew was like. “I go into the studio and make something and lay down a bunch of layers and make something sound really cool, but that right there, that song of you just by yourself I can’t do it, and you are the only person I know who can do that.”  And that really boosted my confidence up.

HT: I think that is a hard thing to be able to make that full sound by yourself when you are stripped down.

NM:  Right, I am proud to feel comfortable in that.

HT:   Besides your sound, your approach to your music seems to be a very folk singer way of looking at things where the words are upfront, very lyrical as opposed to musical, not just throwing some words at it, having the words be the center.   What do you think is the role of the folk singer?

 NM:  What is the role of the folk-singer?  That’s interesting {pauses}.  If you ask me what the role of the poet is I would be just as stumped.  It is not that confusing to me, but it is just the times are so confusing, to think about it terms like that.  I think one of the reasons we called the record Folk Singer was I have always felt a deep connection to the history and evolution to the craft.  I think it is a nod to the history and what came before, to say I see myself in that line of craft.  I talk to a lot of kids these days and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of familiarity with history, with the people that came before.  I am about to open for Leon Russell and it seems like people 27 on down have no idea who he is, and that sorta blows my mind.  Because I feel I know every significant poet or song writer from the 1500s on, I have always had that relationship and the fascination. 

HT:  Well what do you think a kid is going to discover when he gets into Nathan Moore, where is his path of discovery going to take him?  What do they find off of your family tree of music?

NM:  Like when you start discovering what influenced Bob Dylan and you try to get to the secret of how he does it.  Interesting enough I think it would lead as much if not even slightly more to poets not songwriters. Although the songwriters are a given – Greg Brown, John Prine, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan are the first five, and then it keeps going to Nick Drake all the way down to Minor Threat.  I definitely have always felt a very kindred spirit to poets, and I have gotten much inspiration from them. That’s where I am really going when I am writing a song, I mean I have giddy musical moments, don’t get me wrong, but definitely the fire I am stoking has a lot to do with the words.

HT:  That is an important thing, that connection to the past. Kids these days seem to lack that curiosity to seek and find and find those connections.   Is there ever a desire to ever go deeper into the words, maybe write poetry or books?

NM:  When I was younger I used to write poetry and short stories and longer form prose.  A lot of that has fallen off for one reason for another, and I have given myself over to songs.  I guess if you try to be good at too many things you run the risk of not being good at anything. 

HT:  I think when you find the way that gets your words across best you go with it. 

NM:  Right.

HT: What your next move with the folk singer thing?

NM:  I am always itching to get back into the studio.  I am always writing so I am always ready.  I would spend nine months of the year in the studio if I could afford it.  Unfortunately or luckily I just have to take it when it comes.  I have the next batch brewing, and I am looking forward to figuring out how we are going to capture them. 

HT:  Do you play the songs live first, or do you like to wait and build them in the studio before you take them in front of an audience?

NM:  On any given Sunday, my favorite song is the last one I wrote.  If you see me on the road, and I wrote a song last night, that is the one I am going to be most excited for even if I am touring a record.

HT: It is great to have those moments live.  When you go see a band you want to see what they do and who they are as an artist.

NM:  Right, in ten years of touring with TheMuseMent, we were definitely more into playing to that same diehard fan. We really cut our teeth on making each night completely different from the night before and keeping the interest of the people who came to see us.  That is the school I came from.  It is like a Grateful Dead show as opposed to a completely choreographed show that is the same every night. It is different schools of thought, I wouldn’t say one is better, but I was definitely brought up in the slave to the moment school of thought, not really knowing what is going to happen next and have that be part of the excitement.  NathanMoore3.jpg

HT:   I am fan of that school as well.  I like seeing musicians and artists take those chances and seeing what happens.

NM:  Of course there is a risk there.  If there is a chance it is going to be a good thing than there is a chance that it could be a bad thing. When it hits it is worth the risk.

 HT: Definitely. 

For those who read this and maintained a healthy sense of worry about Moore’s predicament with his car, as our conversation came to an end he left me with this thought.

 NM:  I am actually really happy now, because it was such a disaster.  It was two flat front tires, but now I have two brand new fixed brand new tires. I just put the last lug nut on as the phone rang.  I am back in business; I am a happy boy now.