Kip Moore’s voice sounds raspier than usual over the phone during our CMT.com interview.
He is on a tour bus on his way to one of his final shows of the year in Peoria, Illinois, after a trip to Washington, D.C. While there, he performed as part of the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize tribute to living legend Smokey Robinson.
“Smokey is one of my all-time favorites,” Moore husked. “And Motown is my favorite music ever. To be hanging out with Smokey, [Motown Records founder] Berry Gordy and these people who are living, walking legends, that’s the first time I felt nerves in a long time. To walk out and sing ‘I Second That Emotion,’ in front of Smokey was just exhilarating and scary … all at the same time. It was powerful and one of my favorite nights I’ve ever had.”
Motown melodies were the soundtrack of my early childhood..thank god I had 2 parents with solid musical taste, because those melodies shaped me in more ways than I could count. Smokey has been a vessel of joy for so many people throughout the years with an uncanny ability to break down all inhibitions…surreal night for me being such a Motown fan.
Moore’s 2016 tour schedule officially wraps on Dec. 10 at Joe’s Live in Rosemont, Illionois, and he admits he’s feeling pretty beat down after a year of non-stop touring. When talk turned to his latest Underground EP, which was released on Oct. 28, he said he wanted to release a few fan favorites to tide them over until his next album was ready.
“You haven’t really heard the new music yet,” Moore said. “The EP is just something to hold people over until I get the new music out from the new record I’ve made. There’s no correlation between the two projects. We did it straight through the soundboard at sound check so there’s no tricks. It was all bare bones. If you hit a bad note and it sounds like shit, then it’s going to show up so you’ve got to be on your game.”
CMT.com: Do you like recording like that, capturing a performance versus building a song on the spot?
Moore: I like doing both. There’s something exciting about doing it the way we did it because you have to get it right. It’s just a nerve-wracking but an exhilarating feeling at the same time knowing that you’re going to put out a body of work and there might be mistakes. But you’re putting yourself out there.
What kind of stories are you looking to tell on the next album?
So far I don’t feel like I’ve set out to be like, “OK, this record is going to be about this.” I let the record tell me what it’s going to be about. This record started out as something a little different then it morphed into something else. There is some definite sorrow on this record for things I’ve kind of gone through in the last year. This record ended up exposing some things, and there’s definitely someone that has made a massive impact on my life and you feel that on this record.
So, it just takes you through where I’m at in my life right now. Like I said, I don’t set out to write a certain kind of record. The record finds me. I just let it happen. And that’s the thing. I’m kind of in a different place than I was six months ago. I’m still writing, and I’m still changing a little bit. I don’t have to turn it in until January.
So you’ve been recording between dates this year?
I have been. Yeah.
Who are you working with to bring out the best in you?
I’m producing the record. Some of the new songwriters I’ve been working with are Andy Garcia, Josh Miller and Steven Lee Olsen. Then I’ve got a lot of the usual suspects — Troy Verges, Blair Daly, Westin Davis and Dan Couch. My songwriting circle has always been kind of small. It’s been a blast writing this record I probably had the most fun writing this one.
I co-produced the first two albums. But this is the first time I’ve done solo production and I’m owning every bit of it. I loved doing records with Brett James, and I might get back with Brett on the next album. This is just something I wanted to do on my own this time around. But I’ve had a blast doing this record so far.
Going back to “Me and My Kind” on the EP, I heard The Cars and a little bit of Bruce Springsteen. Talk about taking the risk of creating something that’s not expected.
I feel like you can do one or two things as an artist. You can drive your car in the safe lane your whole career. Yeah, you might have a good career. And if you stay in that safe lane, I think for the most part, people will have an indifferent feeling about you. They might like your stuff, but I feel like to ever do anything — I want to make that clear: I’m not saying that I am doing something extraordinary — but if you’re ever striving to be great at what you do, you have to be willing to look like an idiot. You have to be willing to fall on your face. I’m not scared to do that.
There are people who are going to hate what I do. There are also going to be people who are going to love what I do. And I think that’s been very evident with Wild Ones. It kind of threw me for a loop. I had a ton of radio success with the first record and then I didn’t have much radio success, commercial success with the second. Yet my fan base continued to grow in big numbers. Honestly, the best ticket sales I’ve ever done were this fall. You can build a foundation out of straw or you can build it out of solid concrete, and I think that’s what we’re doing as a band.
Samuel L. Jackson hosts the all-star Gershwin Prize Tribute to Smokey Robinson on Feb. 10 on PBS. The show will feature additional performances by Gordy, Aloe Blacc, Gallant, CeeLo Green, JoJo, Ledisi, Tegan Marie, Corinne Bailey Rae, Esperanza Spalding, the Tenors and BeBe Winans.