The Many Worlds of Nathan Moore

By: Dennis Cook

Nathan Moore
One way to gauge a man's worth is to see how he measures up with those around him. While he is undeniably one of the finest songwriters of the modern age, I've also never heard anyone who knows Nathan Moore speak an unkind word about the man. In fact, spend even a little time with the consistently stubbly, forever tousled blond fella with sad, smiling eyes and you'll likely walk away feeling you've met somebody who knows a lot about a lot of things. And he gives a good hug, too.

"He'll be the pastor at my wedding. He always knows the right thing to say," says Andrew Barr of The Slip. "He's got a gift. I'll be going through some problem and the next thing you know he's written a song that totally deals with it."

"With Nathan, there's so little effort involved. It's revelatory," says Brad Barr. "Surprise Me Mr. Davis (the pop savvy quartet comprised of The Slip and Moore) is a scenario where everyone's part is very clear. There's no struggle. For me, it's the happy role of lead guitar player and occasional singer. The Slip is comfortable and well balanced and a lot of paying serious attention to everything going on. Having Nathan up there deflates some of that pressure. He reminds us how fun it is to be up there with people you love."

And from the unpublished liner notes this writer composed for Moore's brilliant new solo album, In His Own Worlds (released June 27 on Frogville Records):

Nathan does a soft shoe with the Cosmic Be All And End All, the tunesmith's Stephen Hawking sussing out a theory of everything. He uses ecclesiastical ideas but never in a way that's cloying or familiar. Instead, Jung's invisible world unfurls in his songs, God smiling at us behind the trees. Moore's willingness to engage big ideas - knowing full well he's in a bear-wrestling match - emboldens us. If Jacob wrestled an angel then maybe so can we.

Rare is the time Moore's music hasn't filled my eyes with tears. Like Bob Dylan and Elliott Smith, he's continually fearless in the face of dark, truthful mirrors. His metaphysical striptease dresses the listener down, and naked together we're born anew in trembling laughter.

In His Own Worlds is Moore at his finest, which is saying something. Whether rockin' like Warren Zevon fronting Badfinger in Mr. Davis or plying a more subtle acoustic trajectory with ThaMuseMeant - a four-piece that swings like the Hot Club of France if Joni Mitchell had led them – Moore rarely fails to differentiate himself from the herd. On Worlds, the man many of us have come to genuinely love, both because of his art and his heart, is fully in the foreground. He's backed by a tight, lustrous band with a primo '70s singer-songwriter feel akin to Jackson Browne's For Everyman or Jesse Winchester's divine Robbie Robertson-produced 1970 debut. His sad men in jam bands and angels of delight long for peace, home and the blooming delight of another's touch. Moore tells their tales in a way that lifts us from the malaise of the everyday. You hear it in the sudden skyward swoop on "O New Day" or the bittersweet lilt of "When A Woman." Everywhere what was hidden is laid bare, cleaned by the light in his music.

We had the great fortune to sit down with Moore over locally brewed ales on a sweet, temperate San Francisco evening not long ago. What transpired over that happy hour touched on Jesus, Mr. Davis, ThaMuseMeant, fame and so much more. Again and again, Moore turned up faith and softness hiding in the shallows of this hard world. If you've been looking for a few new reasons to believe in the future, you've come to the right place.

JamBase: How did you pick the title In His Own Worlds, which seemed to go through several incarnations before settling on that one?

Nathan Moore: It had to be a bad decision [laughs]. There were a few good decisions on the board for a while but they were all too good and we needed a bad, bad title. So, we stayed up burning the candle and came up with In His Own Worlds, thinking, 'Yeah, that's the opposite of good!' [laughs]. It does seem to be the thing that's haunted me. I love wordplay and it doesn't seem to be the best marketing angle in America. It can be, of course, but people are already misspelling In His Own Worlds and it's not spoon-fed as much as it probably should be.

JamBase: It's subtle and that's not ever a good thing in terms of American marketing. I think it has be one of the hardest parts of the recording process to take that last step and decide what is the umbrella you're going to throw over this thing. Have you always had that battle with titles?

Nathan Moore: It's usually a struggle. Sometimes it just falls right into place. Once or twice I've made a recording where we knew what it was before we started, and that's a gift. Single Wide (1999) was sorta made that way. We knew what it was, the vibe of it. But, on most of the records we put down the songs that were hot at the time and then tried to come up with the umbrella. With In His Own Worlds, ultimately it fits in some way or another.

JamBase: When you were working on the new record did you know these songs would be solo stuff? How do you compartmentalize things as you write so you know which ones go to ThaMuseMeant, which to Surprise Me and which ones are just for you? Or is the material malleable enough that it can fit anywhere?

It amazes me how songs do tend to fall into the different camps. I knew I was going to make this record with a few months advance notice, so my whole being went into crafting this thing. It's the same way if I know there's a Davis or ThaMuseMeant tour coming up. The songs that come out of that time point in that direction. That's even without much conscious effort. Once the seed is planted particular seeds bring particular plants.

Continue reading for more with Nathan Moore...

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