If you've only seen John Moreland in a solo acoustic setting, prepare for something a little different -- and louder -- as the acclaimed Oklahoma singer-songwriter brings a full band with him for a show with Deer Tick on Friday at the Rev Room in Little Rock.
"We have encountered some audiences that were caught off-guard by the loud rock 'n' roll band thing," says Moreland, who lives in Tulsa with his wife, Pearl. "But this tour should be cool because it's us and Deer Tick. We're putting it out there that this is going to be a rock 'n' roll show and it's not for the faint of heart. It feels like a really good fit for me."
John Moreland & Deer Tick
8 p.m. Friday, Rev Room, 300 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock
While Moreland's world-weary vocals and often dark folk rock on albums such as High on Tulsa Heat and In the Throes have earned him a devoted following and a reputation as a songwriter with a particular knack for capturing the bleaker depths of relationships and life -- what a headline in the New Yorker called his "Sad National Anthems" -- the idea of him kicking out the jams is exciting.
Also, dude's on a bit of a creative roll. Last year's brilliant, and somewhat brighter, Big Bad Luv, landed him on a truckload of year-end best-of lists and he was written about in GQ, the aforementioned New Yorker and Rolling Stone, among other outlets. Miranda Lambert is an avowed fan, and he has performed on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.
Moreland's Arkansas connections are pretty legit. His spectacular 2013 album, In the Throes, was put out by Little Rock-based Last Chance Records, while 2011's Earthbound Blues was reissued by the label after its original release on Memorial.
The Last Chance deal came about after label owner Travis Hill saw an impromptu Moreland performance at a show with Ben Nichols of Lucero and Cory Branan at the White Water Tavern in Little Rock.
"I drove over from Tulsa and went to the show," Moreland, 32, says. "I knew Ben and he asked me to play a couple of songs, and when I got offstage, Travis was like, 'I want to put out your next record,' and that's what we did."
Continuing the Natural State affiliation, the Moreland-produced Big Bad Luv was recorded mostly at Fellowship Hall Sound studio in Little Rock, with the studio's Jason Weinheimer engineering.
Moreland recorded a video at the Fellowship a few years back and liked the feel of the space.
"I didn't actually record on their gear, but I saw the studio and liked the vibe of the place, and I liked the guys who worked there," Moreland says.
Big Bad Luv, released on 4AD, was recorded in installments, beginning with a three-day session in October 2015, and concluding after a few more days scattered around 2016.
"That's how it tends to work out for me," Moreland says of the scattershot schedule. "If I don't have time constraints or financial constraints, if I'm free to go at my own pace, that's sort of usually how it ends up going. It's what feels natural to me."
Moreland lived in Kentucky until his family moved to Oklahoma when he was 10. He started playing guitar and writing songs not long after. He was in hardcore bands before eventually moving into folksy, literate rock inspired by singer-songwriters such as Gillian Welch, The Band, Steve Earle and Tom Petty. Still, that punk mentality remains.
"I was into hardcore when I was a teenager, then I got into the rootsy stuff my dad listened to," he says. "Through digging around in record stores and years of doing research, where I've kinda landed is somewhere in the middle. I gravitate toward bands like Husker Du and The Replacements that bridge the gap between hardcore punk and classic rock 'n' roll."
And with his group behind him, he's stretching out his sound onstage: "With the band, we can play really quiet and pretty, or we can do a big rock 'n' roll thing. These guys can play whatever, so it's cool, it opens it up so I can express some of my punk influences a little more than I've been able to in a few years."
Weekend on 04/12/2018
Print Headline: Moreland's rock 'n' roll show is 'not for the faint of heart'