John Moreland on Tulsa, Townes Van Zandt and More

John Moreland has a hard time telling lies. When you’re at one of the songwriter’s shows, what you see is what you get, and what he says is what he means. In his unabashed approach to writing, Moreland is steadfast in his commitment to the truth, regardless of whether or not it’s what people want to hear. His latest album, High on Tulsa Heat, is an homage to his home town of Tulsa, Oklahoma. On it, he addresses how hard it is to leave home behind, but also how hard it is to stay there for too long.

We caught up with Moreland while he was in Bakersfield, California, and asked him to discuss some of his musical influences.

On Tulsa: “Being from Oklahoma right now has definitely pushed me to work harder at songwriting. When your peers are people like John Fullbright, Evan Felker, Kierston White, Samantha Crain, Beau Jennings and Parker Millsap, you can’t really get away with half-assing it.

On the band Lucero: “[We’re] kindred spirits, I think. When I was seventeen, my favorite bands were Minor Threat and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Lucero was the first band I ever heard that bridged the gap between those two worlds in a way that felt sincere and wasn’t just some novelty thing. Seeing that Dreaming in America documentary when I was twenty made me feel like maybe I wasn’t so crazy for trying to do this music stuff.”

On punk rock: “It’s the entire reason I have a career. If I hadn’t been exposed to the notion that you can record and release your own records and book your own tours, I’m 100 percent certain I wouldn’t be doing this.”

On Townes Van Zandt: “Everybody knows how great he was, but for me, he’s one of the people who showed me that songwriting is more than just making some stuff up so your band has something to play. When I heard Townes Van Zandt, I knew there was a distinct difference between what he did and what I had been doing, and I wanted to try to figure out how to do what he did. I’m still trying.”

On Descendents guitarist Stephen Egerton, who mastered High on Tulsa Heat: “One of the best dudes I know. He’s taught me more about recording than anybody else, and he lent me his audience when I didn’t really have one.”

John Moreland, with Grayson County Burn Band and Chris Dismuke, 8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 7, hi-dive, $8, 303-733-0230.
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Andy Thomas is a music journalist who hopes other music journalists write nice things about the music he performs. He lives in Denver with his wife, their two cats and a massive pile of unfinished projects.
Contact: Andy Thomas