Kentucky singer-songwriter Daniel Martin Moore will be performing at Schubas on Tuesday, December 8th in support of his most recent album Golden Age (Sofaburn Records) –a dreamy, soft-spoken collection co-produced by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James.
Moore has kept busy supporting Golden Age, managing his own record label OK Recordings, and getting into the holiday spirit with this week’s release of his new single, “It’s Christmas”.
The Chicago Ambassador had a chance to catch up with him this weekend in anticipation of his Chicago show. Interviewed by James Clarke for The Chicago Ambassador.
CA) Between WKU’s Award winning Lost River Sessions; the rise of Owensboro’s ROMP; and the continued success of Louisville’s Forecastle Festival—is it fair to say it’s good to be a musician in the Commonwealth these days?
MOORE) Yes that seems fair, but I would say that Kentucky has always been rich & fertile ground for music and art. Perhaps it’s just that these great events are allowing for more people from other places to catch a glimpse of it.
CA) Your latest album Golden Age is produced by Jim James of My Morning Jacket, who–along with Zak Appleby of Houndmouth (A Louisville regular from New Albany, IN) and Joan Shelley, also contributes musically. What is it that keeps the Kentucky music fraternity so tight?
MOORE) The common denominator that in that crew would be engineer & wonderful human Kevin Ratterman. His studio, LaLaLand, is a place around which many musicians orbit.
CA) You’re reputed not only for your musical collaborations, but also for your activism. Proceeds from 2010’s Dear Companion, a collaboration with Jim James and Ben Sollee among others, were donated to Appalachian Voices, an environmental organization working to stop mountain top removal and mining. Would you talk about the aims and successes of that project?
MOORE) One of our hopes with Dear Companion was to shine what ever light we could on the fact that this thing known as MTR is happening – that it even exists. It’s a fairly well hidden public health & environmental disaster on an unfathomable scale, and we all felt, and still feel, that if folks just learn that it’s happening, even just see photographs of it, then the tide will eventually turn against it and put a stop to it. Over the last few years there has been a lot a momentum building against MTR, and we are just one small voice in that growing chorus, the foundation for which was laid by countless volunteers and community members speaking out, testing their own water, holding the giant corporations accountable for their near-continuous violation of our nations laws.
CA) What is the current state of mountain top mining throughout the region?
MOORE) It’s still happening on a breathtaking & heartbreaking scale. Hundreds of mountains have been destroyed in central Appalachia and thousands of miles of streams have been buried & poisoned.
CA) Another organization you’ve actively supported is Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. Tell us about the organization and some of its recent campaigns.
MOORE) KFTC works on several fronts and the most notable victory they’ve shared in lately is the restoration of voting rights for former felons. Many folks who have served their time, paid their debt to society, can now reclaim their right to participate in our democracy. Kentucky was one of only 3 states that still had serious road-blocks in place for its citizens who had served time. As of last week, we’ve become that much more democratic & inclusive, and that feels pretty good.
CA) Your previous work has been inspired by gospel music and hymns, mountain preservation—what was the inspiration for Golden Age?
MOORE) We’re fortunate to be alive. We’re fortunate to be together. It really gets no better than that, despite whatever problems there may be, it’s important to be grateful for our time & our loved ones. That’s the spirit of that song, and in many ways, that album.
CA) Is the title reflective of how you see yourself at this stage of your career?
MOORE) Not at all, I was thinking in much more personal, immediate terms.
CA) Your label Ol’ Kentuck Recordings made its debut in 2011. Would you tell us a bit about the label and any projects that are underway?
MOORE) OK Recordings is a micro label with a big heart. We’ve had the honor to work with some extraordinary musicians – Joan Shelley, Dan Dorff, Jr., Maiden Radio – and I hope we can continue to do interesting & beautiful albums for many years to come. As for the latest OK news, we just released a new original Christmas song into the wild this week. The band & I will be playing it at our shows for the rest of the year.
CA) Musician. Activist. Producer. High school teacher? I heard an interview where you mentioned you’d been a high school teacher while in the Peace Corps in Cameroon….and said it was cool. What subject? If you had the opportunity to teach high school again—this time in the Commonwealth of Kentucky—what would you hope students took away from a class with Daniel Martin Moore, high school teacher?
MOORE) I would hope that people would leave the class encouraged toward inquiry, with their senses of wonder & curiosity fortified & nourished.