Band: John Moreland, Caleb Caudle
Date: Wednesday, June 3 at 7 p.m.
Venue: Callaghan’s Irish Social Club, 916 Charleston St., www.callaghansirishsocialclub.com
Singer-songwriter John Moreland is once again bringing a taste of Oklahoma to the Azalea City. Like a Midwest William Faulkner, Moreland entertains his audiences with musical snapshots of life told with a raw voice full of gravel and experience. When Moreland arrives in the OGD, he will share songs from his latest album, “High Tulsa Heat,” which is being lauded by critics and fans as his finest work yet. When Moreland spoke with Lagniappe, he provided some insight into both his craft and his varied career.
Centanni: The thing that blows my mind about your career is that you spent a large amount of time in the hardcore punk scene before doing the singer-songwriter stuff you do now. What made you want to make that shift?
John Moreland: It was really just a musical decision. Well, I wouldn’t say that it was a decision. It was a feeling. Hardcore was not really doing it for me anymore, and I was burnt out. The music didn’t feel exciting. For whatever reason, going back to the stuff that my dad listened to around the house when I was a kid, like Neil Young and [Creedence Clearwater Revival], felt really exciting to me. So, I gravitated back to that.
Centanni: You used the term “exciting,” which is ironic to me. When you think about the energy and emotion that goes with hardcore and then consider what you do now, what do you think is the most exciting aspect of what you do?
Moreland: The most exciting aspect to me is the lyrics. You can say something and say the same thing in a hardcore song, and it won’t have the same impact. When you can understand the words and the right words are put to the right melody, it can take on a greater meaning and have a bigger impact than just the words themselves. That’s what I found exciting about it.
Centanni: You’re from Oklahoma, and it’s a focal point in your music in a lot of ways. What is it about Oklahoma that made you want to concentrate on it in your songs?
Moreland: I don’t know. I think that’s not really something that I gave much thought to. It just naturally happened, because it’s home. You write about what you know. I write songs for pretty personal reasons, so I’ve never really been real concerned with trying to make them universal. I just write about life. I guess Oklahoma just kinda shows up a lot in (my) lyrics.
Centanni: You grew up in a conservative Southern Baptist family. How do you think that affected you as an artist?
Moreland: It’s just another thing that I didn’t give much thought to. I think it seeps in there because it’s in my psyche. When you’re raised in that environment, you’re still working all that stuff out in your head when you’re 30 years old. Also, it’s the language. I’ve learned to express myself in the language of the church, and it shows up in songs sometimes.
Centanni: When it comes to music, words like “organic” are overused. I’m definitely guilty of using that term, but I can’t think of any other way to describe what you do. Would you agree that your songwriting is simply a flowing, natural motion?
Moreland: I have trouble writing about a situation or a set of circumstances while I’m still in it. I need some time to have perspective. Then, I find that I can say something worthwhile about it. It’s looking back and writing about myself, but it feels like I’m writing about a character. Usually, it’s a past version of myself. A line or a couple of lines will come to me, and it will come with a melody that just sounds like it fits. Then, I’ll figure out what chords I want to put that melody on top of and work it out musically.
Centanni: “High on Tulsa Heat” is your third release, but it seems like it’s becoming your breakout album. Critics and fans are saying that it’s your best one yet. What do you think it is about this album that seems to connect with the masses more than your previous releases?
Moreland: I really don’t know. I just had to continue doing what I’ve always done. I write songs that make me feel good and record them in a way that suits me in a way that I like. It’s an accident, I think. I’m glad people are getting on board.
Centanni: Another thing I admire about this album is that it’s such a success, and it was pretty much DIY. You came up with the money through online fundraising. You were also the performer/engineer/producer on this album. Was it a hard process taking on all that?
Moreland: You know, I think everything fell into place, and I never really thought twice about doing things in a DIY fashion, because it’s how I learned to do things. Playing in punk bands, it’s an environment where nobody is going to help you. You have to take the reins and do it yourself. It’s pretty much how I’ve operated my whole career. It wasn’t really any different this time. The only thing that was different was doing the crowd-funding thing. I was always nervous about it. I’ve avoided doing it in the past, because I’ve had this fear that nobody will donate and end up with $12, because everybody hates me. That turned out to not be the case, and it got funded in two days. So, I didn’t have to worry about that, and everything turned out OK.
Centanni: I’m not alone in saying this, but “Cherokee” is my favorite track on the album.
Centanni: To me, every song is a story, so where did this story come from?
Moreland: That came from a dream I had. I just woke up and started writing it down. That’s probably the one that’s the most open to interpretation. That’s part of it coming from a dream. It wasn’t something [where] I woke up and remembered every detail involved. It was this hazy thing I was trying to recall. I like it that way. I don’t want to be too specific and spell it out. I want people to be able to put their own life into it and have it mean something different to everybody.
Centanni: With all the killer reviews and attention, all eyes are on you. So, what’s next?
Moreland: Touring a whole lot, but that would be the case no matter how the album did. I feel like that’s what I live for. It definitely makes it easier when you know people are excited and that there will be a few people at the show.