Moore, please
Cold Spring’s Surprise Music Star Producing Records, Advocating for the Commonwealth

It’s true that Daniel Martin Moore sent a tape of his music to a major record label before he’d ever played in public.

It’s also true that whenever the Cold Spring native created a good song, he’d record it for family and friends.

And it’s also true that when Moore found out he was going to be a professional musician, he was working at a bed and breakfast in Costa Rica.

But before all that, Moore grew up in a musical family and learned to play guitar at Northern Kentucky University, where he earned a degree in photography. While he tried his own photo business after graduation, that just wasn’t for him. He worked at a coffee house in Minnesota. He joined the Peace Corps. He traveled overseas. All the while he played music. Folk, bluegrass and gospel. Music that reflects his Kentucky upbringing.

One night, he watched The Shins perform on Saturday Night Live and their sound resounded with Moore. The next day he found their record in a shop, took note of the label — Sub Pop, located in Seattle — and sent them a tape of simple folk music. It was the equivalent of buying a ticket in a “Win Your Own Record Contract” raffle. The chances of the label, famous for making records with Nirvana, even listening to the demo tape were small. But Sub Pop listened.

Moore got the call while in Costa Rica — Sub Pop wanted to sign him to a record deal.

That was 2007.

Now, the 29-year-old Moore has released two critically acclaimed albums and in April he will release a third, on his own label. He says 2012 will be the year of “slowing down” but when he talks of future projects, it sounds like that’s the last thing on his mind. He did have time to answer a few questions, though.

NKY: Very few artists are able to get a record deal based on an unsolicited demo. Do you feel lucky?

I do. I think, ‘How did this happen?’ But I believe that with everything, it’s one part luck and nine parts work. You know, now I have this opportunity, so it’s time to take advantage. But yes, I’m eternally grateful and thankful.

NKY: You’ve just finished a year of touring. What are the most memorable moments?

We went over to the U.K. and Ireland three times and it was just extraordinary. The Newport Folk Festival was amazing. You know, most places it’s like a party and there’s a band. But there, the crowd is really there to see you.

NKY: And now you’re embarking on the next phase of your career — producing.

Eight months ago I was able to start a record label for some friends and some projects I wanted to work on. It’s called Ol Kentuck records, and we’ll be putting out our third album in April. This year is really going to be focused on production, creating, having a normal life and not living in some sort of moving vehicle.

NKY: Is it hard to create on the road?

It’s hard to stay focused in a lot of ways. When you’re home, you’re focused on the things that matter. The creative process sometimes sounds a little more fanciful than it is. Creating can be as easy as just hanging out with friends and making music.

NKY: Your first record production was a collection of lullabies by a band called Maiden Radio, which were sung for one of the band member’s babies. How did you decide on that as your first production project?

I kind of just heard these beautiful songs and persuaded them to release it. It’s just the best feeling. It’s an artistic triumph.

NKY: Your music has a distinctly Kentucky feel and you’ve been speaking out against mountaintop removal of coal in the eastern part of the state. What does this state mean to you?

Kentucky is extraordinary, even beyond my selfish reasons. It has such a rich history, great traditions, breathtaking landscapes and beautiful people. As part of a group called Appalachian Voices and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, we want the state to be able to sustain and thrive. There are things being done right now that are just smash-and-grab...There’s no reason we can’t have a balanced approach to our energy concerns in the future. ■

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