He may have been born and raised in Georgia, but Kip Moore seems like he did most of his growing up all over the world. When he calls, he’s surrounded by sunshine and palm trees, preparing to go grab some surf in Maui. His current stop in Hawaii comes after some other soul-searching missions, trips that took Moore all the way from Costa Rica to the Red River Gorge in Kentucky. But its Nashville, Tennessee that has been his true refuge, ever since he moved 400 miles north of his home in Tifton, Georgia to find out what it was going to take to be a country star.
At the time, 17 years ago, Moore was just 23 and determined to hone his craft. As he’s moved from album to album and song to song, he’s done so cautiously and carefully. He says he doesn’t make the same album over and over again, but instead chooses to let his perspective from each chapter of his life dictate the kinds of songs he writes.
On his debut album, 2012’s Up All Night, breakout hits like ‘Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck’ and ‘Beer Money’ were an apt representation of who Moore was at the time; a brand-new country singer-songwriter leaning on two decades worth of nostalgia and inspiration. Similarly, with his fourth album Wild World, he has poured every bit of who he currently is into his songwriting; an artist exploring the world in hopes of gaining some understanding. It shows just how true to his craft Kip Moore really is.
The timing of this deluxe album couldn’t be better. I mean, we’re all just starting to see what the other side of this pandemic looks like and that gives us hope. So what a great day to be putting new music out into the world. Was making music an outlet for you during the silence of the past year?
Well I found a few ways to outrun the pandemic, so I still did some traveling. I’m in Hawaii now, and I went down to Costa Rica for a while, then to the canyons of Red River Gorge in Kentucky. I did a lot of mountain biking and rock climbing. Being outside the whole time helped me keep my mind out of the dark hole. Even when I came back to Nashville, I set up a studio in my house and recorded more music. Nobody’s heard it yet, though.
Knowing the toll that the pandemic has taken on Nashville and the whole live music industry, it’s a blessing that you’re in Maui right now.
It is. I’ve been surfing non-stop. I go before the sun comes up, then I get coffee, I read, I go to the skate park, then I surf again. The people here treat me like a local. I have friends who were born and raised here, so it feels like home to me now.
But for so much of your adult life, Nashville’s been home for you. Did you feel that way right away when you arrived?
Nashville then, and now, was a safe harbor for me to be the kind of person that I was. I was gonna’ be that guy no matter where I went. But Nashville was so full of dreamers when I first moved there. It wasn’t this glitz-and-glamour kind of place that it’s starting to become. It was very bare bones and still had a raw grittiness to it. We were all so broke and living in slums. But there was such a sense of community. We’d stay up late together and just jam. You were surrounded by dreamers. So those vulnerabilities and insecurities that you feel - knowing that the rest of the world is more type A - you felt safe in that. So Nashville didn’t change me, but it helped me to be comfortable in who I was. That’s what Nashville was for me.
So in those lean first years, what did that time in Nashville do for you?
I feel like I faced that “what now?” question from aged 23 to 30. It was a fight every day to put one foot in front of the other. I was scratching and clawing every single day. That’s what those years felt like. I never had more than 400 bucks in my bank account until I was 30. Every day I just tried to make enough money so I could still chase this thing, even if I was writing all through the night. I tried to write at least three songs a day to get better at my craft, I was obsessed with it. I never had a plan B, I was all in. For me, it was more of a desire to be great at my craft than a desire to be famous.
Mission accomplished then, because all of the songs on all four of your albums sound well-crafted. It seems you took the time to toil over the big things as well as the little things?
I labor over everything, I’m always second guessing. That’s how ‘Janie Blu’ came to be on Wild World, it wasn’t even on the finished album. The record was about to get printed, and I was in Costa Rica and wrote that song at one in the morning. I called the label the next day and said, “The record’s not finished, I’m flying home to record this song.”
So by moving at a more careful and measured pace like you have - stopping to hear the roses, in a way - I feel like you always sound brand new with every record.
That’s my intent: to never make the same record twice. I hear artists still singing about the same things they were singing about on their first album, even when they’re six records in. My records have moved as I’ve moved, so Wild World is about where I’m at in my life right now.
Okay. Then let’s talk about each of the four new tracks.
‘Don’t Go Changing’ was one of those songs that had nothing abstract about it. It was very direct. I remember thinking that there’s so much animosity in the world, and everyone is so fickle. Everyone is so venomous, and trying so hard to appease whatever their group believes. The minute you feel like people aren’t liking you, you quickly try to change, and your backbone weakens. So I've always tried to remain someone who has stayed himself, no matter what the circumstances. I will be me 100 percent at all times. This song is about that yearning for your partner to be the same way; loving the things that you love about that person and pleading with them to never let that be stripped away.
‘Midnight Slow Dance’ came from a day when I heard those opening drum beats and I started riffing on the guitar. It immediately made me shout out the chorus and melody. I was thinking about somebody who I was trying to win the attention of, that’s where it started. The lyrics fell out, we got to the hook and we were off to the races. Nobody will ever know who it’s about. You’re never gonna’ get a T. Swift from me, where I call out names. I’m very private and super guarded in my relationships. I’m protective of my privacy and my emotions. But I’m an open book when I write. I let it all out in my music.
‘How High’ was one of those times where the music falls out of you in an abstract way. A lot of times you have a very specific feeling you’re trying to share and a lot of times the lyric is guided by the music. But on this one, we started with those trippy guitar sounds and it put us in this headspace that made us think very out of the box. As it’s going down, you’re still not even sure what you’re saying, it’s more that you’re evoking a certain emotion. That’s what this song was for us. It meant different things as we went through the process. Songs like that are more like abstract paintings, and I never try to tell the listener what I expect them to get from the song. It’s an open canvas for however you choose to see it.
“Man’s Gotta Do” had us drawing on a lot of different things, one of them being the subject of divorce. That took a toll on people we knew, watching their own parents go through a tumultuous time and almost split. Also, understanding as you get older that that animosity you may have held onto as a kid is something you understand now. People just grow apart, it’s as simple as that. Sometimes there’s no way of fixing it. As you get older, you lose that animosity that you might’ve carried and harbored towards your parents. You find out that there are lessons to learn, that sometimes people aren’t meant to be together, that life is not waiting on you, and that you’re gonna’ have to grow up regardless. Nobody is going to hold your hand.
Kip Moore's Deluxe Edition of his fourth album 'Wild World' is out this Friday (2/12) via MCA Nashville / UMG. Watch the video for his hit 'She's Mine' below.
Photography courtesy of MCA Nashville.