The Dream: Nathan Moore continues evolution as one of American music scene’s best-kept secrets
“About five minutes into mowing the backyard, I had this song coming to me, and I was singing it mowing the yard. And then I got into something else, and I forgot about it. A few weeks later, I went to mow the yard again, and as soon as I got back into it, it came back to me. Something about the rhythm of the motor and the seat under me that clicked the song into place,” said Moore, the 2008 winner of the prestigious Troubadour Contest at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival that helped launch the careers of The Dixie Chicks and Nickel Back, among others.
Moore is an Augusta County native who played his first live gig in Staunton at 15 and dropped out of college a few years later with a one-way ticket to Austin, Texas, in his pocket. There he formed a band and later cofounded an independent record label before returning to the Valley in 2006 to begin work on a solo career that has taken off in the wake of the Telluride Troubadour honor coming his way.
“That was quite a moment for me affirming my dream,” said Moore, 38.
The versatile (he has played in a jam band, string band and rock band, and today evokes the throaty, soulful, almost wistful heyday of Bob Dylan or early Bruce Springsteen) and prolific (17 albums all told) Moore lets inspiration serve as his muse. Songs come like the whirr of a lawnmower on a weekend afternoon. “It’s a very elusive and mysterious thing to talk about it,” Moore said. “At the best, when you do have those moments where the song is coming, I still get a huge rush off it, just like I did when I was a kid. To feel a song coming is just as much of a rush now as it has ever been. You feel like people saying they feel like they’re a conduit, that something is passing through them. I wouldn’t necessarily say that that’s true, but it does feel like that,” Moore said.
And Moore is a tinkerer at heart. “Last night I rewrote a song that was about 8 years old,” he said at one point in our mid-April interview. “I was thinking about how many nice tunes are sitting on a shelf because even as small as one line that upsets a thing or a verse that was awkward. I was just playing this song, and I was saying to myself, Why don’t you ever play this song? And I realized, It’s because you don’t like the second verse. And I rewrote the second verse and sort of brought it back to life.”
His favorite song seems yet to come. “Sometimes it’s songs that I never knew what they were about, or never quite understood why I wrote it, and then I’ll get to a moment where I realize, That’s just the perfect song right now. Sometimes it’ll take a year or two for a song to find the right place to truly be what it can be. That’s the first answer,” Moore said.
“The second answer is the last song I wrote. There’s something to our evolution as craftsmen. There is some parts of this that get better over time. It makes sense that you would like the latest things you did the best in terms of evolution,” Moore said.
– Story by Chris Graham