Ian Moore is an accomplished blues guitarist, singer/songwriter, and leader of The Ian Moore Band. Whether with the band or as a solo performer, he tours frequently and is well-known for his live shows.
Ian recently sat down with National Rock Review for his thoughts on his seventh Annual Acoustic Christmas Tour, his ambition and drive, and his plans for next year. He was gracious to spend the time as it was the last night of the tour, he had just performed 17 shows in 15 days, and he had a 9 am meeting the next day.
NRR: Another great show and thanks for taking the time to chat. First question, do you prefer acoustic or electric? Or does it matter to you?
Ian: Thank you and you’re welcome. To answer your question, the acoustic show is a completely different procedure. An acoustic show is all about intimacy; it’s all about vulnerability. You’re naked without a band, so you play for the powerful moments on stage.
NRR: Why did you start your acoustic tour?
Ian: It’s an opportunity to showcase a different side of me. That’s why I put together a completely different show for this tour.
NRR: What makes it so different?
Ian: No one else does it. I’m the only one who puts together a brand new show, a different show.
NRR: Why don’t others do it?
Ian: Most simply take less chances. They can’t, for various reasons, be anything but the persona you always see.
NRR: What do fans get out of your acoustic concerts that they don’t get out of your electric shows?
Ian: Some like the emotion, some like the song structure. I’m comfortable in either arena. I enjoy using the subtlety of space. There’s a certain awareness that you get with an intimate crowd. Poignant moments are the hardest to find on a big stage, but available on a smaller stage.
NRR: How hard is it to switch between styles?
Ian: There are differences, but there’s an art form to being an artist. You have to be able to flow with the crowd, no matter the size. The number of people in the audience sets itself based on many factors. You have to be able to change according to the size, the emotion, and other variables.
NRR: Do you get the same energy from the crowd?
Ian: The energy of the crowd is everything. The audience is a big part of the equation in a successful show. It’s like ballroom dancing, giving and taking, each doing their part.
NRR: How do you know if it’s been a successful show?
Ian: The band used to critique itself after every show. We always looked at ways to get better.
NRR: Could you quantify a good show?
Ian: You can’t put a number on it. It was like a beautiful dance where you felt good about what you did. However, some people thought some of our best shows were ones where we thought we were terrible. We tried every night, though. Our job is to blow people’s minds. That’s why we swing for the fences. We don’t want to hit singles. We swing for the fences every time we play.
NRR: Does the record company restrict you? Do they only let you be a blues artist?
Ian: Record labels don’t bother us much anymore. The blues-rock idiom is powerful and covers a wide range of styles. It’s emotional, it’s powerful. We always try to express that.
NRR: Does anything change with newer or younger audiences?
Ian: Not really. It’s a wisdom of living life if you don’t burn out. We see younger audiences as older fans just don’t have the time. Their jobs are more important as they get older; they have to provide for their families. It keeps me young, though. It keeps me open to possibilities.
NRR: Where do you get your philosophical bent?
Ian: I have my own faith. My father was a Buddhist professor. I’ve learned that you don’t fight it. You lift people up. I try to heal people through music.
NRR: Do you carry that philosophy on stage, too?
Ian: It’s the responsibility of the artist not to bullshit people. They can always tell if you’re playing for the love of it or just for a paycheck.
NRR: Is that the way you lead your life?
Ian: I’ve earned the right to walk in my shoes. I trust in the universe. If everything was taken away from me, I could survive because of my spirituality. It’s deep, even though it’s not religion as most people define religion. And, yes, it’s very much tied to what I believe in.
NRR: How does that affect your music? Does it pigeon-hole you?
Ian: It’s central to the vibe of the band. Again, it’s part of what makes us connect to the audience as people. It allows us to play our music, not just blues or rock or something else. The record label was challenged by our style, our genre because they want everything to fit into a precise label.
NRR: How do you negotiate with your label?
Ian: One example is that our second could have been a big hit, but the record label wasn’t ready for it. I don’t have any regrets over the battle I picked, although I would have done it differently now.
NRR: Do different styles hinder you?
Ian: I’m a student. I’m always trying to learn more about song structure, about harmony, about anything that affects my music. Living on the West Coast now has allowed me to learn a different way of doing things than I learned growing up in Austin.
NRR: How have you grown from this?
Ian: I look back on my younger days. I’m a different type of songwriter now. I now have a vocal coach to work on things I want to do. I love the fans, and I’m grateful, but I have to conserve energy. If I wanted, I could go out partying every night, but I wouldn’t get anything else done.
NRR: What else are you trying to get done now?
Ian: I have many irons in the fire. I like to stay busy with different activities. I’m a Grammy Governor, and I’ve set up my own charity called SMASH. I’m going to set aside three hours every day to practice guitar, work on my vocals, and write. I’m also a producer, an engineer, a designer, a videographer. I hired Tina (Powell) for PR for me. I was getting PR from the record company only on tour or when I dropped a new album.
NRR: Do you find it hard to switch gears?
Ian: Actually, I love the business part of it. It’s like I get to use a separate mind.
NRR: Is everything under your control?
Ian: As much as can be. I look at all of it as part of a journey. I can play older songs if I wish. I set a high standard for myself, and I can critique as well as give myself some self-love for things that went well. You have to be happy with where you’re at.
NRR: Are you happy with where you’re at?
Ian: I am. You control what you can control. Some things you can’t, and that’s okay. You have to be gentle with yourself on the things out of your control.
NRR: How do you decompress after a tour?
Ian: I decompress in stages. I don’t lay around. I move to other things. In fact, I have a 9:00 am meeting tomorrow morning. As far as musically, I let things percolate. I have bridges and melodies going on in my head. One specific thing I’m doing is putting together a new band.
NRR: How do you make decisions within a band?
Ian: Well, it’s MY band. I can do whatever I want. They’re all younger guys this time, though, so they obviously will bring a different type of energy to the band. And their musical influences will be different.
NRR: Is that good or bad?
Ian: It can be either, or neither. Or both. They have to respect the players before them who were a big part of our success. But, at the same time, I’m older than them. We’re not peers this time.
NRR: Speaking of being older, who were your mentors?
Ian: I had several. My dad has had the biggest influence on me. Musically, growing up in Austin, there were Doug Sahm, Danny Freeman, Clifford Antone, Townes Van Zant, Doyle Bramhall, Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, and Guy Clark. Hopefully, I can be a mentor. I’m the mule now. The way mentors talk to you is so important. All have been encouraging. A bad word early on can be devastating.
NRR: What does the future of today’s singers/songwriters look like to you?
Ian: I don’t see the bravery today that there was yesterday. Most only get one chance, so they have to be more conservative. If you don’t push the limits, you don’t grow. I like Hayes Carll. He’s a great songwriter.
NRR: Who are your “Guitar Gods?”
Ian: Obviously, Jimi Hendrix. He was a three-dimensional being. He was so much more than just a guitar player. He was a trendsetter. He influenced generations. Buddy Guy for the things he does and his influence. Richard Thompson, Danny Gatton, I admire Neil Young. He has his own voice and is not overly technical. Seeing how fast you can play notes doesn’t impress me. Being technically proficient without heart eventually shows through to the crowd. And Miles Davis.
NRR: What’s in your future personally?
Ian: I want to keep growing. I used to practice a lot, but then I played what I practiced. That’s fine for sports, but in music, you want to expand. So, I don’t practice being technical. I started living instead!
NRR: That’s a great ending quote. Thanks for talking with us tonight. I enjoyed it.
Ian: You’re welcome. I enjoyed it, too.
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