Spotlight: Nathan Moore
What would Woody Guthrie be doing today?
It’s a question that Nathan Moore has been contemplating lately, and whether he’s found the answer or not, he’s living closer to it than ever through “Hippy Fiasco.” The 24-hours-a-day Web stream, fan collaboration album and, most important, touring model created by the folk singer allows anyone to host their own “Fiasco” by inviting Moore (and hopefully paying him at least $500) to play a show via an online form.
“If you think about Woody Guthrie, what’s so weird about what he did [was that] he was going where his songs were needed,” explains Moore. “He wasn’t necessarily going where it would further his career—he wasn’t looking for those opportunities. He was going to dust bowls, union marches and labor rallies. We’re going where my songs are needed on some level, too. It’s brought me back into the roots of what a troubadour is in a pretty significant way.”
You could even argue, as Moore has, that the Hippy Fiasco saved his career. Though it’s difficult for him—or anyone who knows him—to imagine Nathan Moore doing anything other than traveling the country singing his songs, “moments of depression” and “despair,” as he puts it, have forced the 41 year old to reconsider his path on more than one occasion.
Moore’s most recent crisis led to the material on his ninth album, the dark, sad and wonderful 2011 effort Dear Puppeteer. Moore was broke and living in his two younger brothers’ basement (as he still does) and his longtime band ThaMuseMeant had broken up. And though he’d already released a couple solo albums—most notably, 2007’s In His Own Worlds —at this point, Moore still couldn’t quite see himself as a solo/acoustic performer. He was in freefall.
“The Fiasco is the thing that rejuvenated me, made me young again as an artist, and gave me that scene and that vitality and all those things that you need to have going on to feel like you’re doing something,” says Moore. “In a lot of ways, it’s just as hand-to-mouth as my twenties were; but in a lot of ways, it’s just as exciting as my twenties were too. That’s hard to recreate.”
Moore calls himself a “trickster character in the troubadour tradition,” and he’s right—he even has the custom built Shanti guitar bestowed on winners of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival’s prestigious Troubadour Competition (2008) to prove it. And though he’s a skilled magician, wonderful storyteller, emotionally-rich singer, good guitar player, and has successfully co-founded and fronted both folk rock band ThaMuseMeant and jam rock super group Surprise Me Mr. Davis (featuring The Slip and Marco Benevento), what Nathan Moore really is—and always will be—is a songwriter.
Moore wrote his first song when he was about 12 and estimates that he’s probably written 3,000-4,000 since then. He’s quick to clarify that the songs he remembers (that’s more like 1,000) and the songs he’s written are different. But Moore says that from his “younger years,” through his thirties, a conservative estimate would be three songs per week. Lately, it’s more like one or two.
When asked about his songwriting process and prolific output, Moore brings up bowel movements. “If you can’t shit for a week, how does that feel?” he asks. “And then when you do, how does that feel? You feel terrible when you can’t go and, when you can, you feel renewed. It’s a vulgar metaphor but I think there’s something really natural in the process of writing for me. It’s like breathing, eating and everything else.”
Most touring musicians will tell you that they live for the time spent onstage—not Nathan Moore. “Those two hours on stage are a mess; it’s a beautiful mess and sometimes it’s amazing, but I definitely don’t live for that,” the singer laughs. “You can’t diminish what it really means to me to write a song. That moment of the writing is the most important moment of all this madness. If I stop being able to do that, you would never see me again. I would not be out here touring [behind] the songs I wrote before. I’m out here writing.”
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
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The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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