DIARY - 16 MAY 2004 - ALLISON MOORER INTERVIEW
MOORER WORKS WITHOUT A NET
the cemetery mist stands a newborn atheist/ even if you do not exist/
you're far from almighty/ flesh and blood's a sissy fist/ death's a gold
glove pugilist." - The Duel - Alison Moorer-Butch Primm.
Moorer has good reasons for not wanting to divulge her song sources.
And it's not just because she bared her heart and soul when she
wrote songs about her songwriter dad Vernon shooting her mum Laura
in a bizarre murder suicide when she was 13.
"I was working with an engineer who had worked with a musician
whom I'm a big fan of and they had just put an album out,"
Moorer told Nu Country in a call from Nashville.
was talking to the engineer about a specific song and what I thought
it meant and what it meant to me. I was excited about it but the
engineer said the artist has written it in the studio with magnetic
poetry on the music stand. It totally blew my mind and broke my
heart. It's not that the song isn't fabulous and I still love it
and want to hear it but I think about that every time I hear it."
born singer has ploughed her painful past for a rich catalogue of songs
that included Oscar nominated Soft Place To Fall from her 1998
debut disc Alabama Song.
Despite the Oscar nomination it only reached #67 on the country charts.
Moorer was just 25 when she performed her song from Robert Redford movie
The Horse Whisperer on the Oscars.
And since then she has landed a brace of her tunes in movies diverse as
The Rookie and a new Redford film.
"Tumbling Down from Miss Fortune was in The Rookie
and Can't Get There From Here To There which I wrote with Bruce
Robison is in the new Redford movie," Moorer, now 31, added.
Moorer, younger sister of Shelby Lynne, plans to tour Australia in 2005
to promote her five-album catalogue of roots country.
Her first four albums were on Universal and tributary Universal South
- her new disc is on Sugar Hill.
Moorer wrote The Duel with Oklahoma born husband Butch Primm, whom
she wed in 1995.
She recorded eleven songs in twelve days for the disc they produced with
R.S. Field who had worked with Billy Joe Shaver, Webb Wilder, Buddy Guy
and John Mayall.
Moorer, backed by multi-instrumentalist John Davis of Superdrag and guitarist
Adam Landry of Stateside, and Primm weave characters from their collective
The sheriff, who deflowered a 13 year-old girl in a seedy turn of the
20th century brothel in Ruby Jewel Was Here was a fictitious character.
"He had that story in his mind for a long time, that was a product
in his mind," Moorer said, "the song is filled with terrible
things going on around you and no-one cares."
But the sheriff, wearing a new belle on his arm like a badge in Louise
Is In The Blue Moon, is a real life character.
"Everyone in that song is someone I know," Moorer confessed,
"those characters are thinly veiled, those who know me know who they
are. That's a true story."
drink the bottle empty, just like my poor daddy did/ no one grows
old in this household, we are a dying breed."
It's 18 years since Moorer and Lynne, now 35, witnessed the murder
suicide of their parents late one hot August night at their home
in Frankville near Mobile.
Their mother Laura left their songwriter father Vernon 15 times
"but she couldn't quite get it done," Moorer recalled.
Allison and Shelby have exorcised their grief in song on their
dozen albums since that fateful night.
But Moorer has been more explicit than her elder sister.
So when Moorer
wrote Dying Breed she was drawing from her family tragedy.
"Take a chorus like: 'No one grows old in this house/ we are a dyin'
breed.' That's not exactly light and fluffy and uplifting," says
Moorer, "I can understand why everybody doesn't want to hear that
first thing in the morning. It's not like that is not a common condition.
I don't see anything wrong with shining a light on that."
Moorer has strong views on the current direction of her rich genre.
"Country music has historically has been darker than pop music,"
Allison says, "that's one of things I don't like much about mainstream
country currently because it's not about the dark side. Country music
used to be about sinning on Saturday night and getting saved on Sunday
morning. Now it's about going to the grocery store, or it's all nostalgia."
danger of Moorer's music suffering from schmaltz and fashion.
Ironically The Dual was released shortly after the death of an
uncle who helped raise her with his wife after her parents' deaths.
"Yes, I was angry about his death, he died of a heart attack, he
was only 63," Moorer said, "it absolutely came out of the blue
and hit us pretty hard. I'm not at peace with it. I'm probably more mad
than sad, I don't understand it, how that works. I was angry he was taken
too young, he was probably the best person I've ever met. He was very
much a safety net for me and my family. He owned a business near Frankville.
I lived there three years. Shelby lived there only a year and then got
married and moved to Nashville."
Moorer, a public relations graduate from the University Of South Alabama,
followed to Nashville when she was 20, began writing songs and met Primm.
The pair hung out with songwriters including Lonesome Bob who cut their
song Call My Name on his 1997 debut album, Things Fall Apart.
Lonesome Bob also duetted with Moorer on her song No Next Time
on The Hardest Part.
Allison also landed Bring Me All Your Loving on Trisha Yearwood's
eighth album Where Your Road Leads.
LOVE AND WAR
doesn't expect widespread airplay for All Aboard - her parody
of jingoism and war bandwagon jumping.
"It's about blind patriotism and wrapping yourself up in the
flag for your own gain," Moorer said, "my husband and
I aren't big fans of people who do that and reaction to band wagon
jumping, people doing it because it's popular. I believe in being
an individual and being free to say what you want to say."
So is the song even more relevant now that blind patriotism is being
blamed for latest torture allegations in Iraq?
don't know the full story but my husband was in the military,"
Moorer revealed, "he said you are not forced to do something
that is not right.
a horrible thing and I'm ashamed it has happened and the shifting of blame.
I'm very angry and sad when I read about that - the war has been going
on for a year and it seems to be getting worse and worse."
Bruce Robison suffered when Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines was banned
from radio as they topped charts with his song Travellin' Soldier.
Robison's song was dumped from radio but Moorer doesn't expect All
Aboard will have a chance to suffer the same fate.
"Country music and radio are traditionally conservative, they showed
their true colours when they did that to the Dixie Chicks," says
Moorer, "it wasn't the right comment at the right time but it wasn't
any different to what anyone else had said. It didn't effect Steve Earle.
They haven't played him on country radio for 20 years but they should."
Moorer's characters are often battlers in a different theatre.
"In Believe You Me all the characters in songs are fighters,"
Moorer revealed, "it's about seeing things going on around you and
being told to believe certain things."
the theme of the album is love and faith.
"It was after we gathered the batch of songs the album theme became
more apparent," Moorer added, "it has nothing to do with religion,
I'm not an atheist but when I sing that song I am. I happen to know what
that feels like. It questions your faith. Not everything has to be 100%
your life, there is poetic licence. Soft Place To Fall was a good
example, it's all to do with your emotional state at the time."
So what about the theme of the title track?
"The Duel is actually a love song. And it's about feeling
that. When you lose the love of your life, you're going to be pretty pissed
off about it. And it's enough to make you lose your faith. The whole record
is really about that - the slow, chipping away of faith. And it can be
faith in anything - yourself, somebody else, God, country. Whatever you
want to believe in."
But not all of Moorer's music is rooted in pain.
"Baby Dreamer is a reflection of getting up and doing something
with your life," says Moorer.
Polly spills her guts on stage/ she can't get her jollies any other way/
safe inside the music and the melody/ Polly gets to lose it and no-one
So does Moorer identify with the characters in One On The House
and Melancholy Polly - tales of singers in bars?
"I'm always hesitant to say what songs are about," Moorer says.
Maybe let the final verse answer that question.
"In front of the footlights Polly takes a bow/ waves and says her
good night to the drunken crowd/ when she house is clapping she knows
what it means/ her life only happens for a song to sing."
Moorer's other characters drown in drink in One On the House and
drugs in When Will You Ever Come Down, while the whores hustle
in Believe You Me and hustlers whore in Louise Is In The Blue
In finale Sing Me To Sleep the narrator is on her deathbed begging
for one last lullaby.
Moorer, like many peers, was a victim of fate and record company politics
when she duetted with Kid Rock on his song The Picture.
"He had originally done the song with Sheryl Crow on his album,"
Moorer revealed, "he wanted the song released as a single. She and
her record company said no. He asked me to replace her part. My label
put it out as commercial single and it sold more than 500,000 copies but
Sheryl Crow's version got airplay. She was better known."
But Moorer is not bitter with a career that has won her wide acclaim for
her writing and music.
"When I was a kid I never dreamt I would do this for a living,"
says Moorer, "I'm now 31, made five albums and have a nice life through
doing this. It's a real privilege to be able to do this for a living."
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