Allison Moorer Talks About Her New Album CrowsCrows

Nearly 12 years ago, singer-songwriter Allison Moorer made an unforgettable introduction with her contribution of the thoughtful ballad, “A Soft Place to Fall,” to the soundtrack of the Robert Redford-directed drama, The Horse Whisperer, which later earned her an Academy Award nomination.

On her new album, Crows, she hints at a hidden optimism that sometimes is ignored or forgotten: “I gotta turn you away so I can keep this hope alive/You’re tapping on the window but I won’t let you inside/Maybe you’ll give up and find somebody else tonight/I draw the curtains, say a prayer and turn out the light.”

Along the way, Moorer went on to carefully craft a long-lasting career with her impressive debut album, Alabama Song, while challenging herself to always look inward for an even deeper meaning -- which she certainly explored on Miss Fortune (2002) and The Duel (2004). In 2007, Moorer received a Grammy nomination for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals for “Days Aren’t Long Enough,” a song co-written with her husband, singer-songwriter Steve Earle.

But only now does Moorer admit that she feels as if she’s figuring out what she’s doing. Such cool confidence breathes easy on her seventh studio album, Crows.

“I felt like I was being the most open I’d ever been,” says Moorer about her songwriting process. “I don’t know if that’s age or confidence or what, but after all this time, I’m starting to feel like I know what I’m doing as a singer.”

Listen to Allison's newest CD at  at allisonmoorer.com or MySpace her.

Here, Moorer talks about her evolution as an artist, her past experience as part of the Nashville star-making machine, and her childhood memories of singing harmony with sister Shelby Lynne in the boonies of Alabama.Allison Moorer

Q: How was making this album different from your past albums? The sound is very different — less country twang and more torchy-smolder.  The sound is actually hard to categorize — it has elements of country, rock, pop, and even classical.
Allison Moorer: The music I like tends to be hard to categorize. I like the things that fall between the cracks. I was very relaxed about the process this time, and I didn’t do any forcing. I wasn’t under the gun in any way. I didn’t even have a label when I wrote this record, so I was just following my heart. Feeling so at ease, I think I wanted to make a quieter record.

Q: Although you were originally marketed as a country artist out of Nashville, your music has always been a bit left-of-center
AM: I knew I was an odd duck in the country music world. I just wasn’t going for what the mainstream artist was going for. For a while, I asked myself, “What is it that’s making me so different?” I thought, “Well, obviously, they went to Big Star School, and I didn’t get in.” When I put out my first album, I was 26 and really cute, but I knew then that it was going to be hard for me to put a dent in the system. Even though I had great support from the label, it just wasn’t a good situation for me to always be comparing myself to other artists. I’m a girl with a guitar who writes her own songs and goes out  and sings them. This is my art, this is my blood. I didn’t want to sit around a conference table talking about it. Since I’ve left that situation, I’ve been at labels where art is a priority.

Q: Of course it’s great for an artist to be able to make the kind of music they want to make.  But did you ever also want to be a big star as well?
AM: Everyone wants to be appreciated and recognized, otherwise you’d never crawl upon a stage. I’m not denying that I like getting attention and praise for what I do. I also know that in certain circumstances, you have to get honest with yourself--is it really worth it if 25 people show up for a place that holds 200? But I just can’t not do this. Sure, I want to be as known as I can. I’ve always wanted to be as successful as I can be doing the music I’m proud of. 

Q: Whatever your experience in the country music world, your voice definitely suited that sound. Yet on Crows, it seems that the songs you’ve written help you explore other parts of your voice that I’ve never heard before. It’s like discovering a whole new artist.
AM: Singing is very mysterious to me. Part of singing is thinking about what you’re doing, and part of it is letting go. There are so many ways you can go with different songs, and I’m really interested in writing those kinds of songs. I had my days where I played the electric guitar and belted it out. I’m in a different place. To me, singing is about conveying a feeling to someone who’s listening that they didn’t know they had. There’s a great quote I read once that a great singer is one that sings our silences. I’m someone who hates the American Idol-ization of music where singing has become like spinning plates.Allison Moorer

Q: The title song on Crows is a beautiful summation of many of the emotions that you convey on this record. It’s a funny but ominous story about a time when you spotted crows lurking outside your window. You have a kind of child-like wonder at their presence but you also worry that they’re a bad omen.
AM: Creating that song helped me tap into the younger me, the child me. So many of my days were spent playing the piano and goofing off. That song sounds like goofing off to me. People have this perception that I’m incredibly serious, but this is the truest musical statement I’ve ever recorded, the closest to who I am than any of my past songs.

Q: I know you’ve written songs about your childhood before, particularly about losing your mother when you were a young girl. There are two songs on Crows that draw on your childhood memories of her.
AM: Obviously, I draw on my childhood a lot, and it has provided me with a lot of inspiration for what I do artistically. But I wanted to write something that reflected a sweeter time. The truth of it is that my childhood wasn’t all bad. I did have this amazing mother that I wanted to pay tribute to. I also wanted to write about my relationship with my sister; we’re very close, and we always have been. We were really all the other one had. We lived out in the sticks, and we’d always entertain each other, singing songs together.

Q: “The Stars and I (Mama’s Song)” is a gorgeous lullaby about your mother shining down her love on you.
AM: The song came from a dream I had about my mother. She relayed this message to me, and I put it in the lyric.

Q: You’ve written songs with your husband, Steve Earle, and he produced your album Getting Somewhere in 2006. How is it having two singer-songwriters living in the same household?
AM: Living with another artist is not always easy. Artists by nature take up all the space. But it’s very inspiring for me to live with an artist who is as committed to his art as Steve is. He kicks my ass. I need that. He’s a very powerful artist who supports me like you wouldn’t believe. And he loves me—that’s ground zero.

Q: I imagine most of your fans know that your sister is Shelby Lynne. For those of us like me that are big fans of both of you, we’d love to know if you’ve ever thought of doing an album together.
AM: We’ve talked about it, and we continue to talk about it. We also talk about going out and doing some dates together. It’s something that people have really wanted to see. We’ve talked about maybe doing some dates in the fall, a few months after I have the baby.

Q: I have several gay friends who are fans of yours. Are you conscious of having a gay fanbase?
AM: You know, I was sitting at a meeting at my label, and I was asked the question, “Who is your audience?” If I ever figure that out, I’m dead. I never want to be pandering to any one group. When I look out at my audience, I see everybody — young, old, straight couples, gay couples. And I’ve definitely met plenty of gay fans when they’ve come up to me at different times, like outside the tour bus. They tell me how my music has helped them. It doesn’t matter who you are —I ’m like, “Come on. The more the merrier.”

Q: Any thoughts gay marriage?
AM: Yes.  I’m open to most things, particularly when it comes to love. I mean, I live in the West Village in New York City. I’m right in the middle of it all.

Listen to Allison's newest CD at  at allisonmoorer.com or MySpace her.

 

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