November 13, 2014
Asheville, North Carolina
Kip Moore: Live at the Orange Peel
Finding self-confidence through fan loyalty
By Lauren Tingle
The bottom dropped out late in Kip Moore‘s encore at the Orange Peel in Asheville, North Carolina. The sold-out crowd was a sea of hands in the air, singing loudly to the last of “Faith When I Fall” and Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’.” Where was the bass? In the final chorus, bassist Manny Medina set his instrument down to address some fan misbehavior by the bar. Enough was enough with this punk with two middle fingers saluting the heavens for most of the three-hour show, distracting those onstage and everyone else around him. The crowd parted as Manny took a gladiator’s march toward his opponent, a gaunt, lanky fellow with a long face. Nose to nose, the two exchanged a few heated words, and in a blink of an eye … FIGHT! Manny lost his balance trying to pin this guy to the beer-spattered floor, and they crashed to the ground, taking a few fans along with them in a tangled mess of bodies house left.
Rubberneckers tried to capture the action on camera phones as security mined for Manny, buried deep in the tussle. Fans broke through the single barrier rope that separated the audience from a coded door that led to the backstage area. Once recovered from the scuffle, Manny retreated to the bus parked outside to let the smoke clear from one of the most electric closers in the history of the CMT On Tour. If one thing is certain, Kip Moore and the Slow Hearts care about their fans, and Manny wasn’t going to let this punk get away with ruining their night. Why would anyone waste the price of a ticket to be complete jerk for an entire concert? It’s a mystery.
Not counting the scuffle, Kip’s 20-song set was a fiery hell of a ride. Kip opened with “Wild Ones,” hitting the stage in jeans, a cutoff plaid shirt and his signature red backwards trucker hat. The sight of Kip worked a few ladies in short skirts stationed at the single barrier rope at into a frenzy, giving security a free show of leggy flesh. They wanted access, and they were going to work each other up all night to get it.
Transitions were seamless as Kip blew through “Crazy One More Time,” “Break My Heart,” “Drive Me Crazy” and his second number-one smash “Beer Money.” Every now and then, the Psalm 40 tattoo on Kip’s right bicep showed itself when Kip raised his arms in flight, a signature stage move emblazoned on a black canvas backdrop behind the stage.
Kip dedicated the last verse of “Reckless” to a Music Row producer, who once advised Kip in a listening session of originals to polish up his act if he ever wanted to become successful.
The Slow Hearts busted into a funky groove, Kip freed his microphone from its stand and he worked the crowd on either side of the stage as he broke down the memory in sermon like this:
“He said, ‘Well, I like your songs, but it’s way too aggressive.’ He said, ‘My advice to you is — first thing — you change the way you look because you look like a damn bum,'” which ignited cheers from the crowd.
Kip continued, “He said, ‘I want to put a nice jacket on you and some nice jeans. I want to do your hair different, yada, yada…’ And then he played me some stuff he was working on. He said, ‘I want you to record these songs that’s a little more, ‘down-the-middle.’ And I told him, ‘But that’s not what I want to do.’ ‘Do you want to be successful?’ I said, ‘Well, yeah.’ ‘Well, you need to record this.’ So I thought about it for a good three to four seconds, and I said, ‘You know what? I’ll see you down the road.'” The crowd erupted in hot-blooded exaltation.
An abbreviated cover of The Faces’ “Stay with Me” followed, as did “Up All Night,” “Backseat” and “Dirt Road.” The audience’s “Ooos” and “Heys” echoed in sweet rings through the room on “Heart’s Desire,” and screams were deafening when opener Sam Hunt joined Kip onstage for Keith Urban’s “Cop Car.”
Arms waved to the beat on “Fly Again,” and the ladies working the barrier rope shook their assets to “Come and Get It.” Cameras raised for “Hey Pretty Girl,” and soul legend Ben E. King was channeled with a taste of “Stand By Me.”
The crowd lost it when guitarist Adam Browder slid into the opening notes of Kip’s breakout hit “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck.” If the barrier rope could blush, it would have been all shades of crimson at the sight of the bumping and grinding that broke out all over the Orange Peel.
It took everyone backstage at least an hour to come down from the concert and figure out exactly what drove Manny to leave the stage for a confrontation in the encore. Manny is a peaceful man, and that kind of behavior was rare. Opener Charlie Worsham mentioned he first noticed the middle finger guy during his set and wanted to pay the guy the price of his ticket to leave.
After a brief autograph session with fans at the merch booth, Kip joined his band at Storm Rhum Bar and Bistro for a few post-show rounds of Tecate beers and Jameson shots with birthday boy and Sam Hunt guitarist Tyrone Carreker. Kip held off on the Jameson, and conversed with a few ladies congregated around the party to meet him. Kip made time for all of them, giving each lady his undivided attention as if the night’s concert and fight were in distant memory.
Everything in its Right Place
Hours earlier, men in black hoodies, ball caps and sneakers roamed around the stage at the Orange Peel securing cords with tape and connecting wires to their appropriate jacks for sound check with Kip and the Slow Hearts. Folks from C.I.D. Entertainment stationed themselves at the merch table to assemble passes for the 106 guests who splurged on the $99 VIP package, which included a private acoustic show, a meet-and-greet, a poster and early entry into the venue at 5:30 p.m. Guitarist Adam Browder noticed me perched on some high stools at the front of house and made his way over to say hello. I mentioned it was my first visit to Asheville and he recommended I see the Biltmore Estate during my stay. I was only there for one reason — I had to see this show again.
The last time I saw Kip live was October 17th in his first headlining engagement at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, after which I was in a Kip-coma for at least a week. Memories of that particular night are hazy partially due to a rooftop after-party at Acme Feed and Seed. Bad journalist. The November 13th date at the Orange Peel was the closest show to Nashville within driving distance, so I made the trip.
At 2:16pm, Kip arrived at sound check dressed in lime-green Adidas, sweat pants, a grey hoodie and his red trucker hat to test out the opening chords of “Crazy One More Time.” He checked in with an engineer at the front of house and pulled off his hoodie to reveal muscled arms and a cutoff shirt that read “Just Blew It” over an upside down Nike symbol. He picked a white Gibson for a new song called “Separate Ways,” then switched to an acoustic for a dramatic cover of Ryan Adams’ “Two.” I secretly hoped that “Two” would make the Orange Peel set as Kip sang with lonely conviction, “I got a really good heart, I just can’t catch a break, If I could I’d treat you like you wanted me to I promise.”
Sound check ended with a run-through of “Cop Car,” a quick trip to the middle of the room to check out the overall sound on “Bangin’ On My Heart” and a few marijuana jokes with an engineer.
I was scribbling all this down as Kip walked over to greet me with a big bear hug. I followed him outside where a man stood waiting for Kip with a camera in hand. One, two, ready, and I snapped a quick picture of the two grinning together. Apparently, the guy had been hovering around the buses all afternoon.
After we settled in the front cabin of his bus, Kip admitted, “I’ve become so available to so many fans it’s starting to scare me.” His tour manager Ryan Whelpley boarded to deliver the latest fan mail, including a package of used literature (I spotted a book on Abraham Lincoln). Ryan set some red table wine from two ladies outside on the kitchen table next to an oversized plastic tub of protein powder. Three pairs of stylish sneakers sat stashed under the table to keep a pathway open to the bunks and back lounge. My first impression was that this band travels light.
For a moment, I regretted bringing my gift of a portable turntable and a small starter stash of vinyl for the road (Emmylou Harris’ Elite Hotel, Linda Ronstadt’s Simple Dreams, The Best of Leon Russell, Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A., Al Green’s Gets Next to You and an Elvis Presley Christmas album), but Kip assured me the band would love it.
Setting the books and vinyl aside, Kip paused on an envelope with a name he recognized. The handwritten note from a lady named Esther was scented and when removed from its envelope a strong perfume of sandalwood permeated the air. I asked him how often he reads fan mail.
“If that’s what she smells like,” he said, “I’d be all over her. [It’s possible] you cannot be that attracted to somebody, then you get close to them and smell, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh…’ All right. Let’s walk.”
With that, we exited to seek out food on Biltmore Avenue. We strolled two blocks north, scanning menus outside a few eateries before settling on Asian — Doc Chey’s Noodle House. Kip opened the door for me, and a hostess seated us at a table along a wall. Kip took the seat with the view of the room. Our waitress took our drink order — water for him and a pot of jasmine green tea for me. On the way over, we chatted about Rolling Stone‘s new Nashville headquarters and marveled at the fact that a 25-year-old Gus Wenner could handle the responsibility of bringing such an historic brand to Music City.
Our waitress arrived with our drinks and took our food order — a small Thai coconut chicken soup and Vietnamese spring rolls to start, plus a main course of chicken Lo Mein for Kip. I was still full from my bowl of pho from another Asian place up the street so I only ordered some edamame to snack on while I asked questions.
“Thank you for taking the time for me today,” I said.
“It is so difficult doing interviews with people who aren’t even having a conversation with you,” Kip said. I joked I sometimes ask questions the way Dierks Bentley answers them — eyes closed, verbal diarrhea and then I get to my point. He laughed.
“Well,” I began, “we’re here in Asheville at one of the smallest venues of the tour.”
“This is by far the smallest venue of the whole tour,” he said, “which will be fun.”
I asked, “You like it?”
“I love the mix up,” he said. “If you’re doing nothing but arenas back to back or nothing but big theaters back to back, you want to change up. So, a place like tonight, will feel like what we were doing two years ago, which it will be wild. Everybody’s sweating right on top of you. From playing clubs and bars, to playing theaters, to playing arenas, there’s a whole different crowd between all three.”
Our waitress arrived with the coconut soup, rolls and edamame. Kip thanked the waitress and continued, “I’ve studied not only how the greats do it, but I’ve paid so close attention to my own self in each venue and how do you win an audience in this kind of place. We were talking the other night, so many people … winning a game show, and getting thrown straight through the fire and never had had the chance to take those years of learning how to do it — like how to do it with a real crowd that’s not supposed to clap when you’re done playing — when you really have to win an audience. That’s a whole other beast. That’s a whole other animal. As bad as I wanted it when I was younger, I’m glad it took me this long to get it. These kinds of places, it’s a whole other animal of audibles and knowing when to take out songs and to add songs. It will be fun tonight.”
“At sound check,” I said, “I could tell you take a lot of care in the way things sound, too.”
He took a bite of roll. “I’ve never missed a sound check. You know, there was one time when I was deathly sick, and I let them sound check for me, but I still went out and listened. I feel like I will always sound check because that’s my career. I want to be perfect every time I walk out.”
I asked, “Do you miss this kind of atmosphere when you play arenas? It seems like you can’t really see past a certain point.”
“One hundred percent,” he said, “There’s definitely a certain energy.”
“Not that you don’t want to headline arenas at some point.”
“Arena energy and club energy are two completely different things,” he said. “You definitely want to see your career getting bigger. So, you want to be in those arenas. But for me, there’s such a special thing about going back to a place like this. It always makes me remember why I set out to do it in the first place … You want to see yourself keep going. And I think every artist does. Every artist wants to be loved by fans. And they want to see their crowds growing. But there’s always something special about going back to these sized venues.”
I asked, “Have you changed the set every show?”
“No,” he answered. “I’ll change one or two songs in the set, but I keep it mostly the same. The hardest part is somebody coming up to me and saying, ‘This is my 23rd time seeing you,’ ‘This is my 25th time seeing you.’ ‘This is my 30th time seeing you.’ The great thing about that is it lets us know we’re doing something right because people don’t continue to come back to see an artist if you’re not doing something right. The bad part about it is, by the time the new record comes out — in late April, early May — it will be three years since Up All Night came out. So, somebody like me, that has written maybe 150 songs in between Up All Night and this, it makes me fucking crazy. You want to give your fans new songs. But you also got to remember that there’s people coming to see you for the first time and they want to hear the Up All Night record. They want to hear the songs they know. So, there’s a fine balance.”
“Also,” he added, “you don’t want to burn all your cards before the new record comes out. I still want there to be a discovery process. So, if I play everything that’s new, everything I’ve written, there’s no discovery when the record comes out. So, I’m sitting on all these songs that no one’s ever heard and it’s driving me mad. And I want to give the fans a new show. I want to give them a whole new show, but I’m not going to be able to give them a whole new show until this next record comes out. And that’s the hardest part about this wait.”
“Can you go on the record about the delay,” I asked, “Or would it get you in trouble?”
“I’m comfortable talking about anything,” he said. “I mean, if we’re going to do it, let’s be honest.” Kip paused to think about what he was going to say next. “To be honest,” he started, “I’m still trying to figure out the reason behind all of it. I’m hoping that I can see the silver lining once the record does come out. Nowadays, the general public doesn’t understand, especially when a first week’s sale means so much. First week sales determine how many records get put in Targets, how many records are going to get put in Wal-Marts, and those kinds of things. A lot of times people are scared to put a record out around a song that’s not a big hit. It’s just kind of how the model has been — you have a hit and then you put out a record. Well, we released ‘Dirt Road,’ although we felt like it was selling well, it wasn’t breaking through. Radio’s been super supportive of me with the Up All Night record. But we’ve kind of hit a little bit of a stall.”
“Also,” he said, “I’ve had to check myself a little bit. And that’s the hardest part to admit is I was so adamant about the direction I was taking and the kind of record I was going to make, I’ve had to like rein myself back in and take a long look at myself in the mirror. Because of the delay, I had kind of lost my joy in my writing. And it was starting to show. I had to get back to that place where I was super confident in what I was writing and what I was saying. When something stalls out the way ‘Dirt Road’ did, you start questioning yourself: ‘Am I a good writer? Have I lost it? Have I … ‘ So, I had to really rein myself back in and remember why I was doing this in the first place. I never want to be somebody that follows trends. I never want to follow the wave of what everybody’s doing. And you start hearing a certain kind of sound and things start replicating. I might have gone a little too far left.”
“I can say,” he continued, “in the last three months, I’ve written some of the best I’ve ever written. And I’m very confident in what I have coming and nobody’s heard it. We just recorded for the last time. We recorded a whole bunch of new stuff. The record has completely changed from what it was when it was slated to come out early summer.”
I interrupted, “It was supposed to come out early summer?”
“It was supposed to come out early summer,” Kip confirmed. “So it’s not going to be coming out until early summer . It’s a whole year delay. It’s been the hardest thing for me.”
“The most special thing is,” he added, “the fans have stuck with me so hard. They’ve continued to sell places out. They know all the underground music. Even though I haven’t really been heard a lot lately, they haven’t gone away. They continue to show up. There’s a real fan base and we built it organically. They haven’t left.”
“From the outside looking in,” I observed, “it feels like your fans are just as frustrated as you.”
“I understand that there’s a very high demand for the new record right now,” he said. “But if I trust — you know, there are people that have been doing this for a long time and the people that are smart about all these decisions. If I’m smart about it, the hope is that there will even be a bigger demand when you drop the right song. I have a high demand from the people who are already my fans. But your goal is to expand that and not only capture them but to capture as many people as you can. If it was my way, of course, I would have already wanted the record out. But I’m also learning a lot from the people that are helping run my career. I’ve always had confidence, and there have been some really special people in my life that have helped me see that an outside perspective is a valued thing. I’m understanding a lot more viewpoints than just mine now.”
“That’s good,” I said.
“I can say this,” Kip continued, “As bad as I wanted that record to come out, because it has been delayed, it’s going to be even better. The songs that I’ve done now are better than what I’ve had. And that’s the truth.”
“Will some of the Soundcheck EP be on there?” I asked.
“All of it?”
“I do not know about that,” he said. “I know ‘Heart’s Desire’ will be on there. We’ll see what shakes out.”
“A lot of my songwriting friends,” I said, “They feel an immediacy of releasing new music all the time. That has got to be another frustrating thing, too.”
“I wish I could give them new music every week,” Kip said, “and as much as they would love that, it might not be as exciting. It might be like the house band that plays every Friday night: ‘Well, that’s ok if I don’t see him this Friday night, I’ll catch him next Friday.’ So you want there to be excitement about what you’d putting out. But I wish I could apologize to every fan for having to wait this long. I wish I could. But hopefully they’ll stick with me until it comes out.”
“What’s the timeline for a new single?” I asked.
“January,” he said.
“For someone who makes music nonstop as you do,” I started, “what do you think about the life off a single, committing to one song for up to 52 weeks …”
“It makes me fucking crazy,” he interrupted.
“I don’t know any artist that likes having to wait that long,” he said. “We want people to hear, like there was so much of the Up All Night record, that I would have wanted to put out as a single. It is what it is, and you’ve got to deal with it.”
“Maybe it wouldn’t hurt so bad if it didn’t do well [at radio],” I said. “You know what I mean?”
“Look how long ‘Dirt Road’ has delayed me,” Kip said. “I put it out in like June? They pulled it in September. And now I’m waiting until January. It hurts.”
“What do you think it would take to change that beast,” I asked. “Have you thought about that?”
“I don’t think about it because I realize there’s not one thing I can do about it,” he said.
A couple seated next to us introduced themselves. They were visiting the mountains from Sarasota, Florida and the Orange Peel concert would be their 10th Kip show. Girlfriend Ashley Rausa was a huge fan and quickly listed her Kip concert experiences — gigs at Joyland Country in Bradenton, Florida, and the Tortuga Music Festival in Ft Lauderdale. Boyfriend Parker Turner was also a huge fan. They had seen a lot of action that day. Earlier, they attempted an eight-mile backcountry hike with no water and stumbled a across a bear hunt. They didn’t see the animal, but the sight of dogs and their hunter owners with guns pointed sent them hiking quickly back to civilization.
Kip was visibly moved by the fact that folks would travel multiple times over hundreds of miles to see him perform. He politely asked me to take down their names for VIP passes for acoustic pre-show and meet-and-greet. They were ecstatic over the chance ticket upgrade, and they quickly left to freshen up at their hotel for the 5:30 show.
“See,” Kip pointed out, “traveling all the way up here from Florida — that’s what makes me remember I’m doing something right because people won’t travel for bands they’re not passionate about.”
“That’s love,” I said.
“I always want to make people feel comfortable,” he said, “because too often I’m thinking about the people that made me love music. I remember my first Springsteen show, how empowered I felt when I left like I could change the world. That’s what I hope to do. I hope to spark people in their soul to where they feel like they can do anything they want to do just by listening to music. I’m a walking, living, breathing example of that. Before I moved to Nashville, I had been playing the bars for two or three years in South Georgia. Where I was from, it was such a foreign thing to think of somebody making it as a songwriter. I didn’t ever hear about that stuff growing up.”
“My dad saw me play when I opened for Rodney Atkins years ago down in Jacksonville,” Kip said. “I played a 45-minute acoustic set, and I played all my own music. When you have a rowdy club like that, there’s definitely going to be noise and chatter and some people paying attention and some people not paying attention and them telling me to play Hank and Lynyrd Skynyrd.”
Kip recalled, “I said, ‘Pop, if I’m ever truly going to make something happen, I’ve got to stick to my guns and play my own music. It’s the only way I’m going to be remembered when somebody leaves.’ We kind of had an argument about it, and I told him, ‘I know what I’m talking about. I believe in what I’m doing.’ There might have been 800 people in there, and only 75 or 100 people paying attention. But those 75 to 100 really fell in love with what I was saying and what I was doing. They multiplied. Had I sang covers, I would have never gotten those 100 people. So, that’s just the way I’ve always done that.”
“I see it all the time,” Kip continued, “I completely understand being a new act and wanting to keep the crowd going. But I wish I could sometimes just pull them off to the side and be like, ‘You’re just fooling yourself. You’re kidding yourself to think that you’re doing something. Stick to your guns and keep playing your music.'”
“When you’re playing five and six covers in a set,” Kip added, “They’re not going to seek you out because all you’re doing is play a song they’ve heard from a million other people. It’s easy to kid yourself and think, ‘We just nailed that! The crowd was going nuts!’ Yeah, they were going nuts for something that was done 20 years, 30 years ago that they’ve seen a thousand people play. I would rather fall flat doing my own stuff and to slightly lose a crowd. But knowing that I still had those several people in the audience really paying attention that latch onto something that you’re doing. I’d rather do that. I’d rather fall on my face doing my own music.”
“I do enjoy the Ben E. King,” I said, “The Faces, and I loved the Ryan Adams. They come in such an unexpected way. You really thought about the placement.”
“I never played the Ryan Adams live,” he corrected. “That’s just a sound check thing. There’s usually only one cover and maybe half of a cover in the hour-45 minutes set. And I’ve only had one record.”
OK. I want to know more about this next album. “Are all the songs on the new album songs of experience?”
“Always,” he said. “If I feel it, and if I’ve lived it, then I guarantee there’s somebody else that has. I hear it all the time people saying, ‘Oh, well, you can’t talk about smoking in a song.’ ‘You can’t talk about weed in a song.’ ‘You can’t talk about having beers and being underage in a song.’ I did all three of them. Why can’t I? Do you think I’m the only one that’s done that? I’m never going to trick my audience. I don’t want to. I don’t want to put a vanilla spin on everything and dumb it down to make it. I would rather piss off a few people over me talking about certain subjects or language or whatever. I’d rather have 100 people that truly love me than to have thousands that like me. If they love you, that hundred will turn into 500, and that 500 will turn into thousands. I would trade 10 million people that like me for a million that love me any day of the week, because if they love you, they’re going to show up. And they’re going to come to the shows. They’re going to buy the music. They’re not going to steal the music. They’re going to buy the music. And they’re going to stay behind you.”
“Some people — Taylor Swift, Brantley Gilbert and Justin Moore — have pulled their music off Spotify,” I started, “how has Spotify helped you?”
Kip took a few seconds to chew on his next answer. “I don’t know enough yet to really comment on my opinion,” he said. “I do think that it’s gotten way out of hand how people will spend five bucks on a cup of coffee, and we go spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to make a record, and it’s turned into a society that thinks it’s for free. No matter how you shake it or stir it, when you rip songs off online or you’re not paying for it whatever, you’re stealing it. I’ve slaved for years over my craft — writing, turning down so many jobs, not making money and not having family — to work on my craft. Spotify is at least trying to pay the writers a little something. But it’s like this: I wish I could give everyone in this world that loved music — that truly loved music — and take them to a place like Music Row in Nashville, and do a time warp to 10 years ago to see all the publishing houses that were thriving, all the record labels that were thriving, and all the chances that it gave for new artists do new music.”
“Now,” he continued, “every building on Music Row is now real estate or another condo going up, and all the publishing houses are closing down. The record labels are closing down because no one can stay in business. There used to be like 5,000 staff writers on Music Row. And now you’re looking at a couple hundred. It’s a scary thing. People who were once hit songwriters can’t write music anymore. They can’t feed their family. And that was the job that they worked at for years, providing all these amazing songs for people that changed their lives. Now they can’t write because no one’s making money off of the songs. There’s definitely something that needs to be fixed. The songwriters are definitely struggling the most, which is a sad thing. I have so much compassion for all those songwriters that they can’t make their living anymore. And it’s just not right that it’s so cheap to get that much music.”
“I looked up the math,” I said. “Spotify pays between $.006 to $.00875 per play. I’m thinking, ‘How in the world …”
“‘…is anybody supposed to make money,'” he said.
“Streaming services definitely help discover new folks,” I added. “But…”
“I just wish the fans would understand that,” Kip said. “I wish that the fans would understand the time and labor that goes into making this stuff. I think if everyone saw the hours of agony that I’ve spent on this record being in the studio, and trying to make it perfect, their mindsets would change [on] just getting it wherever.”
“You’ve lost a lot of sleep making this next album.”
I asked, “Can you tell me about ‘Heart’s Desire’ again? And what drove you to be so lonely that night?”
Kip took a moment to finish another bite of Lo Mein. He said, “I think the culmination of so many things in my life happening at one time. Losing people that you … sometimes, when you’re as psychotic as I am about music, you end up driving people away who care about you. You end up living a very isolated life. Then you look up, and there’s just kind of nobody around. It’s just you. Losing my dad, I miss him all the time. He was a big champion. He called me all the time and told me about songs he heard — demos. Everybody wants to make their dad happy. He was such a believer in what I was doing. I miss being able to call him and talk to him. Then just the aloneness I’ve felt this last year doing this record and feeling like I was losing what I had worked so hard to build. You know, I had a slip at radio. You start being so fearful of losing everything you’ve worked for. It creates such a scare in you. You know? It just drove me to a very vulnerable place.”
“I wrote three different lyrics over the time of ‘Heart’s Desire,'” he continued, “before I landed on the actual lyric that it is now. I kept telling my co-writer, Dan Couch, it wasn’t right. He would argue with me and say the song was great. Then one afternoon in February, it was freezing outside. I walked outside to have a smoke –because that’s one of my bad habits when I write music, I smoke. I just remember watching the smoke rolling off the window and kind of fogging up the window. I had this overwhelming wave that almost buckled me to my knees. It was probably the saddest I’ve ever been in my entire life. I’ve never felt so alone. That lyric, came to me right there in that moment. It just fell out of my mouth in minutes. I finally had it, and I walked back inside and said, ‘It goes like this.’ Dan just got a big smile on his face and was like, ‘That was it!’ We sat down and wrote the rest of it. What I’d labored over for months came out in minutes in that moment.”
“When people tell you that you can’t write about something,” I said, “What’s the first thought that comes to mind?”
“It just makes me want to do it even more,” he said. “In ‘Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck,’ we didn’t get to the chorus before a minute and 20 seconds. Everybody said, ‘You’ve got to get to a chorus by 40 seconds.’ Just write the song. I try not to give myself any restrictions when I write, and I hate being in the room with somebody that does give restrictions. That’s why I quit writing with a lot of people. I have a very small camp of writers that I write my stuff with. Take the Up All Night record, I mean, that was a big successful record and Dan and I wrote most of it. Hell, we had never had a hit in our whole lives. Dan didn’t even have a publishing deal during the whole thing.”
“What does make a good country song now,” I asked.
“I think that’s subjective,” he said. “For me personally, just tell me the truth. Somebody fucking tell me the truth. I don’t give a shit if you say, ‘Fuck,’ in it. What makes a good song to me, is if somebody tells me the truth. Quit painting it like it ain’t. Quit painting it the way it ain’t.”
“I interviewed Dean Dillon once,” I said. “He mentioned he put his body through a lot of unnecessary pain for the sake of his songs.”
“I feel like I’m doing the same thing,” Kip said. “I feel like I’ve lived hard, which has caused me a lot of pain in my life. I’ve been stupid in my decisions a lot of times. But it’s because of living wide open, and I believe that’s why we believe people like Stevie Nicks when they open their mouths. You can hear their pain. They’ve got something to say. Just tell me the truth. I don’t want to hear a lie. When I say, ‘the truth,’ like give me what’s in your gut. That’s what makes a great song to me. If you don’t usually hold open the door for a girl, don’t tell me that you’re holding open the door in the song. Don’t tell me that. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to hear some bullshit about holding a door for somebody when you’ve never done that in your life.”
A small collection of chewed-up edamame shells had accumulated on my plate. I asked, “Are there certain subjects out there that you are curious about exploring in music that you have yet to dive into? Or has enough life happened yet?”
“There are,” he said. “I realize, too, that I’m at that stage where I’m going to get my chance to say those things. I’ve got some really heavy [stuff] that I’ve written, and there will come a time when it gets to see the light. It’s just not time yet. I’ve got some stuff in my bag that no one has ever heard. If they heard the topics, they would definitely cause a conversation for sure. I’ve got a song called ‘Candyland’ that would blow your mind.”
“‘Candyland,'” I repeated. “It sounds dark.”
He managed to say, “Very,” through another bite of noodles.
Our chat turned to tour initiatives he’d like to take on the road in the future. A songwriter project is in the works, but he couldn’t go into detail on specifics. “If I start doing what I’ve got up my sleeve,” Kip said, “maybe other artists will start doing the same thing. We can re-buy the town as far as the songwriting community goes. It’s going to take all of us doing it, and hopefully I can start a trend.”
“Choosing a life in music,” I said, “one ends up sacrificing a lot of opportunities to pursue their dreams. Do you ever think about what your life would be like without it?”
“That thought scares me to death,” Kip said. “I do think about what I’d be doing you know, the different roads I would have taken. I literally feel like I can’t breathe without this.”
Our waitress returned to bus our plates and bring us the check. Kip handed her a gold credit card and thanked her for the meal. I thanked him for my edamame and tea. He continued, “I really do. I feel that way, Lauren. It hits me all the time in unexpected places. I’m capable of a lot of things. But I’d be miserable. I can put a smile on my face, and I work hard. I work hard at everything I do. But I would be miserable doing anything else. When I moved to Nashville, it completely consumed every thought that I had. Every tour bus I’d pass, I would stare and I would just be like, ‘How do I make that my life? What do I got to do? How do I do this?'”
He added, “I can remember for the first time ever loving somebody when I was in my early 20s. I can remember caring about this person so much, and I was always writing on all my days off, and I was writing late through the night. I can remember her getting frustrated. If I was writing or playing when she got off work and it was like, ‘Put that freaking thing up and hang out with me.’ The thing is, I’ve never painted her as ridiculous because she deserved my time. I can remember on one of the days off, I had planned on writing with my buddy Westin Davis, we had written the day before, we were going to write again that day. She said, ‘Nuh-uh. You’re either going to hang out with me and spend some time with me, or this is over.’ The decision wasn’t even hard for me. As much as it was like, ‘Alright. Well, I guess this is it.’ We broke up and I missed her like crazy. I remember that being a hard time for me at that time. That was one of those crossroads decisions where it’s, How bad do you want it? You know? How bad do you want to make it happen? And it actually ended up being a good thing because you want to talk about turning into a writing machine — that’s all I did. There was no more of you know, juggling that time. That’s all I did after that. It was write all night and write all day. And that’s what turned me into the writer that I am now.”
“I have songwriters come up to me,” he added, “asking, ‘What do I need to do? How do I?’ And I never have the answers for those things. I just think about all the people that are legendary and that have had a long careers, I feel like everybody felt like this. I think it’s the only way to make people feel passionate about your music. I think fans can be fooled for a little bit. They can think something’s cool, but eventually, they see through the bullshit. They always do. And I just tell people, unless it is deep rooted in your gut and in your soul, that you have to have this, don’t even do it. Don’t even disrespect the craft and go at it half-ass. We’ve got enough of that going on.”
We discussed his crusade against ticket scalpers and his thoughts on VIP sections at music festivals. He once confronted a ticket scalper at one of his shows, and Kip’s not a fan of VIP packages at music festivals.
“At my shows,” Kip said, “There are rowdy ones at the VIP [pre-show]. They really are diehard fans. But when I go to a festival, and there are those VIP things in front of us [with] the white chairs, I want to go out there and kick over all the chairs. It brings a rage in me because I see the passionate fans behind them and there’s such a far distance between us. Yeah. I have a very fiery side to me, and those kinds of things make me crazy.”
It was 4:40pm and time to get back to the venue for a shower before the first of three meet-and-greets (The 5:30pm VIP experience, a 7:30pm meet-and-greet, and an autograph session after the show). Kip opened the door for me as we exited. The temperature outside felt like it dropped about 20 degrees. The mountain winds were biting cold. As we walked, Kip said, “It’s a very earthy town.”
“Yeah,” I said. “There are a lot of hippies here. There’s a big huge yoga center here somewhere I’m interested in checking out.”
The wind picked up. “Damn, it’s cold,” said Kip.
“I know. I miss my Indian summer.”
“That reminds me of that Brooks and Dunn song,” he said, before singing a part of the chorus of their “Indian Summer.” “I think it went over everybody’s head.”
A long, “Heeeeeey,” from a fan walking passed us interrupted our conversation, “You’ve got some folks coming to see you tonight!”
“I hope so,” he replied.
We stepped inside another eatery called Laurey’s for some after-show health food. Kip ordered three breasts of the curry grilled chicken and some kale salad.
As he paid for his meal, I asked, “What are you going to miss most about this time in your career?”
“To be honest,” he said, “There’s 12 guys on my bus right now. There’s so much laughter that goes on every night. And we’ll all listen to records together and tell stories. And I know it’s not always going to be that way. The bigger it gets, the more crew you’ve got, you start splitting up on buses. I think there’s still such an excitement on the way where we all could go as a band.”
He opened the door for us to head back to the bus and another fan named Kelsey, in jeans, a canvas jacket, a scarf and her hair halfway up approached. Kelsey was with her sister Lauren. Tucker, Lauren’s infant son, was on Lauren’s hip.
Flustered by meeting Kip on the street, Kelsey said, “I ran into you at the restaurant where we were eating at Kansas City, and my little nephew … I, your music is probably the first music I had …”
Lauren interrupted, “She actually got permission for [Tucker] to be able to come!”
Kelsey continued, “And they had said that he could come! But I just wanted to get a picture of you with him together!”
Without hesitation, Kip said, “Let’s do it!”
I offered to hold Kip’s food and take a family photo of Kip sandwiched between the two sisters and Tucker (Kelsey and Lauren ended up getting Tucker a babysitter for the show).
I gave Kelsey her iPhone back, and we kept moving. Kip picked up where he left off. “There’s such an excitement and discovery of where we could go as a band. We still see it every night of people discovering us. Also, there’s such a closeness and an interaction with me and the fans right now that I worry about that getting lost. You worry that with success, people get used to it. This is to me, the most exciting time period in my career. It’s not knowing what’s going to happen or where we could go — not know if it’s going to explode or if it’s going to go downward. Not knowing what’s going to happen …”
We heard a high-pitched squeal from the VIPs congregated at the Orange Peel entrance as we made our way back to the bus where I asked him some radio questions about Christmas and his first trip to the U.K. for the upcoming C2C festivals in London and Dublin. I mentioned I studied the Sex Pistols and the Clash in a British Punk Rock and Reggae class as part of a study abroad program in London. The mention of the word, “sex,” reminded me of a question I was always curious about asking Kip. There was no playing it cool. I felt my face go beet red when I asked, “What is it about sex and love that — I don’t know — make them seem like the easiest thing to write about? Or is it an easy subject to write about?”
Kip smiled, and said, “It’s by far the most written about topic because we were all born with something inside of us as animals — humans — we were all born with a passion for [companionship]. We’re not all born with a passion for loving basketball. We’re not all born with a passion for loving being interested in studying about war and historic events. We’re not all born with a passion of art. I can sit there and sing about my favorite art museums — I like to pop into art museums when go into cities — but for the most part nobody would give a shit. But everybody cares about sex and love. We all care about relationships. I think it’s just the fact that we were all born with that need for companionship. We were all born with that inside of us. Therefore, that’s always going to be the most written about topic because people care about that topic. And it’s a worldwide thing.”
“Somebody once said,” I started, “‘If there was another word, just one new word that rhymed with love, we would have so many different new songs.'”
“Yeah,” he said. “You think about Sam Smith’s ‘Stay With Me.’ When you were asking me earlier what makes a great country song, it’s not about what makes a great country song, it’s about what makes a great song period. How many times has that topic been written about? What you just said, ‘Love.’ It’s been written about five trillion times. But what Sam did in those three minutes was he was honest. He didn’t shake or stir any way that it wasn’t. You can tell it was a true emotion. It was probably a real experience. And when it is honest and it’s got to be a good melody on top of an honest lyric, it’s going to work and people are going to invest in it. They’re going to want to hear it. I remember hearing that song for the first time. It was so vulnerable and so honest and it didn’t feel like a bunch of writers in a room trying to put their chemical formulas together and being like, ‘Let’s write a hit song today.’ It felt like a person that was torn apart and ripped at the seams that sat there and laid it out exactly how they felt. That’s all I got to say.”
With that I thanked him for the time. He said, “You’re welcome.” He checked the time on his iPhone. A six-minute surfing video from a buddy was waiting in his email inbox and he had just enough time to watch. He motioned me to join him on his bench and we zoned out to footage of pro surfers riding waves as tall as houses in slow motion. Kip stared at the screen, studying every angle, as if to recall an inner peace that only manifests itself when he’s in exile on a board in the middle of the ocean — a place that’s completely free of loneliness, stalled singles, album delays and fans hungry for Moore.