How Kip Moore’s Soul-Searching Travels Led Him to ‘SLOWHEART’

Sometimes the best way to re-discover who you truly are is to pack your bags and take a trip. It’s a strategy that worked well for Kip Moore, inspiring the music on his new album, SLOWHEART, as well as his candid, no-holds-barred documentary “A Journey to SLOWHEART.”

“I felt like my soul needed some balance,” says Kip, whose third album drops on Sept. 8. “I’ve been very one dimensional in my pursuit of trying to be great with music. I’ve pushed anything else away that didn’t pertain to music in my life. That’s been detrimental, I think, to my soul, so I felt like I had to step away and really take some time to figure out where I’ve been, where I’m at and where I want to go. My travels re-centered me into what I’ve known is important in this life and that I need balance.”

Taking time to reflect and reevaluate his life has led to an introspective collection that Kip views as his most personal album yet. “It wasn’t so much of knowing right away what I wanted to say,” he tells SLN as he settles onto a comfortable couch in his publicist’s office. “What usually happens with me and records is there are certain pieces in life, the way life is moving around me that start inspiring me to really write. It’s not necessarily that I know exactly what I’m going for at first and then all of a sudden the music kind of starts coming out as this cohesive thing. It’s not until I start writing it that I realize what exactly I’m feeling and how the album is starting to take shape. This is a very personal record for me.”

Whether making music, standing on stage in front of a crowd or filming a documentary, Kip is always authentic, often intense, and a complex blend of private and transparent. That’s why his friend and former band member Dave Lapsley described him as a slow heart. “The reason he called me that was he said it takes my heart a while to come around on things,” Kip confesses. “I’m a lot slower to react than other people. I hold my cards close and I protect what I’m feeling more carefully than most. That’s why he called me a slow heart. I eventually called the band the Slow Hearts and the fans became the Slow Heart community. So when I thought about the making of this record and what a slow, long, organic process it was, and the way it took me a while to really showcase certain vulnerabilities that I like to steer clear from facing, I felt like it was only appropriate in this stage of the game to name the record ‘SLOWHEART.’”

Kip cites “Guitar Man” as one of the most autobiographical songs on the record. “I’ve been that guy,” he grins. “I can remember playing in the cover bands in south Georgia for years before I moved to Nashville and that song was inspired by me seeing this certain guy in a bar playing cover tunes late into the night. There were maybe 30 people having the time of their life and as everybody was leaving, everybody kept saying, ‘That guy was great!’ But he was faceless. Nobody knew his name. I remember watching him as he was singing and I knew the look on his face because I’ve been there. I knew he was dreaming about so much more than playing somebody else’s songs in that little bar. I connected with him just through watching his eyes. I left and wrote ‘Guitar Man.’ It was about my life and everybody else that was trying to do the same thing.”

Kip co-wrote 11 of the 13 songs on SLOWHEART, produced seven by himself and co-produced five. “This is the first time ever that I’ve put an outside cut on a record. That one [‘Plead the Fifth’] just resonated so deep with me. It made me think,” he says of the song penned by Luke Dick and Josh Kear.

The other outside track on the album is “The Bull,” written by Dick and Jon Randall. “I feel like I’ve been kicked in the teeth a million times and I’ve been knocked out, but it’s what you do in those times when you get knocked out,” he says. “So many times I just want to pack up and go home, if I’m just being honest, but I’ve always managed to brush myself off.”

Kip admits criticism and speculation about his career has stung him at times. “I don’t sugar coat stuff and I don’t steer clear of maybe offending people in town,” he says. “Nashville can be so much in a bubble and they don’t really know a lot of times what’s happening outside of these walls in the real world. I was watching our fan base multiply like crazy off of [the second album] ‘Wild Ones’ and watching something so special happen, but because I wasn’t getting played at radio, everybody thought my career was dying here in town. I heard the mumbles. I saw where all of a sudden maybe I wasn’t getting the same calls from writers I used to after the success of [the debut album] ‘Up All Night’ because things weren’t working at radio. So all of a sudden, those same writers—because they’re not out there in the trenches and they don’t see that we’re outselling even the people that are getting played on radio—they are thinking my career is dying, so the other part of ‘The Bull’ is my middle finger for everybody who thought my career was dying.”

The industry might not always get him, but the fans do. Up All Night has been certified platinum, signifying sales of more than a million units. His debut album spawned three No. 1 singles—“Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck,” “Beer Money” and “Hey Pretty Girl.” Though his sophomore album didn’t find the same success at radio, fans continued flocking to his shows. And thus far, his new music has re-ignited a spark at country radio with the lead single, “More Girls Like You,” becoming the fastest rising tune of his career.

“I’m always thankful when I get played and it’s always a blessing when I get played,” he says. “I want to make this clear, I understand how crucial radio is to all of our careers, but it’s been such a blessing to see that the fans are sticking with me through the ebbs and flows of it. It’s not just sticking with me, but it’s growing, our live show is growing. We’ve crafted our live show to be this powerful thing where people keep coming to see it and the album cuts are sang back just as loud as any hit I’ve ever had. That’s a special thing and it doesn’t happen a lot.”

After wrapping his final tour dates in 2016, Kip set about to re-discover who he is away from the spotlight. His longtime friend P.J. Brown captured his travels in the documentary “A Journey to SLOWHEART” as Kip visited his hometown, Tifton, GA, returned to his favorite haunts in Costa Rica and ventured for the first time to Iceland. “I need to give myself time to step away from music every year because that gives me a whole new energy when I get back,” he says. “I’d never been to Iceland. I’m always trying to go somewhere new. I’ve always been captivated by pictures of Iceland and I always thought it looked like a profound place and it lived up to every expectation.”

The documentary also spotlights the important people in Kip’s life, including his friend Pete in Costa Rica, who is battling cancer, and his family back home in Georgia, including his sister Jennifer, who is in a wheelchair after being paralyzed in a car accident when she was 16. “These people have been so influential in my life and there are so many others that I didn’t get a chance to showcase,” he says. “I always like bringing those people in the light who have had a big part to play in my life.”

His mom also plays a big part in the documentary. “I try to let everything roll out in an organic fashion,” he says. “She asked me to coach her and I said, ‘You say what you feel.’”

So what does he think about his mom sharing some of his secrets? “I want everything in my career to line up in an authentic fashion, the music, the way I treat people,” he shares. “You’re not going to see me treating somebody great on camera if I don’t treat somebody great off camera. I’m not going to project fancy things in my life when I don’t’ live a fancy lifestyle. I want everything to line up authentically, pictures, everything, so P.J. knows when we are filming, I’ll tell him, ‘You’ve got one shot to get it in an organic fashion. We’re not redoing it.’ And when he gets it, it doesn’t matter if he gets it and it’s unflattering. There have been several shots when we’ve done videos where my label has come back and been like, ‘Let’s take out this or that because they’re not very flattering shots,’ and I’m like, ‘No we’re going to leave them just as is because those are real shots.’”

Kip is anxious for fans to see the documentary and he’s really excited about sharing new music from SLOWHEART on his Plead the Fifth Tour, kicking off Oct. 19. “I’m ready to play the songs,” he says. “You spend so much time making a record. It’s kind of all you think about for such a long period of a certain time in your life and then you’re just ready for it to get out and see what happens with it.”

As the interview winds down, Kip looks thoughtful as he shares the biggest epiphany from his travels. “My window has been shut to anything outside of music in my life to where now I’ve cracked it to other possibilities to all kinds of things and also the epiphany has been to make sure I always give myself those moments of balance,” he says. “I found myself at times putting pressure on myself and asking, ‘Is there something wrong with me that I haven’t gone the same route as some of these other people?’ A lot of what it did for me mentally is [show me] ‘It’s okay to run your own race and your life doesn’t have to look like other people’s. You’ve got your own life to live.’ Things are pushing us from the time we’re born, that you’re supposed to follow these steps in life. Those steps might pertain to some people and might not fit for other people. It’s okay to be following your own steps.”

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