3/31/18 By: Addie Hayes, Editor/Lead Writer, Regional Music Journal
Regional Music Journal headed out to Carnegie, Oklahoma on Saturday, March 10, 2018 to see Oklahoma Country/Americana music artist Matt Moran perform at The Dam. Carnegie is a small community in western Oklahoma, and The Dam proved to be a nice little country bar where locals go to hang out with their friends, play some pool and listen to music. Bartenders Kaitlyn and Michelle are very welcoming and friendly, and the locals who frequent the bar where happy to engage with anyone who showed up.
Before Matt Moran started performing, he sat down for a brief interview with Regional Music Journal. When first meeting Moran, he seems quiet and reserved, but friendly and comfortable around people. His music isn’t ordinary country; he mixes country with elements of folk, blues, soul and acoustic rock. His lyrics reveal a deep vulnerability and strong emotions. His most recent album, Greer County Blue is a wonderful piece of work; when asked about the album Moran said, “I just wrote songs to sort of deal with (bad stuff), to kind of get it done and get it out of my mind basically. I mean I still play those songs, I love those songs”.
Moran’s early musical influences came from his parents and grandmother. He said, “the earliest thing I remember musically, as far as music being around my house, was my dad listened to Bruce Springsteen. He always played the Born to Run record, which I recently purchased, I had to have it on vinyl. So I’ve got that, and he always played ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’. Also, he was always a bit of a country music fan.” Moran’s father introduced him to other artists as well, “so one of the albums I remember constantly in the car was Dwight Yokum’s This Time. It was always playing, ‘A Thousand Miles From Nowhere’, you know those songs, ‘Pocket of a Clown’, and then as I got older, and I think about it and there was always these songs that were floating around when I was a kid.”
His grandmother was a huge George Jones fan and exposed Moran to the country music legend. As he grew, so did his exposure to other types of music, “as I got older my parents started listening to stuff like the Counting Crows and stuff like that. That’s what I listened to growing up.” Moran first picked up the guitar when he was sixteen and he spoke about his earliest experience with the music industry, “as I got older, of course, I was a teenager so I got into punk rock that’s what I did. After I graduated high school I actually went on a few, sort of national tours doing punk rock, hard core music, stuff like that, and I did that for a few years.” Moran ultimately settled down, got married and started a family. Age has helped him realize how important his roots are and he has created a style that combines his early influences and made a sound all his own.
Any artist has to decide how to produce art that is creative but also commercially viable, however, it depends on how high the artist wants to climb up the ladder for fame and recognition. For Moran, it’s about creating music he likes, “I think there’s certain people that they go for it, I think there’s two ways you can go about it. There are some people that want to be YouTube stars or whatever, want to get their songs on the radio or whatever, get on Spotify playlists. When I say the DIY route, when I write songs, I don’t write them for anyone in mind. I just write them because that’s what sounds good to me, if I say ‘fuck’ in a song I’m not going to worry about if it will be able to be played on the radio. I’m just going to write the song how it’s going to be written and that’s all I’m going to worry about, and if you want to listen to it, you can find it on Bandcamp.”
As for Moran’s songwriting process, he said, “Usually what happens is I will have all the lyrics and the melody written before I touch a guitar. Because I used to write simultaneously, I used to write guitar and vocals at the same time. But I just found that to be really, it just started getting prohibitive to do, trying to create all that at once. So I said what’s the most important part, lyrics and melody to me are the most important part…what will happen is something will stick in my brain and it’s usually in the car and I have a thirty minute commute to work so usually it happens in the car. Something will hit me and I’ll be like ok, I’ll just sing that and build on it, and by the time I get home I’ve got a whole song, lyrics and melody done, I’ll pick up the guitar and figure out what the cords are and then before I play it or record it…I’ll usually sit on it for months. Because it’s going to change, because your first ideas aren’t always your best ones.”
The lyrics to Moran’s music are very striking and pulls the listener into the moment and the emotion. Moran explained, “what I try to do is just be honest about life which is a hard thing to do, but I also try to say it in a way that doesn’t, how do I say this, just in a way everybody can relate to. I don’t want to get so specific about my life that you listen to it…I’m not trying to be autobiographical, but I just want to be honest about things, but where other people can maybe understand where I’m coming from. I don’t try to censor myself or anything. There are things out there that are hard for me to talk about, I don’t like talking about them, but I’ve had too much experience bottling things up.”
Matt Moran is a completely independent artist, he not only writes his own material, but he also produces and mixes his music, markets himself and books his own shows. While he has moved past puck and hard-core bands, he has maintained the DIY approach to making music. He said, “whereas before I was trying to go nationally and do things, and now I just want to hang out, drive an hour, meet some people in Carnegie and play some music. That’s what it’s all about to me now.”
When Moran finally kicked off his first set of the night, it was amazing to hear his songs performed live. He does an excellent job of mixing some old school country covers into his performance alongside his original tracks. He played songs by country greats like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard to name a few. Some of his original songs he performed was “This House”, “Pall Mall Queen”, “Drinking Irish” and “Come Home”. Moran also performed two new songs “Stutterin’” and “Laramie”, both of which are excellent, and the audience enjoyed what they heard.
Matt Moran is an immensely talented musician with the potential to go as far as he wants with his music. He thrives in the intimate settings of small country bars and his interactions with the audience go a long way in winning new fans. The Dam was an ideal setting to showcase Matt Moran’s music and live performance. Follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/mattmoranmusic/?ref=br_rs to keep up with all his upcoming shows, and checkout his music on bandcamp.
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