Kip Moore Asked Friends to Help Him Through His Dark Thoughts [Interview]
For Kip Moore, it always begins with turmoil. Conflicting commitments and desires start cutting the threads of his soul, and he can't quite write his way out of it.
Until he can.
Those who've spent time with any of the five studio albums Moore released prior to Damn Love (April 28) recognize the slow torture, even if they can't quite put words to it. "The Bull," "Guitar Man" and "Payin' Hard" define the ebbs. A constant theme across his catalog is love that never quite works out, and the tension built inside of him because of it. A concept like "Damn Love" boils it all down, especially if spoken as "Damn, love."
"It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a really negative place of turmoil," Moore tells Taste of Country, clarifying. "It’s just that I’m really conflicted about some things and I get kind of dark, a little bit."
"And so I played the first verse and chorus of 'One Heartbeat' and she grabbed that headstock of that guitar and said, 'I absolutely love this. Can I sing on it with you?'”
This story has a happy ending, however — or at least a productive ending. If Moore has found real love, he's not saying (read on to find his emphatic statement about his personal life), but at least he's figured out his emotional cycle of ebbs and flows. Turmoil draws focus to his morning songwriting sessions.
"And I usually stumble on something and I know when it’s happening," he says at the ToC studio. "I know right away — kind of in a week or two I’m know, 'Alright, I’m on an actual project now.' That’s when I called Jaren."
Jaren is Jaren Johnston, lead singer of the Cadillac Three and longtime friend of Moore's. His no BS approach to music making and his willingness to join the south Georgia hitmaker in a fight against shaving art for the sake of fitting in is appealing. Ashely McByrde is another one of his kind of people.
"Ashley is not scared to tell you what she thinks, for sure. I love that about her," Moore tells Evan Paul of Taste of Country Nights after revealing how her clear-eyed confidence helped solidify one of the best songs on Damn Love.
Enjoy the full interview, unedited by listening to this Taste of Country Nights, On Demand episode. An abridged version is below.
Taste of Country: What’s it like working with a friend (Jaren Johnston)?
Kip Moore: Oh, man. We fight like brothers, and he is ... man, he is a riot. I love the guy. He’s so, so talented and I’ll never tell him this to his face, because … Jaren is the biggest fan of Jaren. But I love that about him. I do, I truly love the guy.
It’s interesting because he’s so curt and edgy when he hasn’t had any cocktails in him. Then he gets a few drinks in him, like late night on the road it’ll be 1 o’clock in the morning and he’s all chummy. He’ll call me like, "Man, we’re on to something. This is good stuff." And then he’ll be like, "I love you, man."
Then I’ll be like, "Ehh, you’ve been drinking haven’t you? (Laughs) I love you too, brother."
This is your first album since 2020. Which song on Damn Love really describes the highs and lows of your life in the last three years?
I would say that "Guitar Slinger" is as personal as I can get about the internal turmoil that at least I go through as an artist, and what you deal with mentally, physically and spiritually. All these things.
I’ve done all the blue collar jobs. For anyone listening that’s like (dismissively), "Oh man, you play guitar for a living." There’s so much that goes into this and you’re running a full-blown circus and there’s so many people dependent on you to create and to keep the ball moving. You’re responsible for so many people and there’s this constant place of not feeling worthy a lot of times, or not feeling good enough. All those things you gotta constantly battle.
You have a bad show and you see a bunch of despondent faces and you feel like, "I’m terrible at what I do." Where I used to clock in, clock out and never face that thing of “Am I good at what I do?” and this and that.
It was like, I did the laying sod for six straight summers from like 14 to 20 in the south Georgia heat. And then I did construction — all those things are tiring. I would go home exhausted, but I wasn’t beat up inside. That’s the part of this, the grind of the travel — we just did 25 hour Australia flights, then back to New Zealand and back to South Africa. You’re never sleeping, that’s the part. You feel like you don’t sleep for a whole month. Then you do the shows and you’re trying to come back and you’re right back in this — it never really stops.
Kip Moore fans come to Taste of Country to learn about your relationship status —
Yeah, we’re never gonna talk about it. I don’t budge on that kind of stuff, and I feel no pressure to. I don’t owe anybody anything to tell them about my personal life and that’s how I’ve always felt. It’s ways of protecting people around me, because the minute I say it, people will pry like crazy. It happened to me back in 2012, a picture of me and somebody ... and all of a sudden that person is getting harassed like crazy and that stuff makes me so, so furious. I don’t understand that kind of thought process in grown humans, so I will always keep my relationships as private as I can.
"One Heartbeat" is your first duet. Why Ashley McBryde and why now?
I love Ashley McBryde and every aspect of her artistry. I’ve loved what she’s done for quite awhile. I love her like a sister. At the time, I didn’t know her that well. This is a true story, actually — I wrote that song by myself in Hā'ena. Sitting on the breakwall I would work on it every single morning for the whole month I was there. I’d chip away at it.
I have never written a song in mind with someone else singing with me. Ever. My whole career. When I got past the first chorus, I said, this is the perfect song to write for Ashley to sing with me. We barely even knew each other … fast forward a few months later we’re in Alaska and we’re doing this show, me and her and Kendall Marvel doing these acoustic shows. We’re in the trailer together, all kind of playing songs and swapping stories. She said, “Kip play me something you love that you recently wrote.” And so I played the first verse and chorus of “One Heartbeat” and she grabbed that headstock of that guitar and said, “I absolutely love this. Can I sing on it with you?”
You’re known for having the last song on the album be pretty special. Tell me about “Mickey’s Bar.”
It’s fragmented truth. It’s fragmented truth about things that I’ve seen. You’ve gotta understand, like take the line, “Bobby had a dream playing for the Yankees / But two bad knees and he’s a junkyard car.” That’s me. I’m singing about me, it’s all just metaphorically.
I feel like I get really dark behind the scenes sometimes. That’s just something I battle with. I will spiral a lot of times, and that night — I remember we had gotten done with the European tour and I was so, so exhausted when I got back, and I knew that I only had 24 hours and I was going back out. And I was sitting there like, "What am I doing and what am I doing all of this for? I have no balance in my life and I’m not watering any other gardens in my life. I haven’t been for years."
You start going through all the things, the people you neglected, the relationships, family — all those things start taking a toll. You start feeling like … I was writing that line from a place of "I ain't nothing but a number, and the minute stuff ain’t going good, nobody is going to want to interview me."
I start spiraling, "does anybody really care about me in this whole thing the minute I’m not a product that’s producing?" That’s where my head was.