John Moreland on Tulsa, Townes Van Zandt and More

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

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.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.