Kip Moore says he’s always been a searcher, driven to use his love of music to explore the greater mysteries of life. But although fans have seen that impulse a few times through his career, it’s never been so obvious as it is on his newly-released album. And it’s never showed up in a way that felt so perfect for the times.
With Wild World, the Georgia native and frequent globe trotter’s fourth album, Moore has accidentally created a project that speaks directly to the deep-thinking questions raised by COVID-19 and its global fallout, and it even offers a few answers. Focused on appreciating the simple side of life and coming to terms with what we can’t change, it was completed well before the pandemic struck, but now feels tailor made for this sea-change moment of human history.
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“It wasn’t planned, that’s for sure,” Moore admits, speaking to Sounds Like Nashville from the natural isolation of his rock-climbing retreat in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge (Editor’s note: this interview was conducted in early May, before the death of George Floyd and resulting protests. Moore has acknowledged the fight against racial inequality here.). “But it definitely is pretty ironic that so much of the messaging on this album is so fitting for the times were in. There’s so much of that search for simplicity and the ways of finding joy. And there’s a lot of digging up those bones of regret that you’ve been carrying like a big ol’ bag for a long time, facing those things and trying to process them. There’s a lot of self reflection on this record, there’s no doubt.”
Bringing a fresh sense of urgency to Moore’s crunchy, country-rock sound and featuring some of the most dynamic vocal performances of his career, the album does a solid job of matching its philosophical undertones with flat-out enjoyable music, ranging all the way from soft-spoken ballads to barroom-blasting anthems. Mark it as a creative step forward for a multi-Platinum hit maker who’s found success both with lighthearted romance (“Somethin’ Bout a Truck”) and dead-serious conviction (“Last Shot”), who’s now venturing deeper into themes of the soul.
Kip Moore; Photo credit: Spidey Smith
Up in Kentucky, Moore says he’s been spending his quarantine writing new material and rock climbing nine hours a day, five days a week, and admits that the isolated life suits him. Staying to himself and staying thoughtful is how he prefers things anyway, he admits, and that loner lifestyle was a big influence on Wild World’s genesis. Moore co-wrote all but one track in locations all around the world as he traveled solo between concert tours, and eventually came to feel like the ideas he was exploring all fit together. But now, it seems like that fit was more than coincidence. His art has never lined up so perfectly with current events.
“Not this perfectly, no,” he says. “I’ve always been able to be a lot more honest in music than in real life, so that’s the thing about this record. I think it’s gonna be a comfort for a lot of people because when I think of the records I fell in love with – those Jackson Browne records and things like that – they helped me be comfortable in my own insecurities and vulnerabilities and regrets, and helped me to process them. That’s what I hope this record does.”
Tracks like tender “More Than Enough” capture the over-arching theme explicitly. With delicate, summer-breeze sonics and contented lyrics all about embracing what you have, it’s a smile-making reminder that the essentials of life are all one truly needs to be happy – a lesson untold millions around the world are currently re-learning.
“I do like to have my feet in the dirt, and I have to be in nature,” Moore explains about his own essentials. “I need to actually communicate with people – not just on a phone – and I like a campfire, which are all kind of outdoor things. But I also like to take time with my faith, which I always manage to push to the side back in the real world with the hustle and bustle.”
The hard-driving “Southpaw” adds even more color to the picture of Moore as a modern outsider, planting a foot firmly on the gas for an up-tempo jam of not fitting in to a social-media society, while the title track, “Wild World,” helps explain how he got that way. A patient checklist of the wisdom passed down by Moore’s parents, it’s a soulful, slow-grooving collection of rules-to-live-by that are perhaps even more useful today than when he first got them, sitting at his mother’s kitchen table.
“In my life, it’s so fast paced, and I’ve always been an introvert at heart who’s kind of forced to be an extrovert every day,” he says. “I think the more I live that way, the more I search for life’s simplicity in those nuggets that my parents taught me … you lean on those words of wisdom.”
Elsewhere, the euphoric “Red White Blue Jean America Dream” is full of optimistic energy to help fans focus on a horizon of better days ahead, while the playful single “She’s Mine” speaks to something similar – a written-in-stone sense of pre-determined happiness.
Moore took those messages “on the road” for an intriguing pandemic-era stunt back in May, live-streaming an entire “world tour” in the span of one day with separate shows for fans from North America to Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia. And he’s continued to perform live through his picturesque In the Wild Sessions. But on the Wild World track list, songs like “Fire and Flame” bring it all back home.
Firing something akin to vocal bullets into the heavens, it’s a spine-tingling standout on the record – and a tribute to reckless hearts which crave adventure but always end up looking back to God, inadvertently capturing the competing dynamics of today’s greatest challenge.
“The whole song is just about where do you fall in faith, where is that line and what does God look like you to?” says Moore, who also co-produced the album. “For me it’s always been something I’ve believed in, and I find when I’m most comfortable and most at peace, it’s when I’m close to [my faith]. It’s when I’m in thought, reading and praying … but I quickly push it to the side and that’s when I get disjointed.”
That disjointed feeling is something listeners everywhere can relate to, now in a much more direct way than Moore could have predicted just a few months earlier. But luckily, he has the antidote for his struggle. The poetic “Payin’ Hard” wraps the album up, a 12-string guitar manifesto inspired by the passing of his father and moments Moore let slip away.
Sure, life is full of regrets, the song admits. But they can’t be avoided in this Wild World. Maybe the secret is just learning to be happy with the choices we’ve made.
“So much of this record is a recognition of all these buried thoughts you’ve got, and ‘Payin’ Hard’ addresses that in an even more aggressive way than I have the whole record before,” Moore explains. “It finally puts it to bed by saying ‘I’ll live with that, sleep with that, make my peace and I’ll die with that,’ and I put it at the very end because it’s a synopsis of all those things. It’s hopefully finding peace in those regrets and those questions that you’ve had.”