In His Own Worlds, the latest album from singer/songwriter Nathan Moore, is a journey inward, a poetic trip to the center of what makes one human. The naked honesty in Moore’s lyrics and voice give the songs an evocative fluency that resonates with anyone who has, even in passing, questioned their true self and what it all means.
The philosophical, quick witted, cleaver lyrics bring to mind some of the greats, -Waits, Dylan, Springsteen – while holding their own in terms of originality. By just pouring his heart out, Moore brings you into his world without prodding or begging and you want to understand what’s going on.
The musical arraignments run the gamut from bluesy shuffles to Shenandoah mountain folksy lullabies to slow driving soulful ballads. The songs are delicate while powerful, and most importantly empowering. tapestry leaving you, at the conclusion, singing its verses in your head for days.
Glide recently spoke with Moore about In His Own Worlds, his many influences, and the journey that he is on.
In His own Worlds flows like an album should, and is a very full document. It is a seekers journey. Is that something that you would agree with and, if so, had a vision for from the start?
I made it the same way I’ve made most of my records. The new songs were the core that we began recording. Then, as the vibe and sound started to take shape, certain songs popped up from the past because they seemed to fit. I didn’t even make a list. We just sat behind the mikes and started rolling rhythm tracks. I was picking the songs off the top of my head, like a live show without a set list. I have a lot of faith in the subconscious, in how it threads the connections and sees to it that things come full circle. Somewhere inside me was the vision from the start, but I wasn’t sure exactly what it was.
The instrumentation is very rounded and reflects back your songs and lyrics perfectly. Have you worked with this group of folks for awhile?
The rhythm section were old friends, brothers Bill and Jim Palmer. We have a big bull’s eye, a readily available comfort zone. The colors were added by people I didn’t know as well. The pedal steel player, Augi Hayes, was in the studio working on Bill Hearne’s record when I snatched him. Kevin Zoernig, on keys, is someone I had known was great but hadn’t played with a lot. Then there was a lot of magic around who showed up in terms of back-up singers and other small perfect parts.
One of my favorite songs on the album is "Understand Under", it has a lot of hope, wonder and youthful energy. It also pays tribute to many of your influences, Jellyroll Morton, Odetta and E.E. Cummings to name a few. Can you talk about some of these and other influences on you and your songwriting?
When I was a kid I knew I wanted to be great some day, perhaps because we only learn about great people. The history books are filled with colorful characters, we study authors, we learn about the childhood of heroes. I would think to myself, some day someone will study me! “Understand Under” is as much a nod to that kid in me as it is to the legends of my aspiration. It seems like every legend took something the next step, if not leap. It also seems as if they were chosen by the universe to play a certain role in our evolution, thus becoming revolutionary. That’s what I always wanted to be, revolutionary. Lately tho, I’m happy to strive for just plain good.
The theme of introspection dominates most of the album. The song "Help Wanted" seems to start with a man looking for a job and by the time the chorus of "Help Wanted" repeats over and over, the tone of the lyrics reveal more of a man looking for help in finding his true self, who he is. Where were you at in your journey when you wrote this piece?
Looking for a job! I had come to a crossroads, to a conversation with myself about whether or not I had simply failed in my efforts to carve a career from my music. Let’s face it, after touring for thirteen years I’m still playing small places for not much money. So I was sitting here in Virginia wondering if I couldn’t find some other calling, some deal where my talents might flourish in an unsuspecting and rewarding way. But as I began the process of starting each day with the help wanted’s I started to just get bummed out. Nothing called me. I was sitting there with my highlighter and the paper when I wrote "Help Wanted." I remember having this very satisfied feeling when I got done writing it, thinking- that’s what I do. It really marked the end of the job search. That night I was singing that song to friends and all was right with the world.
The next song after “Help Wanted”, “9 to 5 Suicide”, feels like a companion song, continuing the theme of deeply looking inward for meaning and direction. The lyrics are very raw and personal, more so than most lyricists are willing to reveal. Is the songwriting process like therapy? It seems like you have a lot to get off your chest.
Ha ha, o my. I suppose I do. The process can be like therapy in the sense that you can transform suffering into something good. It would be a bad sign if you channeled your pain into a song that was too painful to listen to. I’ve had people tell me that some of my songs are too painful for them. But not for me, I don’t keep singing the ones that are just venting. If I record a song there is something about it that I love. And to love something spun from a miserable place is, yes, quite therapeutic.
The single song you didn’t write the lyrics to, “Wandering Aengus”, is a poem by William Butler Yeats that was composed in 1899, the turn of the last century. How did you choose this poem to write music for? Which other poets influence your work?
The original poem is actually called "Song of the Wandering Aengus." I’ve always loved Yeats and on seeing that title I felt like he was asking us to sing it, so I had at it. The Poets have always meant a lot to me. Some of my favorites are Rimbaud, Bukowski, Blake, the beats, you know, the rock stars.
If there is one thing that you hope people will take away from your music?
Each person is unique and my wildest hope is that each could take away something useable to them. Whether it’s the twist of a thought or a toe tapping beat, an affirmation of their pursuit or a soundtrack for their drive, could be a laugh or a cry, whatever they want or, dare I say, need. That’s what I hope they take away.
More info on Nathan Moore can be found at: www.nathanmoore.org
Contributing Glide writer Joe Adler is a musician based out of Burlington, Vermont. He performs regularly with his band The Joe Adler Group.