Birmingham SlossFest profile: John Moreland

Birmingham SlossFest profile: John Moreland
John Moreland will play the Blast Stage at SlossFest in July. (Joey Kneiser)

Performer: John Moreland

Type of Music: Singer-songwriter, rootsy

About: John Moreland is an Oklahoma singer-songwriter whose rootsy music grabs your heart with a healthy dose of reality.

He sings directly from his soul, with none of the restraint and filters and caution the rest of us would apply for public protection. He sings with resolute courage, sharing life’s punches until it hurts again – and hurts everyone else in the room.

“If you just sing it like you mean it – like so hard that people can’t ignore it…” he said in his SlossFest biography. “That’s what I was trying to do.”

Moreland was talking about his performance of “Break My Heart Sweetly” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in February 2016, but he could have been talking about any of his performances the past 10 years. Moreland’s songs poke old wounds until you’re sure they’ve got to be bleeding again, but in Moreland’s care, they have earned him devoted listeners across the country.

“I’ve always written to make myself feel better, I think,” he says. “It’s my way of figuring stuff out –  figuring out where I stand. You can’t do that without emotion. You can’t do that insincerely.”

Moreland’s latest solo album, “Big Bad Luv,” is the record he made after everything in his life changed – for the better. Songs like “It Don’t Suit Me (Like Before)” sound happier than previous hit singles, although Moreland says the songs on this album aren’t much different than before.

“It’s always been a positive thing at heart, even if a song isn’t sunshine and rainbows. At the very least, my songs have been a way to exorcise negative feelings so that I can move on. And hopefully they provide that same experience to listeners. So that’s what I’m still doing. I think it’s a positive thing. I think this record, there’s definitely a change in attitude, but it’s the same point of view.”

Born in Longview, Texas, in 1985, Moreland grew up in Oklahoma in a working-class family of Southern Baptists. His father’s love for Neil Young and Creedence Clearwater Revival influenced his early music and the desire to play guitar by age 10. As a teenager, he played in various punk and metalcore bands, including Thirty Called Arson, before returning to his country roots with the Black Gold Band. They released their first album, “Endless Oklahoma Sky,” in 2008, followed by “Things I Can’t Control” three years later. Moreland also recorded two other albums that year with the Dust Bowl Souls, including “Earthbound Blues.”

In 2013, Moreland recorded his first self-produced solo album, “In the Throes,” showcasing his intimate acoustic sound. The record helped him develop a devoted, grassroots following, which quickly grew when several songs on the album were used in the acclaimed FX television series “Sons of Anarchy.”

In 2015, Moreland released his third solo album, “High on Tulsa Heat,” which was recorded at his parents’ home in Bixby, Oklahoma. In early 2017, Moreland signed with U.K. label 4AD and released his fourth solo LP, “Big Bad Luv.”

“It grew to the point where I couldn’t really handle everything myself,” he says. “Even with a manager and a small team, I came to the conclusion that I’d like to play music and not worry about the other stuff.”

Enough success to buy a measure of peace, but not more pain, carrying it for all of us, but no longer alone.

You can follow John Moreland on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Spotify and Bandcamp.


Discography: Big Bad Luv (2017), High on Tulsa Heat (2015), In the Throes (2013), Earthbound Blues (2011)

Playing at SlossFest: John Moreland will take the Blast stage from 2:15 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 15.

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