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Music: The Moore You Know

An unsolicited demo lands Daniel Martin Moore on Sub Pop

By Hannah Roberts · July 16th, 2008 · Music
  Daniel Martin Moore
Jonathan Willis

Daniel Martin Moore

If you're a faithful follower of Cincy-born music, then you have probably been perusing Sub Pop's Web site lately in the hopes that the Afghan Whigs have agreed to play the record label's jam-packed 20th anniversary festival. And you likely already know that there's only disappointment to be found on that front. What you may not have noticed is that another, less-storied (at least to date) local name has made his way onto the roster of one of Indie Rock's most cherished labels.

Daniel Martin Moore lives just across the river in his hometown of Cold Spring, Ky. He's a quiet and mannerly person, someone who'd rather observe. He spends time with the people he's known forever. He takes photographs of things that he finds interesting, and he makes slow-burning, self-assured Folk music.

Moore knew very little about Sub Pop -- or any record label, for that matter -- when he sent out his demo "cold" in January of last year.

"I knew that Sub Pop was widely respected and as I started listening to some of their artists, I thought, 'This is something that I could really get into,' " says Moore.

The feeling was mutual, according to Sub Pop's Stuart Meyer, who recalls playing Moore's demo for a room full of A&R representatives who were immediately drawn to its understated depth.

"I can't remember the last time an artist was signed (to Sub Pop) like that, from an unsolicited demo -- if ever," says Meyer. "That usually doesn't happen."

Likening Moore to famously unassuming songwriters like Chet Baker and Nick Drake, Meyer says, "We all took to his voice right away; it was easy to tell that there was something going on there."

Moore's first record -- Stray Age, slated for release this October -- was three-quarters complete when he got a phone call from Joe Chiccarelli, the famed Los Angeles producer whose 30-plus-year résumé includes names like Frank Zappa, The Shins and My Morning Jacket.

While admittedly somewhat taken aback, Moore found himself immediately comfortable working with the prolific producer.

"Joe is not a producer who has a 'sound,' " says Moore. "It's not like going into the studio with, say, a Phil Spector, where you know you're going to make a Phil Spector record. (Chiccarelli) brings to life exactly what the artist wants."

Moore says there was no question of creative control in making Stray Age.

"(Sub Pop) would say things like, 'What about this?' or 'How might this sound?' but no one ever pushed me in a direction that I hadn't already considered," he says.

"There's a song on the record, for example, that's called 'That'll Be the Plan' -- I'd always heard drums on that song, but," he says, smiling sheepishly, "I didn't have any drums."

Moore was even allowed to bring members of his own posse along for his first L.A. recording sessions. In addition to a few high school buddies, Moore's brother, whom he describes as being "as good a musician as anyone I met in the studio," plays piano on the record. That's quite a compliment, considering that the support for Stray Age provided by Sub Pop included heavyweights like violinist/singer Petra Haden (who has collaborated with Beck, Weezer, The Decemberists and the Twilight Singers, among others) and Victor Indrizzo, a studio drummer similarly well known for his big name associations.

But Moore is a person who is neither intimidated by nor terribly attracted to things that glitter. His music, like his personality, is patient. His voice is low and beautiful, giving ample leeway to the instruments that accentuate it. In songs like "Flyrock Blues," he speak-sings in soft tones, his words and inflection secondary to the flicks of acoustic guitar that tell the real story. Despite its wisdom and inescapable melancholy, however, Stray Age is miles from "sad bastard." Moore might not cite Loudon Wainwright III or Willie Nelson in his list of musical inspirations, but their offerings of simple-yet-layered Folk as gentle commentary are clearly not lost on his subconscious, a nuance manifested on the softly swaying " Every Color and Kind."

Acknowledging the very slight increase in attention that he's received from other area musicians since signing to the label, Moore reports that he's "never been part of a music crowd ... to my knowledge."

He's amused, as a matter of fact, at the concept of a "scene," and confesses that he has yet to seek out any niche in music, local or otherwise.

"I'm from further south," he jokes. "I barely even go across the river."

Moore's career outlook restates his own time-tested strategy: Take it easy and see what happens.

"Would I love to be making records forever? Absolutely; who wouldn't?" he says. "I never really saw myself here, so I'm excited to see what else might happen."©

DANIEL MARTIN MOORE (myspace.com/danielmartinmoore) plays free shows at the Southgate House Lounge this Wednesday, July 23 and July 30. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.



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