March , 2011
By Tim Taylor
A Texas Original with Evolving Musical Emmotions
A JAM Magazine Exclusive Interview
Photos courtsey of IanMoore.com
Ian Moore is one of the most interesting artists of the last twenty years. He has never been a huge success on the radio, and has dabbled in so many genres of music that some fans who once adored him turned their backs on him. If you're a true lover of all kinds of music, however, you'll see that he has consistently churned out great records no matter what category they may fall in. El Sonido Nuevo, the new album Ian just released with his new band, the Lossy Coils, is no exception. It's a guitar-fueled, energetic record with beautiful melodies, intelligent lyrics, and exceptional vocal harmonies. Ian's passion for music is unmatched, and his attitude and musical integrity will never be swayed by money, critics, or industry trends. He is a true Texas treasure, and his live shows always kick ass. While travelling through Texas and Oklahoma for a string of CD release shows, Ian took a few moments to answer some questions for Jam.
JAM: El Sonido Nuevo has just been released, and as always, it has a different vibe and sound to it. How would you describe this record?
Ian Moore - I think it's a pretty gentle progression from the last record. I think anyone who's been consistently following me throughout my career, and going to all the shows, will see this as a pretty logical next step. Probably more than any record I've ever made. It's a lot of different elements that I've explored throughout my career. It is a very guitar-centric record, but I'm using the guitar in a lot of different t ways. The songs explore a lot of new territory that I kind of mapped out on some of the earlier records.
JAM: You seem to have really great chemistry with the new guys in the band. The vocal harmonies on the new record are really amazing. Who are the Lossy Coils?
It's myself, Matt Harris, and Kyle Schneider. Matt and I co-wrote most of the songs together and he does most of the harmonies on the record. When you see the show, I would say I'm still the frontman, but Matt plays a very close second. We do a lot of duel harmonies throughout the set, and I think it's pretty unique. That's basically what I've been looking for my whole career. All of my favorite bands have two singers. I was a big Everly Brothers fan, of course a big Beatles fan, and I always like it when there's a combination of voices together. It's hard to find somebody who will sit up there with me and sing.
JAM: One thing that all of your fans enjoy at your shows is hearing new songs that nobody is familiar with. The first time I heard you play "Hillary Step", it was one of the most intense performances I've ever seen. Where did that song come from?
The actual physical place it came from watching a PBS documentary on Mt. Everest and a failed expedition, but connecting it to another narrative, there's always the Lanier part of it where you're saying "I saw this" or "I heard this", and I started writing the song. What it tied into, however, was a concept that made it a more important song to me. When you really push yourself to a certain point, and you're trying to do something great, a difficulty becomes exponentially stronger. That's the dynamic that I think is really important about that song. The Hillary Step is a physical place, and the song was created from an actual event, but the concept is a concept, and that's lyrically the heart of the song.
JAM: Another highlight on the new record is "Let Me Out". The words to that song seem to reflect on the period in the 90's, when a lot of people didn't get the musical direction you were going in. Is that a correct assumption?
Well the first thing that needs to be said, because it's funny and topical, is that we were working on some music with Spiral Stairs from Pavement, and the groove of "Let Me Out" is a complete rip-off, and a very purposeful rip-off, of a Spiral song called "Get Your Crayons Out". Of course, being from Texas, we took it a little bit more to some sort of crazy, ZZ Top kind of land, which we thought was pretty funny to start with, so the very nature of doing that made a statement. To answer your question, yeah, the thing that kind of screwed me is that I grew up in such a liberal, creative atmosphere in Austin, where you were encouraged to be creative and push boundaries. You weren't cool if you didn't do that, and once I got out into the real world outside of Austin, I realized that wasn't the way that everybody thought. When I made records, a good number of people expected me to play it very safe and conservative, and like many other artists out there, I've dealt with that my whole career. The apex of my career has been figuring out how to keep going without alienating my fans, but still being true to myself. I took solace in that it's a pretty typical struggle that other artists go through also, but it's definitely been big in my career, so yeah, that song definitely addresses that.
JAM: Flashing back to that time period, how frustrating was it for you during the "Green Grass" days when people just weren't getting the changes you had made musically?
I'm actually pretty blue collar about the way I look at music. I'm not a dilettante. I recognize that people are paying good money to come to a show, but I also realize that I'm a performer. There are so many types of music out there, and I think that people are so spoon-fed these days that I just don't realize the way they're thinking. It's frustrating because, if they would just let the performer do his thing, most of the time it's gonna be better than what they would have the performer do if they could control it. That's my attitude, and I'm not just saying it about myself. That goes for anybody. If you control everything, nothing great will ever happen because there won't be any surprises. I don't think that way. It's foreign to me. Luckily, for the most part, I've come out of that period. I get some people like that every now and again, but most people that come to the shows have been very positive, and seem pretty accepting of all the general stuff that I do.
JAM: At a show last year, you briefly mentioned how some outside forces broke up the original band. Can you elaborate on that?
Well, we're almost beating a dead horse at this point because basically what broke up the first band was the ignorance of certain people around us with the fans. We had some amazing fans in our corner, but all of the things I fought after the band left are the same things that were frustrating to the band at the time. We had a lot of things that we wanted to do, we all felt trapped, and we felt like we were not able to make the record we thought we could make. We didn't have support from the label, we didn't have support from the fans, we didn't have support from radio, we didn't have support from management, and you can only battle that so much. I continue to battle because it's my career, and I kind of feel like it's my spiritual purpose to play music at this point, maintain my path, and let people know that I don't give a shit. I'm always gonna do what I do, and hopefully that will be something you can count on from me. The other guys in the band, since it wasn't their songwriting, just got beaten down at a certain point. We tried so hard on Modernday Folklore. All we were thinking about was trying to make a beautiful record. Then we finished the record and got a bunch of criticism from the label and criticism from the fans, and it just gets to a certain point where it's difficult to carry on. People start to pull away. It's real typical. The band all loves each other, and we maintain a relationship, and we're talking about doing some Ian Moore Band reunion shows this summer. There was definitely tension, but there was never tension because we didn't like each other. We were just in a hostile environment.
JAM: Through the years, you seem to have found a plethora of amazing musicians to play with like Nina Singh, J.J. Johnson, Kullen Fuchs, and the list goes on and on. Where do you find these people?
Well, I'm really lucky. Probably, the thing I'm most grateful for in my career is being able to consistently play with great players. I believe in visualization, and I believe in thinking about what it is that you want around you. I think that when you're open to the possibility that people agree with your philosophy, those people come around you. When I broke things down, and things were changing, Chris Dye was there. When I was doing the …And All The Colors thing, George, J.J., and Bukka were there, then Kullen came in after Chris, then the band I have now. Every time I make a change or a shift in direction and influences, there's a group of new people who come around. It's refreshing. It's like turning to a new chapter in a novel. It's a whole different setting, but it also maintains the consistency of all I know.
JAM: You recently became a touring member of the Jason Mraz band. How did that come about?
Through more amazing musicians that I know. (laughs) Years and years ago, I had given this horn section, just a bunch of kids, a gig with me. We did a bunch of shows, and they were my horn section for a while. They had just graduated from college, and they were just getting started. They became this badass horn section, Grooveline Horns, and they played with everyone. They've played on records, toured all over the world, and they're very renowned now. Carlos, the leader of the horn section, is also the musical director of the Jason Mraz band, and I got the gig through him. He asked me if I wanted to go on tour with Jason, so I auditioned, got the audition, played stadiums and arenas, and got to sing harmonies with Jason every night while playing guitar. It was killer. I had a great time playing with him.
JAM: Do you think that playing with such a diverse group of great musicians helped you grow and evolve as a musician and songwriter?
Of course! I learned sixty of Jason's songs, and really tried to get into his head as a songwriter. He's really an amazing songwriter. We're quite different, but his sense of melody and his sense of arrangement are really good. There's a reason he's famous. Playing with Roky Erickson was the same thing. Playing with Matt Harris and the people I play with make the biggest difference with everything.
JAM: The album release shows have been going for a couple of weeks now. Which songs from El Sonido Nuevo have been the most fun to play?
We've played almost every song. I guess, since we don't get to do it very often, it's fun to do Silver Sunshine with five or six singers. I just enjoy the record. I think it's a lot of fun to play as a trio. It's really fresh, but at the same time, I think it's the closest thing to what originally attracted people to my music. It's a really ferocious record live. Especially as a trio, because there's no other way to approach it besides just putting the pedal down and going.
JAM: When you sit down and listen to your entire catalog from beginning to end, you can hear how well your songwriting and your voice have progressed. What do you attribute that to?
Just being open. I just want to get better. I think, ultimately, growth is through humility, because you recognize that you don't know everything, and you have a lot to learn. I just want to learn. I want to be better. I'm not satisfied with the stuff that I'm doing. I hear the musicians that I listen to as a fan, and I think, "Man, I've got so far to go." There are so many things I want to do. I can't wait to write the next song, and make the next record. For me, it's all about growth, so I'll just keep on trying to grow.