More from Moreland
The acclaimed 30-year-old singer-songwriter knows how to sculpt raw, ragged beauty into powerful reflections.
Singer-songwriter John Moreland embarked on a solo career in 2010. Since then, he has released three albums, including the recent “High on Tulsa Heat.”
John Moreland knows there is often beauty buried deep within sorrow. And with the April release of his highly anticipated third album, “High on Tulsa Heat,” the acclaimed 30-year-old singer-songwriter showed once again he knows how to sculpt that raw, ragged beauty into powerful reflections on love, guilt and nostalgia.
It’s surprising so much world-weary introspection can come from a musician barely out of his 20s, but Moreland’s vulnerable yet pointed imagery and old soul melodies are winning fans across the United States.
Though his solo career has taken off relatively quickly (Moreland’s first album, “Earthbound Blues,” released in 2011) this troubadour has crafted music since he was just 10. That was the year his family relocated from Kentucky to Tulsa.
“I didn’t have any friends here yet, and I was getting bored,” Moreland says. “I guess I was looking for something I could do alone. So, I started playing guitar.”
His first foray into songwriting happened soon after. “I was never that interested in learning songs on the radio,” he says. “I wanted to make them my own.”
By age 13, Moreland was playing with various punk bands. In high school, however, he took an interest in his dad’s music (CCR, Neil Young, etc.) as well as singer-songwriters such as David Bazan and Jason Molina.
When asked about his lyrical penchant for melancholy, Moreland pauses for a moment.
“That’s just the thing that makes me want to write,” he says. “When I’m having a great time, I don’t think to pick up a guitar … I just have a great time.”
In 2010, Moreland made the difficult transition from band member to solo artist. He admits it was challenging for him.
“I wasn’t eager to play solo,” he says. “It took awhile to adjust to it. I started noticing, though, that when I played a show with a band, someone from the audience might come up afterward and say they liked my guitar or that my drummer was cool.
“But when I played a solo show, they’d say, ‘Hey man, I really like that one lyric.’ That was way more satisfying for me as a songwriter. I don’t spend as much time as I do working on lyrics just for people to miss out because they can’t hear them over the band.”
In 2011, the popular FX drama “Sons of Anarchy” used one of Moreland’s tracks (“Heaven” from his debut CD) in an episode.
“By that time I had already decided to tour all the time,” says Moreland, who was booking his own performances. “The TV show gave me a little boost. When the next record came out (2013’s “In the Throes”) they used a couple more songs off that one, too.”
It was the career help he needed. His newfound exposure via touring, TV and even a glowing tweet from MSNBC host Rachel Maddow helped garner Moreland full-time management, a booking agent and a Nashville label (Thirty Tigers), which released his latest record.
Ironically, though, Moreland’s hometown has been slow to respond.
“I didn’t really have a following in Tulsa till this year,” he says.
Fortunately, that trend appears to be reversing.
November’s Best Bets for Live Music
11/14 Young the Giant, Cain’s Ballroom Since bursting onto the national scene in 2010 with hits “My Body” and “Cough Syrup,” the Irvine, California, alterna-pop quintet Young the Giant has been a mainstay act on college radio while enjoying crossover successes on alternative and adult contemporary stations. Opening act: Wildling. Doors open at 7 p.m. Show starts at 8.
11/21 JD McPherson, Cain’s Ballroom Roots rock alchemist and proud Okie JD McPherson storms into Cain’s with a show that will definitely rock the rafters. Touring in support of his lauded sophomore release, “Let the Good Times Roll,” McPherson will keep the dance floor packed with an evening of retro-informed rock-and-roll that fuses the melodic stomp of Chuck Berry, the colorful sweep of the psychedelic ’60s and the bombast of The Black Keys into their own unique sound. Doors at 7 p.m. Opening act Parker Millsap goes on at 8.