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Q&A: ALLISON MOORER

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As the follow-up to 2008’s Mockingbird, a collection of mostly cover songs, singer/songwriter Allison Moorer is set to release Crows, her first album for the Rykodisc label, on Feb. 9.

Moorer recently talked about how her craft has changed since recording Mockingbird, her working relationship with longtime collaborator R.S. Field (who produced the 13-track Crows) and the influence her husband, Steve Earle, has had on her guitar playing.

Medleyville.us: What big lessons about songwriting, performing and recording did you learn by making Mockingbird?
Allison Moorer: “I can’t put into words exactly what I learned from making Mockingbird, but I made that record because I wanted to send myself back to school, in a way. When you’re learning how to play and sing and write songs, you generally learn to do that by learning other people’s songs and playing them.

I definitely learned something because I’ve never been freer or more confident in my art than I am now.”

Recording your new album, Crows, took only four days. Was getting it done that fast the original plan, or did the sessions go so smoothly that you were able to finish sooner than anticipated?
Moorer: “I was very careful about how I cast all the roles, from the producer to the players to the engineer and second engineer, to the studio I recorded it in. I wanted to make myself as comfortable as I could be and, at the same time, make sure I had the people that I knew would ‘get it’ around me. I’m happy to say that it worked out the way I thought it would. We were able to get my vision down very quickly. Plus, no one has the budget to stay in the studio for very long these days.”

Is there something behind the naming of your most recent albums after birds, or is it just a coincidence?
Moorer: “Coincidence. Although I love birds, am fascinated by them and think they are very smart and mysterious.”

Talk about your longtime working relationship with R.S. Field. Given that he produced Crows and also played drums on the album, was special attention given to the rhythm and groove of each song?
Moorer: “R.S. and I have a way of communicating that works. I didn’t want any guesswork to do on this one, which is one of the reasons why I hired him — I knew I wouldn’t have to explain myself. Plus, he’s just really great at what he does. He did pay special attention to the grooves and rhythms; he spent a while working on the songs before I even got to Nashville.”

In a 2006 interview, you described your guitar playing in one word — terrible. Do you still feel that way? And since then, how has your husband Steve helped you to improve your guitar chops?
Moorer: “I still don’t consider myself to be a very good guitar player, but I work hard at it and have improved over the years. You have to be very dedicated to it to even come close to figuring it out. I have definitely picked up a few things from Steve, but mostly he’s helped me by telling me that I am, in fact, a good player — and confidence counts.”

— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior

Allison Moorer on tour and TV (schedule subject to change):

* Feb. 8: Joe’s Pub – New York
* Feb. 9: Barnes & Noble (Lincoln Triangle location) – New York
* Feb. 10: CBS’ Late Show With David Letterman
* Feb. 13: Midnight Ramble – Woodstock, N.Y.