John Moreland’s been called the voice of Americana, but his beautiful, often aching songs reach across genre. With his last three albums considered a trilogy of sorts, Moreland’s tales have drawn comparisons to the poets and songwriters of Texas and the folk-rockers of the 1960s and ’70s. Don’t let the likeness fool you though– John Moreland is an artist who’s learned to share his heartaches, his hopes, and his revelations in singular fashion. I was fortunate enough to catch John at home during a break before he picks up a Fall tour that will see him in Macon at the Hargray Capitol Theatre on October 25th. I was also lucky to learn some details about his new album that should be along in 2020…
AI- Your trilogy of albums– In the Throes dealing with your childhood, High on Tulsa Heat examining your idea of home, and then Big Bad Luv… You’ve said you felt like that was about you belonging. Where are you today in your exploration of John Moreland– the man and the artist?
JM- Oh shit. I don’t know man. I think maybe I’m still on the belonging thing. (Laughs)
You’ve had an opportunity to be out on the road quite a bit. Have you been able to write?
I don’t really write much on the road. I had a couple of years where I was touring so much, the writing kind of slowed down in general. But I’ve been home a lot more this year and I’ve been writing a lot more. I try to balance it out, but it’s always been hard for me to write on the road. I’ve written very few songs on the road.
You were pretty good about releasing albums at about that two-year interval. So you’re about due to let it all hang out again.
Yeah, I’ll have one coming out next year. I took a little longer this time, but you know, life stuff just got a little more hectic than it was in the past.
I heard Manda Mosher’s new version of “Nobody Gives A Damn About Songs Anymore”, and I think she’s gonna have that on a new album at the first of the year. Do you get a kick out of other people doing your songs and seeing what they do with them?
Yeah, totally man. It’s always cool to hear and I think I heard a little bit of her version on Instagram or somewhere on the internet. That’s definitely cool and just cool to hear what different people do with the songs, and I’ve met Manda. I think we played a couple shows together years ago, so that was cool to see.
Are you getting out and doing any collaborating with other writers these days?
No, I’ve always been a pretty solitary writer. I occasionally, if I’ve got a song that I can’t finish, might ask a friend to help me with a few lines or something, but I don’t really do any really co-writing or sittin’ down like, “Let’s write a song together!” And just where you kinda do the Nashville thing and just get in a room and make up a song. I don’t really do too much of that. My songs come in little fragments over time and I’ve always felt like I just need to be alone to write them.
Along the same line of that… You’ve been responsible for producing your own albums and I guess with the exception of Big Bad Luv, you’ve always done all the mixed down and technical side of that as well. You handed that part off with Big Bad Luv. Would you ever consider going in with a producer? Handing the reins off to someone else?
Yeah, for sure. That’s what I did this time. I’ll have a new one coming out next year and I didn’t produce that one. A guy named Matt Pence produced it and it was super cool. Doing those early albums by myself is really just more of a necessity than anything. I’ve always been trying to figure out how to… Get done the thing that I want to get done. And back then I didn’t really have access to other studios or other engineers. I’m just a home recordist who was crazy enough to actually record a couple of albums that way, you know? The next one coming out– which is not announced yet. I don’t know if I’m supposed to talk about it too much.
Well, I’ll tell you what, you talk about what you’re comfortable with saying and I will try to weasel out as much as I can.
Cool man. We did the record down in Texas and yeah, it was the first time I wasn’t really the producer. It was kind of a group effort– but Matt’s definitely, he produced it and he’s being credited as the producer and it’s definitely… He helped me out for sure. He helped me get out of my comfort zone and push past things and do things I wanted to do but didn’t quite know how to do in the past. It was a really great experience.
You say Texas. Where’d y’all record it at?
In Denton, Texas [The Echo Lab].
Any guest stars on this new project?
Matt, he plays drums himself and he was in a great band called Centro-Matic– that I loved– for a really long time. And then Will Johnson who was also in Cento-Matic, he’s on the record. He does a lot of solo records and I think he played drums in that Monsters of Folk thing that Conor Oberst and those dudes did. Those are the only “name drop” type guest appearances.
Does it have a title yet?
No, it doesn’t have a title yet. I’m still thinking about that one.
Are you going through the same label to release it?
We’re going back to doing the Thirty Tigers thing that we did on High On Tulsa Heat. We’re done. I’m not on 4AD anymore, so we’re going back to our previous arrangement with Thirty Tigers. I think that’ll be cool.
You performed “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” for Shovels & Ropes’ Busted Jukebox Volume 2. I actually just spoke to Michael and Cary Ann last week about a potential volume three and they all but confirmed that– but they wouldn’t give me any hints. So I’ll ask you– if you were going to do another cover track with them or with anybody, any ideas what you might choose?
I don’t know, man. I’ve never given a lot of thought to covers. I’ve rarely played covers, but one that I’ve wanted to do is Bruce Springsteen, “Tougher Than The Rest”.
That’s a good one– you do the harp part on that one too?
Oh, yeah. Yeah, I could probably, I mean, I hate wearing the harmonica rack, so I don’t know if I would do it live, but I think if I recorded it, I could pull it off. If I did it live, I’d probably have John Calvin play it, my sideman. But I don’t think I’ll actually do that one though, ’cause I’ve already covered a Springsteen song. That’s out there on YouTube and stuff. But I don’t know, man… I’ve never been a huge cover song guy.
Speaking of John Calvin Abney, he’s got a brand new album [Safe Passage] coming out on Friday [September 27], I believe. You show up on that. What can we look forward to with that album?
I played a little bit of guitar on that one. There’s some songs where he’s playing acoustic rhythm guitar and I’m playing electric guitar. So that was kinda crazy and weird, ’cause I’m never I’m not the lead guitar player at all in our dynamic. That’s always him. But yeah, I did a little Robbie Robertson impression on the electric guitar on one of the songs and played some kinda swampy, bluesy Tele on a song. It was mostly just a blast being there and hanging out. I’m proud of that dude. It’s a good record.
John Moreland makes his Macon, GA debut Friday, October 25th at The Hargray Capitol Theatre. Tickets available now at The Rookery or online at hargraycapitoltheatre.com