Allison Moorer – It really puts you in that place
ND: When listening to your albums, sometimes they seem cinematic in that there are characters evoked that seem to be a composite of someone I may have seen in a movie or something. Like Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection, which is like that, starting with the great artwork. Big landscapes with well-defined characters inhabiting the space.
AM: That’s kind of the way I see records too. I usually think of music in a visual or cinematic way I especially see colors when I listen. I communicate about music that way as well. For instance, I’ll say, “Make the drums more brown,” or, “The guitar tone needs to be a little more red.” And if you’re working with people who have basically the same aesthetics as you, it can be a pretty effective way of expressing what you want.
And we do like to write about characters. That started with the second album, The Hardest Part, because we wanted to do something that had a connecting theme. We wanted to tell a story, a concept record, and we took our experience and wrote those songs, but we were really writing about a love story. It’s storytelling; songwriting is just storytelling, and “I love you, you don’t love me” gets boring. I want to write “Louise Is In The Blue Moon” because I think it’s more interesting than just the same old thing hacked out one more time. We always come back to love — that’s what everybody writes about because it’s the great wonder — but there’s all different kinds of love.
ND: I like the way “Louise Is In The Blue Moon” kicks right off with a great cinematic character with the line, “The Coolville County sheriff got tired of southern charm, so he traded in his lonesome badge for a lady on his arm.” And then later the plot thickens as “the handsome river boat gambler is holed up in some hotel dealing with new players who know the game too well.”
AM: The people in that song are all people we know. They really do exist.
V. I’M STILL IN LOVE WITH COUNTRY MUSIC
ND: I understand in the studio that you and Butch usually come to the same conclusion pretty quickly. Is the songwriting process the same way?
AM: Yeah, mostly. There are times when we wrestle over certain things, but not many, really. That’s not because we aren’t both strong-willed and stubborn, because we are, but it’s because we trust each other and are on the same page musically.
I don’t think I could have a partnership with anyone that wasn’t into anything except what I’m into. We like the same music and we have the same goals in mind. We’re pretty agreeable on everything. We listen to the same things together most of the time, so we kind of absorb different things at the same time.
ND: Seems like that would create a kind of shorthand when it comes to trying to communicate ideas.
AM: He’s great and I think we make a good team because I have my strengths and weaknesses, and has his as well. But after ten years we know each other so well that we know when to say, “I’m going to make you believe I’m right on this.” (Laughs) But really if you have that trust, and we do, then you can just go with it.
ND: This record was produced by the two of you and R.S. Field. How did R.S fit into the mix? He seems like a strong personality with definite ideas too.
AM: We weren’t sure that we were going to work with R.S. on this one just because we didn’t know exactly what kind of record we wanted to do. We kind of knew what we didn’t want, if you know what I mean, but as we started collecting the songs and trying to figure it out, we just both knew that it had to be R.S.
He can do so many different things. Miss Fortune, the last studio album we did with him, has a variety of styles on it, and he really can do it all. Plus we both really like being around him, and he makes me comfortable. And if you are friends with somebody and you love them and like being around them and they can do the job, well it doesn’t take me long to look at a horseshoe.
ND: Did this album turn out the way you had heard it in your head?
AM: Yes, it’s definitely the most fully realized as what we heard in our head and actually coming out the way you always hope that they will. But it can be a difficult process. Maybe it was just luck because we are still learning as we go.
When I made my first record, I had no idea what I was doing. I still don’t know, but I know a lot more than I did then. And that’s not to say I don’t still like the first album because I do; it was who I was at that time. I was a person in love with what I felt true country music was, and that’s the kind of record we tried to make.
And I’m still in love with country music, but I’m in love with it for different reasons now, and I want to go at it from a different angle. I am country, I can’t deny that. There is a real big element of country in the way I write and how I sing and all that, but I happen to also think that “Wild Horses” is country too.
ND: The idea of passionate people that are serious about what this town once was and can be again is exciting to someone that gets into the ongoing history of it all. Why do you think there has been such a creative void on Music Row for the last several years?
AM: It’s just that most of those companies are in the business of selling records, which is fine. But we, and others like us, are into making records and playing music for reasons that are not driven by whatever the latest marketing trend is. That seems like a natural thing, but it doesn’t follow “the plan,” or whatever you want to call it, as it’s been set. And that can make it difficult sometimes.
But you know, either you are an artist or you are a flat tire. I believe Charles Bukowski said that.