Ian Moore lives in the Pacific Northwest now, but he still talks like a Texan, particularly when he shouts, Don't fence me in. "People need to let me go," insists Moore.
The topic of conversation is the expectations of the music industry versus personal artistry, a subject that engages Moore passionately. And why shouldn't it? Just look at his career: Raised in California, Mexico, India and Austin by music-loving parents, Moore, the guitar-slinger, was touted in his late teens as the next Stevie Ray Vaughan (the first in a now-annoying series, it should be noted). His first record deal with EMI, won while Moore was still in his early twenties, went south when the label merged with sister company Capitol Records. Moore was dropped before he even made a record. Two studio discs with Capricorn, a major-label-distributed boutique imprint, followed, both marked by a struggle over the label's expectations of Moore. The Capricorn suits, perhaps dreaming of another Texas Flood, wanted the blues-rock guitar god. Moore drew on his far broader background to produce music more focused on the song than the riff.
By 1997 Moore was freed from Capricorn. Little more than a year later he released the offbeat collection Ian Moore's Got the Green Grass on his own Hablador label, which allowed him to proudly display all his artistic feathers. He then signed with the large independent company Koch, which put out And All the Colors When the label failed, in Moore's opinion, to support that disc even minimally, he secured his freedom once again.
McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk
Two solo acoustic shows on Friday, December 22. For more information, call (713)528-5999. He also performs with a full band on Friday and Saturday, December 29 and 30, at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, 3616 Washington Avenue. For more information, call (713)869-COOL.
Clearly, for at least ten years now Ian Moore has been fighting the same battle: to stop record execs, maybe even fans, from penning him in and branding him with a large "SRV" on his ass. Let him go indeed.
Which brings us, more or less, to the present. Moore remains busier than ever, despite all the setbacks. This month, in fact, Moore visits Houston twice, each time in a different context. His first gig is a quiet affair at the Mucky Duck, part of his first solo acoustic tour of Texas. His second gig is much noisier, a two-date weekend, with band, at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge -- a pair of shows that will be recorded for a live release on Hablador.
Yet who in the early '90s would have guessed that Ian Moore would still be slogging away at the clubs in the year 2000? If you ask Moore why he hasn't hit the big time, as some had predicted, his answer isn't simple. "I dunno," he muses. "I think I am a pretty big star in Texas, and that's fine.I don't think there's any place for me right now in Dave Matthews land. The road that I am on is a longer road than that, and ultimately, either at some point I will have some success, or I won't."
Moore can afford to be nonchalant about his prospects for stardom. When he lost his first record deal, he was paid rather handsomely to go away. Then he gained enough exposure through his Capricorn releases -- and with his vigorous touring throughout the '90s, including opening slots for the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and ZZ Top -- to make more than a decent living with music.
But Moore really never was cut out for the Jonny Lang fingers-of-fire blues-guitar thing, even if the guitarist's emergence from Austin a decade or so back fed the expectations that he would be the next SRV. To Moore, the comparisons between him and Stevie Ray were more a matter of convenience than accuracy. "I play a Strat. I'm a white guy. I like soul music. I like blues. What am I gonna do?"
Like it or not, the generation of Austin musicians before Moore has become the standard by which all others are compared. "They defined who we are, and we're fucked. That's it. And Austin had its glory days in the '80s, and until something bigger comes along that people can be defined by" And with that, Moore trails off. You can almost hear him shrug his shoulders over the phone.
Not that he decries the music around which he came of age. Moore mentions that he has had a similar discussion with his Pacific Northwest friend and neighbor Pete Droge, who grew up with Nirvana and Pearl Jam. "Well, my experience was with Doug Sahm and Albert King and Willie Nelson and Albert Collins and Lou Ann [Barton] and all those," Moore says. "I'm glad I had that. It has been a little bit of an albatross, because it's not necessarily my generation. But if I was around and Miles Davis was there and Nirvana was there, I would have opted for Miles Davis, because even though I'm a huge Nirvana fan, I just think these people are legends."
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With his upcoming live album, Moore hopes to continue forging his own identity, independent of all the influences -- both the real ones and those merely perceived by others. "The thing that I'm working on with this live record is kind of rootsy, but it's trippy on top of it. And it's my own thing," he explains.
The acoustic shows, on the other hand, are a result of his relocation to the Seattle area. "When I moved up here, I had no agenda when it came to playing music. When I actually started playing, I didn't really have anyone to play with, so I started just doing acoustic shows by nature. And I started realizing that it wasn't quite as terrible as I always thought it was," he says with a small laugh. "Whenever I was on tour, I'd have to go play acoustic at a radio station, and I just didn't dig it. But after doing it on stage, I was like, I need to come down and do it in Texas, because people would really dig it, and it shows a different side to what I am doing."
Moore has discovered the real benefit of doing things his own way: profits. The only record he's ever made money on is the one he put out on his own label, which, believe it or not, outsold the more accessible And All the Colors
So Ian Moore has learned how to remain self-sufficient, and is happier for it. "Maybe I've thrown everything away. But the thing is, I've always stood for the same stuff," he insists. "I've evolved and I've changed, and I'm obviously not playing as many guitar solos as I was. But it's essentially the same type of songwriting and the same type of singing. I've been generally the same sort of artist throughout my career. But what happens is that people start to push you in a certain direction. And I think there's a lot of decisions that artists have to make during their career, and there's a lot of compromises put in front of you. And I guess it's really a matter of when you take the bait and when you don't. And I guess I've never had a compromise that was right for me."