Nathan Moore: Tip of the Iceberg

By: Andrew Bruss

Nathan Moore
Everything about singer/songwriter Nathan Moore is befitting of a modern-day troubadour. Whether it's his background, his nomadic lifestyle, his onstage persona or his speech patterns, Moore comes off as a man who was born for his craft. His latest release, Folk Singer (released August 18 on The Royal Potato Family - see our review here), is a bare-bones collection of old-school folk songs that is void of any "studio magic," and leaves the listener with a naked picture of Nathan Moore, the songwriter. But Moore's views on music - folk or otherwise - share a lot with his views on life, and when you get him talking, he's not afraid to go deep.

"I think [folk] goes back to the poets before [singers like Joe Hill and Bob Dylan], who were troubadours themselves, in the way that their poetry was received. I don't look at something and say, 'I want to try to be that,' but I definitely gravitate towards things I feel I could become, which I've always thought was interesting," says Moore. "I always thought the things I liked the most are the things I thought I could possibly do. I like Led Zeppelin, but in terms of my table of heroes with all the Townes Van Zandts and John Prines and Tom Waits, it struck me as strange that I like things, I think on some level, I could pull off like Leonard Cohen. I'll hear that and say, 'Wow that's amazing,' but deep down, I'm thinking, 'I could do that.'"

During a phone conversation with Moore following the release of Folk Singer, he discussed music, politics, life on the road, and life at home, but what stood out most about him was his degree of engagement. Moore will take any question you give him, analyze it and answer, piece by piece, often using his own answer as a platform to discuss a whole array of subjects that he somehow manages to fit within the specific context of the original question.

Nathan Moore by Jon Bahr
When asked about the current state of political songwriting, Moore used the opportunity to not only answer the question, but to analyze the political activity of his generation at large.

"I'd say that when Obama was running, we all went for it for a little while. Before [the election], and even before that, Bush brought out the fighting spirit in us, but one of the regretful things about Obama winning is a lot of people said, 'Alright! It's alright for us to pull the Hawaiian shirt out of the closet and get back to drinking piƱa coladas [laughs].' That's sort of a shame because we still need to be seeking the truth with a passion that doesn't seem to be that common place these days," Moore says. "I think there still is [a silence within the artistic community]. I think Bush was a good opportunity and a lot of people seized on it, but I think there's a certain depth of idealism that contemporary culture has created. We all saw the '60s come and go, even if it was through the lens of history. We know that time period. It's a new day and a different, interesting time. It stills my heart that there are young idealists. There always have been and there always will be. My generation was a terrible example in terms of activism or taking those ideals and making them glorious."

Aside from the perceived ideological failures of his generation, Moore seemed to feel as though the role of a folk singer is the same as it ever was. Both articulate and concise, Moore spoke in stream-of-consciousness-like sentences, breaking to breath, but ever-ready to continue vocalizing his train of thought.

"I think there's a timeless roll [to being a folk singer]," he says. "I was wondering whether it's the same as it's always been, but ultimately it's the folk singer's roll to mark in time stories of our day, and sort of [be] a historian encapsulating pictures of the world around us, and then preserve those stories for everybody. And in terms of performance and singing, it's giving people a chance to... feel."

Nathan Moore by Anne Staveley
"I guess with the new album there's a picture of hard times, of the recession that we're involved in, and there's a little bit of the traveling vibe [incorporated] but from the perspective of a traveling troubadour, so there are Walmarts instead of boxcars," Moore says. "This really is an EP, in the sense that it's an introduction, a beginning of a new relationship with a label, so this is more of a half guitar/travel/calling card thing that we've made. If I was making an album, I'd be sure I was making a well-rounded expression, but with this, the thought process was a little different. It's a little more utilitarian, and a little less conceptual. When I make an album, everything complements each other and makes a story. This wasn't a storytelling album."

Moore seems to feel the role of a folk singer is to tell tales of the world around him. But, the world starts at home, and this concept is far from lost on Nathan Moore.

"I'm getting a little older and I've found that the balance that home brings to my life, in terms of going out and having fun and getting loose on the road, but then coming home to a stable community and a beautiful home life, is pretty ideal for me. It keeps me balanced, as opposed to when I was in my twenties and entirely nomadic. Now I'm more balanced." With pride in his roots, Moore built upon his connection to his community, saying, "You go downtown and you see so many people that you know. I went to the same high school my grandmother went to. It's a tight community with a lot of history."

Even in describing his life on the road, Moore emphasized his connection to his hometown.

"When I left home I felt like a pioneer, but what was Columbus without Spain? I got to discover new worlds, but in my community's name and behalf. I always had a sense of that with what I was doing, way more than my community. I always felt like a pioneer for my home town," he says. "I had a revelation recently where I realized how important it is to me where I come from. 'Remember where I'm from.' It's a stabilizing mantra for me. It brings me back to what I have to offer."

Nathan Moore
The authenticity Moore radiates in conversation is just as apparent, if not more so, in his songwriting. When asked about his creative process, he describes his songwriting as being nothing but from the heart. "I can't just sit down and say, 'I need a song that's marketable or danceable like that, or catchy like this.' If it doesn't come through my heart then it doesn't happen," he says. "I write as a means of survival. It's like the air that I breathe, so in that sense, I'm not trying to sell anything really. I'm just trying to exist."

Although he said very little about Surprise Me Mr. Davis, his rock project alongside the three members of The Slip, Moore did comment that although for now he's promoting Folk Singer, "We have 2010, [and] we're going to take over the world."

When talking about the big picture, be it past, present, or future, Moore has a way of making things seem specific. When asked what his future holds, he dabbled in metaphors that beat around the bush, yet managed to give a very clear answer anyway. "I've been feeling good about things," he says. "We're dealing with a lot with Folk Singer and Davis, [but] I feel like we're still at the tip of the iceberg. There's a lot about to come from me into the world, so people should stay tuned."

Nathan Moore is on tour now; dates available here.

You can download "Hard Times" off Folk Singer for FREE here.

See more of Nathan Moore's performance with Big Light at the JamBase offices over here.

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[Published on: 9/22/09]

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