Outlaw Magazine talks with Honky Tonker Peewee Moore in the interview series, In Five.
Peewee Moore lives his music day in and night out, hitting Honky Tonks from West Coast to East. With a voice from the hills of Tennessee accompanied by a hard-drivin’ phaser, Peewee Moore takes his music of the people, to the people. Go see him when he comes near you, you’re in for one hell of a show.
1) OM: When did you know you wanted to be a musician/songwriter?
PM: I knew that I wanted to play music for as long as I can remember. My mom and her fathers side of the family all played something if not everything. I remember uncles, aunts, cousins, and random strangers that were more than likely their friends gathering at either our place, or my Uncle Billy’s (capitalize Uncle Billy because thats exactly the name everyone know’s him as, and yes he is my uncle) body shop on the weekends till wee hours of the morning while my dad was out running West Coast trips in the big rig. There was always booze, cigarette smoke (maybe it was cigarette smoke) and a grand finale of somebody (if not everybody) gettin’ shit faced. It seemed like a whole load of fun. There was also always a beat up old upright piano around that wouldn’t hold tune (the kind you find sitting on somebody’s curb that has had enough of it, and was passing it on to the next poor sumbitch that could find four willing buddies to help him lift it into the back of his pickup, take it home, and try to fit it through the door) guitars, mandolin, or banjo laying around that I would abuse in some form or fashion. I didn’t really know what I was doing, I just wanted to make sense out of them the way they all did.
I was about 8 or 9 years old when I really got serious about wanting to learn how to play the guitar. My mom and Uncle Billy showed me some chords, and soon after I swapped a nintendo (the kind you had to blow into the games to make work) for a ragged old, no-name acoustic guitar that looked a lot like a Gibson Dove that had been dragged behind a bicycle that a kid had in elementary school. I played that thing till my fingers would bleed. I’m sure I drove everybody crazy in the process. I had always kinda wrote songs. I made stuff up when I was a kid I guess because I grew up around singers, and songwriters. It was never discouraged. I wrote my first real song when I was around 14 years old. It was about a girl…
2) OM: How did you get started in the business?
PM: In April of 1998 I saw Steve Earle at a beautiful old theater in Chattanooga TN called The Tivoli. It’s a 1600 capacity remnant of a much more appreciative place in time. It was a couple years after Steve had sobered up, and got out of jail, and he was just killin’ it. I never knew anything about Copperhead Road at the time, I just had an album that he put out called The Hard Way, and I didn’t even know Steve was still around but I heard he was gonna be there. Almost didn’t even go. I’m glad I did. I was 19 years old and knew for certain after that night that there was no other purpose in my life than to make music. I didn’t have anything for Steve to autograph, but I stood in the rain out back by the tour bus for two hours waiting to meet the man that had helped me arrive at my decision.When he came out I said ” howdy ” and had him sign an old jean shirt I was wearing (like the kind that Billy Joe Shaver wears) over the left pocket. I still have that shirt in my closet. My friend and mentor Roger Alan Wade wrote a song called “The First Time I Saw Waylon” that all the readers should go listen to if they wanna understand what I experienced that night. I never got to see Waylon, but I know exactly what Roger was talking about. I quit my job, bought a small P.A. traded my 55 chevy for a suburban and spent the next year purusing the local bars, and open mics of Northwest GA, and Southeastern TN trying to pick up gigs.
In April of ’99, I was invited to cross TN for two weeks on The Journey Of Hope with a group called MVFR or Murder Victim’s Family Members for Reconciliation. They were in Tennessee trying to halt the firing up of Tennessee’s executions for the first time since the ’60’s. I go to Nashville to meet up with this group consisting of some ordinary folks with ideas like myself, and some men, and women that had been on death row only to be proven innocent 20 years down the line after their lives had been destroyed, people that had their children kidnapped, raped, and murdered, and people that had things happen to them, and/or their family members (you better thank God has never had to be an issue you had to deal with). Everyone there had the common goal of ending the violence. I know it’s a hot topic issue, and don’t want to alienate any fans, but I don’t believe our government should have the authority to murder it’s citizens because I know for a fact that we live under a flawed system that is capable of making mistakes. Two wrongs don’t make a right. I also know most people are saying well if I was in their shoes I would want em to fry, but you’re not-and they don’t. They’ve had a lot of time to think about it. Anyway, back to the story. I’m at the meeting place in Nashville for about 20 minutes, and who walks in but Steve Earle. It was kinda like The Twilight Zone for a couple days, but after 2 weeks of hanging out, telling tales, picking, and singing songs with a guy that had a year earlier convinced me with a performance that I should be following a different path, I submitted and let fate take it’s course. It was an awesome time for a 20 year old hillbilly kid. I’m sure I bugged the shit out of him, but for some reason he tolerated me way better than I probably would have if I hadn’t been shown otherwise.
A few weeks after I got back from The Journey Of Hope I ran into an old friend named Mike McDade that used to do Open Mics around Chattanooga back when I was cutting my teeth in the local coffee shops and beer joints. Everybody that is anybody in Chattanooga knows Mike McDade. If you ever go to Chattanooga, and you don’t run into someone that knows Mike, you are in trouble! We were at a local function called Night Fall watching Bela Fleck. Night Fall is one of those City organized events on the warmer Fridays throughout Spring, Summer, and Fall that features world class talent for free, and small cups of average beer for an arm, and a leg. Anyways, so Mike introduced me to Roger Alan Wade that night (I had no idea at the time of who Roger Alan Wade was cause I had been hangin out in the wrong coffee shops, and beer joints) and Roger invited me out to come warm some shows up for him. I did. Before I knew it, I was picking guitar, and singing backup with Roger. Honky Tonk Boot Camp is about the only accurate way of describing that period. That’s where I learned you need a bare minimum of 4 hours solid material, and if you couldn’t pull off 6 hours without missing a beat you might as well go back to the drawing board.
I loved almost every minute of it, and soaked in everything I could including- but not limited to -a liter of Jack Daniels just about every night. I did that for the next two years or so, and learned way more than most 23 year olds had even read about in any book you could find on the shelf at any library. I met a lot of wonderful people, many of whom I still stay in touch with today. I played with a band called The Tennesee Rounders for 6 years between the time I spent with Roger, and the last 5 years of rambling round the country pushing my own name, but I can’t say I learned anywhere near as much as I did the fore, and aft. When somebody asks me who got me started in the business I tell them Roger Alan Wade – with a swift kick in the ass by Steve Earle.
PM: I left The Tennessee Rounders in July 2007 after what could be accurately described as a six year boxing match of bright ideas to move the band forward. Basically the rest of the guys in the band wouldn’t get their shit together whether it be from drug habits for a couple of them, or sheer laziness for the rest. I had been working on material for a record before the deal went south with the band, because I could clearly see it was heading that direction. When I felt I had the “right” songs together, I sold my Harley Davidson and booked time with my old friend Jeff Coppage that did two albums with The Rounders, (I had met years earlier through Roger Alan Wade) to record my album The Leaving Side Of Gone in December, right before New Years Eve 2008- with 12 original songs in one 12 hour session. It was a bare bones, stripped down record that I wanted to lay down as a solid platform for my newly rejuvinated solo career.If you listen to it close enough, just about all of my influences will stand out. I wanted to make a country record that paid homage to my heroes, kinda as a “thanks fellers, for all you have given me” as well as a stepping out album. This was the next doorway to my destiny so to speak. I was literally standing on the leaving side of gone. There’s Johnny Cash in it, Waylon Jennings, Steve Earle, Jerry Reed, Bill Monroe, Gram Parsons, Townes Van Zandt, Johnny Horton, Dave Dudley, and a hand full of other folks that helped me arrive at that point in my life.
I have a new record coming out very soon called Making Sure The Story’s Being Told that you will still hear all those same influences on, that is leaps and bounds beyond my first. I’m very excited to release it, and will be announcing a release date after we get it back from mastering. My good friend Lew Card co-produced it with James Stevens of East Austin Recording. It’s a real deal Outlaw Country record.
4) OM: You recently relocated to Austin – how often are you home, and how often are you on the road?
PM: I moved to Austin TX on January 12th, 2010 and played my first show in Austin as a resident on the 13th at The Saxon Pub. I had been touring hard up until that point and needed a break, so I started booking everything I could in and around Austin for those first six months, trying to say “Hey, Austin- I’m here.” I met a lot of great people, and played a lot of good shows but I quickly learned that you can play 5 nights a week in Austin, and not make the same money as you can on the road. I do Sturgis Motorcycle Rally every year anyway, so I started booking some month and a half runs out coordinating with that, and coming back to Austin for a month. 2011 was pretty much the same except I was gone a solid 3 months during the Summer on tour, and the month and a half runs have turned into two month ordeals. We are about to hit our busy seasons again, and I’m gonna be gone most of the Summer with one or two stops in Austin while passing through. My plan from September through Summer of next year is to go on a 3 month rotation of about 80 cities around the country, and try to really reinforce what I have already built. I know we have some friends out there that we wouldn’t mind seeing a little more often as well.
5) OM: What is the most important thing that you’d like to really get across with your music?
PM: My music isn’t a fashion statement, or anything designed to make anybody a million bucks. I write my songs to make me feel better, and I don’t care if I’m the only person on earth that enjoys them. I am however greatful at the response I have recieved, and friends I have made while pursuing my own happiness. If theres any sort of message that I hope people get from my songs it’s this…
Live life, have fun, learn to deal with the heartache that it brings because we all could be walking in a very worse pair of boots, if none at all. Love and respect one another because you might have to depend on each other some day to make it through the night. Don’t ever live to regret not following your heart , it’ll take you where you need to go if you’re being true to yourself and not trying to hurt anyone else in the process. The good also really does outweigh the bad, but there are people ready to kick you when you’re down, so most the time it’s hard to see past the shitheads standing over you. We are not here but for a brief moment – so suck it up and cut loose with all that you have in you!
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