It’s been a week since I was introduced to R. Stevie Moore and his music, and I am still finding the words to describe the experience. Deemed a “lo-fi legend” and “Father of Home Recording”, Moore has recorded over 2,000 original songs from 1968 until present and is currently embarking on his first national and international tour. I wasn’t familiar with Moore nor his music prior to meeting him, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I found was that the many years of practice, exploration, and making music mainly for self-enjoyment has given R. Stevie Moore a quality that most musicians today forget to nurture in their rush to record and get noticed: musical curiosity.
Listening to R. Stevie Moore’s music is like walking into a modern museum. There is a strong sense of new and old influences, 80s pop styles mixed with a somewhat 70s funk, with spacey lyrics about everything from love to cereal, and an assortment of vocal styles. Rather than coming off as “time-warp” music, there is a very accessible and fresh sound, yet it is layered with pieces collected in years of listening, observing, and trying out new things. In some songs, Moore’s voice is as deep as Barry White, others there is anything from talking, to shouting, to somewhat typical harmonious singing. Moore sneaks everything from his current whereabouts to current events into his songs, in a way that leaves listeners somewhat confused, yet always intrigued and ready for more.
“I’m a diarist of sounds,” replied Moore when I asked about his thick volume of recordings, “I record sound in all styles, all diversities. I’m a composer.” And that response is the key to tackling the many songs this artist has come to record. Even on an album-by-album look, the songs he records for each are all over the scale in terms of a uniform style you’d expect from a singular album. Listening to Moore, one can really hear the sound of someone who has taken the time to seek out new and interesting sounds, and then test them. He tests them to melody, tests them to lyrics, tests them to other sounds, and creates. The ease at which he shifts between styles very much reminds me of David Bowie in many ways. It’s rather like a science experiment really, you can’t do the same thing every time, so you must try different ideas, different approaches until a new project emerges.
To say that music is in his blood is truth, but I think R. Stevie Moore has taken the tools set forth by his musician father to take his own musical experiences a giant leap forward. Since I came to learn about R. Stevie Moore, I only saved space for one question in regards to his father, renown Nashville session musician Bob Moore who played with the likes of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Sammy Davis, Jr. among others. Given that the elder Moore was a session musician and band leader, I wondered if the younger Moore had grown up with his father encouraging him in music by creating his own instead of playing on everyone else’s songs. To that, Moore responded in the negative. His father did not put as much focus into composing his own works, but really hoped that his son would follow in his session musician footsteps. “I’d say that I was born with his ear, and a bit of his talent,” said the multi-instrumentalist, “I was expected to follow as a session musician, but I’m a 60’s kid, never into the mainstream or conservatism”. And so he followed his desire to create, and create he did.
Self-releasing over 400 albums on his R. Stevie Moore Cassette Club, I’d say Moore definitely picked up the music bug in his upbringing. I wasn’t around yet in the 1960s (my parents were toddlers), but from what I read and listened to, it was an extremely prolific time for music. Sounds were exploding from acoustic to electric, from US to UK, everything was changing and everything was new. I believe being exposed to so much musical curiosity has stuck with Moore through the years. It’s surprising that in all that time he is only just now embarking on his FIRST tour. “I was never much of a performer”, said Moore. This all changed in 2010 when he decided to move back to his hometown of Nashville, TN after spending nearly 30 years in New Jersey.
With finances a little less in check then he wanted for his next album, Moore launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the new album, which is titled Advanced, and decided to take a new approach to promoting this album…by going on tour. The transportation costs were also aided by a second successful Kickstarter campaign, which was proudly backed by over 100 online supporters, and so, R. Stevie Moore has set our on his first tour, bringing along Brooklyn band Tropical Ooze as an opening act and to help fill out the sound of his large catalog of songs on stage, both new and old. The summer tour will take the musicians from California to the Carolinas and then proceed overseas to Europe.
Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed R. Stevie Moore’s live show. The tunes were full of energy, fun, and a serious concept of ridiculousness. Moore knows how to stretch out the strangest portions of his songs, making you cringe with curiosity for what will come next. And as he plays songs that stretch from 30+ years up to present tunes, I just don’t feel the songs would have to same fresh energy had he already performed them to death through extensive touring all these years. The live element breathes new intentions and attitudes into his past songs, and adds a more profound appreciation for the more recent compositions. And he’s great at finding fun ways to connect with the audience. Keep track of the touring adventures on Moore’s tour blog.
As for what to expect from the new album, Advanced? Look forward to a lot more acoustic guitar sounds, changing time signatures, observant lyrics, and insanely funky bass grooves.