As a warm acoustic guitar tone introduces Kip Moore’s new album Wild World (out Friday), Moore’s rugged voice burns with urgency from his first notes on opener “Janie Blu,” the story of a girl struggling to combat the guilt laid at her feet by an absent father, a girl who numbs the pain with addiction and lovers.
There ain’t no shame in bleeding, he sings.
It’s true in life and it’s true in song.
While so much of today’s country radio fare has an external focus—treading the same lyrical tropes of parties, alcohol, and nameless girls—Moore again turns introspective on his fourth studio album for MCA Nashville, writing all but one track on the album and producing it with David Garcia, Luke Dick and Blair Daly on select tracks. He mines deeper into topics—seeking love, seeking freedom, seeking peace, making peace with old decisions—that have become the bedrock of his catalog, but infuses them with fresh intensity.
“There was a lot of self-reflection on this album,” he says. “There was a lot of digging deep and finding out what I’ve taken for granted and what God looks like for me, but also trying to find those simplicities and joys in everyday moments.”
Though Moore’s early hits “Somethin’ ‘Bout A Truck” and “Beer Money” reveled in working-class, Friday night freedoms and summer love on rural farmlands, Moore quickly set himself apart as a road warrior, an electrifying yet intimate live act with a breadth and depth of songwriting to back it up, such as the Platinum-certified “Hey Pretty Girl” or the Gold-certified “Last Shot.”
Two songs on the new album—“South” and “Sweet Virginia”—are the result of those long days spent on the road, with writing credits from Moore’s bandmembers Erich Wigdahl, Manny Medina, Dave Nassie, and Adam Browder (several of the bandmembers have previous writing credits on Moore’s albums including sophomore effort Wild Ones).
“’South’ came about as a completely organic thing during soundcheck,” Moore says. “They send me ideas and we brainstorm and try new things out. It’s not like, ‘I’m the artist and they’re the band.’ We’re all in this thing together.”
“Sweet Virginia” originated in a dressing room after a concert in Scotland, around 1:00 a.m.
“The set ended around 11:00 p.m., and for next two hours, we drank just about every bottle they had in that dressing room. We sang old tunes, rock and roll tunes, old country tunes and then it turned into writing our own music. I was humming that melody and then Manny blasted out the first line of the chorus. We just drank and wrote music.”
Another standout is the gritty, U2-esque soul rocker “Fire and Flame.”
I got this reckless heart that I can’t tame/just when I think I’ve reined it in a little/I’m still somewhere between the fire and flame, he sings with the urgency of a rebel seeking salvation, as he chronicles those who help push him toward a peace and light he’s seeking, be it lovers or homeless acquaintances. The track builds to a righteous, arena-ready chorus before simmering down to a reverent piano-vocal.
“That one was a little difficult to wrangle in the studio, ’cause there’s so many little musical things happening. There’s a lot of other ways we could have gone with that song, and we spent a good solid half-day just to figure out how to go about that. We thought about going with a very stripped down style, but we wanted that thing to be a massive anthem. They we brought it down at the very end to show how strong the melody and lyric is all by itself.”
The underdog-tale “Southpaw,” written with longtime co-writer Westin Davis, takes it name from a boxing term. On the gentle title track, Moore trades untamed roads for mama’s kitchen table, soaking in hard-earned words of advice on finding success in life and love.
The album’s heaviest emotional punch is paired with a Bob Dylan-esque melody on “Payin’ Hard” as he comes clean about the regrets that come with making a life as a music man—including the pain of losing his father in 2011, just months before Moore would release his debut album Up All Night, which went on to earn Moore his first successes as a Platinum album.
“It was very difficult to write and the hardest thing I’ve ever had to sing. That was the only time I’ve ever broken down in the studio, while trying to sing that vocal. For a couple hours, I couldn’t get through it. I kept having to gather myself and start over. It’s as personal as I can get.”
Normally, Moore would have spent the weeks leading up to the release of Wild World in a flurry of media appearances. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s been secluded at a rock climbing facility in Red River Gorge, Kentucky, an hour outside of Lexington.
“I’ve always kind of done things in isolation. I travel the world by myself. This is nothing new for me,” he says.
Moore built the lodge there, dubbed “BedRock,” nearly two years ago alongside his friend Jeremy Salyers.
“It holds about 28 people, and it was booked up for the next three months, to capacity. We had to cancel all those, but it’s a special place—lots of hikers, there’s waterfalls everywhere, lots of rock climbing, some of the best in the world. Lot of yoga retreats, a lot of cyclists from all over the world come. It’s a pretty amazing outdoor place to be.”
Despite the pandemic, Moore and his team decided to push forward with the album release.
“I think a lot of it is the tip of the cap to the fan base,” he says. “Now, it might come back to bite me in the ass. Normally, we’re out playing shows and promoting this thing, but I think we just have faith in the fan base being so tangible. And that they’re gonna go and get the record. We might fall flat on our face or it might be a big success.”
Moore has released his In The Wild Sessions, acoustic performances of many of the songs from the project, and today, he releases the documentary 7 Days At The Rock via Outside TV. Moore seems content whatever the outcome—his ultimate goal can’t always be measured in record or streaming sales.
“All I ever hope for when I’m making records is the music brings levity, and it helps people to process maybe some of those old regrets they’ve been suppressing for quite some time—or maybe [ones] they don’t feel vulnerable enough to pick ‘em back up and take another look at it. All I ever hope is whatever those feelings are, whatever you’re bearing, you can face them and try to learn.”
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