Daniel Martin Moore
- Article by: Cory Taylor Cox/Erin Manning | Photos courtesy of DMM
- Posted: 08/17/2012
Daniel Martin Moore is a rare case. This performing songwriter broke the cycle that aspiring musicians are all too familiar with: demo submissions -- the most dispiriting and typically pointless practice an independent artist can become preoccupied with. In 2007 the box of broken dreams let one slide through its relentless cracks when Moore submitted an unsolicited demo of his work to Stuart Meyer at Sub Pop records. He was subsequently offered an opportunity by Meyer and, as they always say, the rest is history.
Stray Age, Moore’s first full-length album, debuted in 2008 and was recorded and co-produced by Joe Chiccarelli (The Shins, U2, White Stripes). A few other familiar names also contributed their talents to the creation of this collection of intimate folk songs including Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck), Petra Haden (Beck), and singer-songwriter Jesca Hoop. The latter, (who more recently toured in 2011 as a back-up singer for Peter Gabriel), blended her vocals beneath Moore’s for added finesse on “The Old Measure” and “Restoration Sketches.”
“Jesca has a keen ear for harmony, and I really like her music,” explains Moore. “She's a breeze to work with in the studio and offered up so many great harmony ideas & choices. I was very happy when she agreed to sing on a few of the tunes on Stray Age.”
In 2010, Moore paired with cellist, songwriter and Kentucky-native Ben Sollee for a project with a purpose. Dear Companion was released with the hope of drawing attention to the plaguing practice of mountain top removal, an ecologically destructive method used for coal mining. Jim James of My Morning Jacket produced the album.
“Jim is an oracle,” states Moore, continuing, “his creativity is boundless. Working with him and Ben at the same time was dizzying, as Ben is a ceaseless innovator and brimming over with creativity himself.”
Moore recounts the process for Dear Companion as the first time he had ever written a song with another person. Spending several days locked away in a cabin with Sollee to work on arrangements, the two then brought ideas to James who clicked the pieces into place. Bolstered by keyboards, spectacular harmonies, and heightened cello sections, the re-imagined album sprung to life.
“I love both of these guys like family. My favorite parts were probably the tea, the laughs, and the sense that we were doing something important together and for others.”
Also a resident of the “Great Commonwealth of Kentucky,” Moore said other southern musical cites like Nashville and Austin are great places to work and visit, but can’t compare to home. Mostly a fan of the wilderness, Moore still has much to say about the city of Louisville’s blossoming music scene. “It’s on fire right now!” Although there are many key elements in motion, Moore contributes part of the buzz to the golden ears of recording engineer Kevin Ratterman.
“He’s responsible for capturing and nurturing so much of the incredible music happening in the city, and one of the reasons it all sounds so good.”
In the Cool of the Day, a poignant collection of church hymns, was completed in 2011. With little to hide behind but his sparse guitar, Moore’s vocals are genuine and pure as he sings the standards. With a somber sound that embodies old time Appalachia, Moore’s recordings posses the tendency to slow heartbeats and open the eyes of listeners. Simple instrumentation makes room for strong songwriting, chronicled by Moore’s soft vocals.
A southern son who sings old-time spirituals, it is unsurprising that Moore contributes his musical tastes to a few obvious names. “Jean Ritchie & Johnny Cash are two real big influences. I love their music & their outlooks.”
But Moore often pulls from other not-so-well-known sources of inspiration, including late 19th century Japanese scholar Okakura Kakuz, author of The Book of Tea, and Scottish poet and songwriter Ivor Cutler. Moore also lists “writing paper that feels good, fire and stars at the same time, and tending to trees” as current muses.
“If we don't start getting some rain soon, I may have to become a full-time tree-waterer,” jokes Moore, suggesting that will occupy his time for the remainder of 2012. Even though Sub Pop coaxed him from graduate school and his studies on sustainable rural development, he is still in tune with the immediate needs of the world around him.
On the musical horizon, Moore plans to tour Europe in the fall with Joan Shelley for shows supporting their new duo album Farthest Field. The album was released in May 2012 on a new record label, Ol Kentuck, pioneered by Moore himself. In the meantime he’s still kicking around ideas for even more upcoming projects.
“Should be a full and beautiful year.”