Finding balance in life can be tricky, everyone is constantly being pulled in multiple directions. Ian Moore is no different, the singer songwriter is constantly working on projects involving more than just songwriting and performing.
He will be returning to Houston on Thursday, February 20 to play the Heights Theater with fellow blues player, Sue Foley. “I just remember kinda growing up together,” he says of his friendship with Foley. “We’ve known each other for so long. She was amazing when she got here but she’s gotten so good.”
The two were around in the same circles, playing blues in Austin and running with the Antone’s crowd. Moore may have jump started his career playing blues in Austin, but the artist has gone on to record fourteen albums and to be known for expanding the blues rock sound to include other genres.
He describes growing up in Austin and going to live concerts with his parents, absorbing music and experiences that went beyond labels, which all went on to inspire his songwriting and style. “I really as an artist believe in the free flow of whoever you are,” says Moore.
“I'm just echoing that in my music as organically as possible. I try not to think about it, I just try to do what feels authentic and real and hope that people feel that on the back end. To me there’s no difference between a super cerebral, art rock, quiet song and a butt-shaking, psychedelic blues rock thing, it's all the same thing to me.”
Though he creates without being tied to the rules of a genre, he sees the benefits of using labels to explain music to others and give people an idea of what sound to expect from an artist. Moore reflects on a time before we had access to unlimited amounts of information and the pull to categorize art.
“It's my job to try to not think that way,” he admits. “It’s a chef's job to think outside of the box and turn you on to something maybe you haven’t eaten before. It’s my job to try to not think in those binary terms, be a little more open ended and hopefully inspire some people and lift them up because that’s what we need, that’s what I need.”
Many years ago, Moore took some advice from Iggy Pop to heart and he continues to apply it to his daily life while juggling his roles on stage and behind the scenes to empower artists, whether it’s working on his songwriting workshops or with legislation to protect the rights of songwriters.
“I'm paraphrasing here because it was quite a few years ago, but he said ‘to breath out you have to breath in.’ If you really want to breath out with fierce breath, you have to have a fierce breath in as well, so a lot of my life is about balancing what I feel like is a very intense life,” he says.
Moore has been working not only on new music, but a larger project in his hometown to help musicians in the Seattle area which he now calls home. He founded SMASH, the Seattle Musicians Access to Sustainable Healthcare in an effort to help improve the quality of life for artists and hopefully allow them to continue living in cities where the cost of living doesn’t stack up to their incomes as artists.
Moore took inspiration from Austin’s HAAM, “I think it has really saved Austin at a time when it’s been just ridiculously expensive and crowded but musicians, as hard as it is, are still able to live there.”
“It's a really, really tough time for music. A career in music has never been easy, it's always been hard, but it has never been this hard. It's unfair and the reason it's unfair is because outside all of the changes, the legislation that is happening,”
Moore has also been using his role from within the Recording Academy to advocate for changes in legislation to protect artists and secure them fair compensation in the age of digital streaming. It was through his efforts within the Academy that Moore helped to get the Music Modernization Act passed.
“Those are things you learn as you get older. When you’re young you’re just like, ‘fuck the system!’ and you want to fight it and you make all these really big statements but the reality is, you have to learn how to work from within the system in order to effect change,” says Moore.
Meaningful change takes time and for artists like Moore to continue to survive or for newer artists to come up, the system has to give. It won’t change without people like Moore working from the inside lines to implement the changes needed.
“It's really important for people that consider themselves to be music fans to educate themselves on what's going on and also to support independent artists and live music because I think we all take it for granted cause its been there our whole life.”
Another project Moore uses to balance his energy are his songwriting workshops where songwriters can spend some time away from distractions and refine their craft. “It's interesting, it is a songwriting workshops/how to get in touch with yourself, because to write songs you gotta have some space to get really in touch with where you're coming from.” His next workshop will be in the Texas hill country in April.
Moore constantly juggles his side projects while making a conscious effort to not lose sight of what he’s really about, his songwriting. Between 2016 and 2018, Moore released three distinct projects: Strange Days, Toronto and The Noble Art.
His next project he admits will take more time, “I'm really taking some time to think about it and what it is that I have to say that’s unique and what’s my voice now. When you start thinking like that, it can slow down your writing process. I think I'm starting to see what might be my next record.”
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Moore knows he has die hard fans who identify him more with his early work but he’s never been afraid to branch out. Songs like “Muddy Jesus” may have gotten his career rolling in the ‘90s but the more modern sounds in “Strange Days” help Moore take further steps into the current landscape of music.
“There's a lot of songs from my first couple of records that are in the set every night and I love playing them, but also those songs are ones that made a really big impact. I try do my best to balance my catalog but its hard because the records are so different.”
Ian Moore will perform with Sue Foley Thursday, February 20 at The Heights Theater, 339 W. 19th. Doors open at 7 p.m. $28.