Interview: Rob Moir, “Solo Record”

Rob Moir, "Solo Record"

Question: Which Canadian artists seem to always be on the road?  Right now, I’m pretty confident that a high percentage of respondents would fire names such as Alan Doyle and Ben Caplan right back at me.  And justifiably so; both do indeed spread their wings and spend many a day out on the road.  But how many would think to include Torontonian Rob Moir in this category?  If there ever was a Canadian who rarely gets to sleep in his or her own bed, Rob could easily lead the pack.

Touring extensively across the globe, Rob has trekked through 20 countries to play over 500 shows in just the past two years.  Music fans outside of North America may have witnessed Rob passing through their home towns, whether by plane, train, or bicycle, as part of his relentless touring schedule.  Making a recent, yet brief, return to Ontario, Rob not only had the chance to connect with friends and fans, but to share news of being ready to release “Solo Record,” his brand new album, and first since “Adventure Handbook” back in 2015.  Wondering how somebody living out of a suitcase can find the time to compose new material, I’m sure that such extensive time on the road goes hand in hand with a sense of isolation; where songwriting and reflection can counterbalance the loneliness and life experiences.

We were fortunate to encounter a live show from Rob Moir last year during one of his brief stints in Ontario, and enjoyed his acoustic folk-punk material that drew from his adventures on the road.  Fast forward to the closing weeks of 2018, and the twelve original tracks offered on “Solo Record” combine to create a stunning album.  “The new material [stays] true to [his] brand of honest songwriting and clever turns of phrase in his lyrics,” states his publicist, Matt Carson.  “It is a stripped down, back-to-basics effort that would fit nicely in a record collections next to Bruce Springsteen, The Replacements and Wilco.”

Go ahead and search a popular online video website and you will find some pre-released clips to tease you, from the country-folk “Claudine” to “Sometimes You Gotta Go.”  Launched to coincide with the album release, the latter single sees Rob’s sound shifting from his Frank Turner ‘angry young man’ influences to a more relaxed Jimmy Rankin inspired style.  Acoustic folk-punk fans, fear not; the edginess is still present in Rob’s vocals, but the additional instrumentation and polished production here will no doubt open doors to a much wider listening audience.

Tracks such as “I Recognize Nothing” and “Love Is A House On Fire” may catch you off-guard, being so incredibly upbeat, and oozing the power of positivity over rants and rage.  For this particular listener, “Wolves” drew comparisons to the sounds of earlier Tim Chaisson material, while “Rome Leads To All Roads” offers an indie-rock beat similar to those from Coldplay.  Not what I would have ever expected from Rob Moir, but pleasant surprises nonetheless.  Looking for something a little more different?  Go ahead and check out both “Tunnel Vision” and “Infinity Fool,” and enjoy their musically stripped sounds that allow Rob the opportunity to bring his vocals and lyrical prowess to the forefront of the song.

With “Solo Record,” Rob brings both maturity and life lessons to his music, and we are incredibly grateful that Canada’s unofficial most-travelled musician (last check, in Germany) found time to chat with us about this album.

After another extensive tour across Europe and beyond, you are back with a brand new full length album to share. How does a well-travelled touring musician such as yourself find time to devote to writing and creating new music?

I think what I imagined a day in the life of a professional musician to be like (before I became one) was one of leisure and endless hours to spend creating. The reality of 200 shows a year on the road and maintaining most of my own admin & planning has me feeling like I actually have even less time to create than when I had a full time job. The short and unromantic answer is ‘planning’ and trying to stick to a schedule of when to write while I’m at home in between tours. It’s definitely a challenge but I wouldn’t trade a day of it for anything.

I’m sure that the exposure to foreign cultures and adventures contribute to some of the influences and ideas that you express through both song and your well-crafted lyrical verses?  You have previously articulated tales of being lost in Poland, and of your best drunk French friend in previous works. Do you have any notable tales in particular of people or places that planted seeds for some of these new tunes?

Not exactly a particular person or place but a global collective of the human experience yearning to shake up their lives. What used to be mandatory (get a useful skill, make a living, feed and house oneself) and now it seems whatever you can dream up can be accomplished and make a living from. I think there is a percentage of people in this world who don’t love their day to day and are hoping they can find the courage to take steps to adjust this, I believe it’s never been easier to change this aspect and I seem to hear this desire on a daily basis anywhere and everywhere on the road.

We had the pleasure of catching you live in London, ON last Spring, opening for Ben Caplan, and spoke with you after the show, commenting how your acoustic folk-punk music reminded us of Frank Turner (and you told us of your connections to Frank). For any of our readers who are unfamiliar with your music, how would you best describe your sound, and your own influences?

My songwriting seems to fall in two different but connected sections, one being the ‘Frank Turner’ or ‘Springsteen’ energy to folk and Americana and the other being on the quieter side like Elliott Smith or John K. Samson. I also think I take a lot of inspiration from Indie-rock or singer-songwriters that are not afraid of talking about the darker things in life, artists like Frightened Rabbit, Phoebe Bridgers or The National, those songs speak to me in an overwhelming way.

Several of these new tracks have already hit You Tube, including the video for “Sometimes You Gotta Go.” The slight edginess in your voice is still there, but you blend this with a light, almost Maritimes flavor. What are the origins of this track, and how did you arrive at the decision to launch this video now so close to the release?

I think I wanted to convey the excitement and concern of the mood that is the lyrics. It had to be upbeat but cautious. I can’t really explain how this all come together but I knew it was a song on the album that would strike hardest with the overall theme of this collection so it kinda got the biggest push.

Any subliminal messages in this video? I see a lone Rob Moir with his well travelled guitar, isolated in an old and broken down American station wagon. Is this a Rob who feels stranded on a North American continent unsure of what lies ahead, or a Rob that sees the wagon as the means to hit the road once more for many more adventures?

I think the station wagon suggests this grand but old timey vessel that you can take anywhere, sleep in and live out your dreams. The visuals of the car not being able to start kinda compliment the idea of wanting to drop everything and go but realizing there are real road blocks in doing so. Ultimately when the car does finally start, the lights come on and there is no turning back driving into the sunset. I think that is the hardest part of something new in life, just getting the car started.

Aptly titled “Solo Record,” which resonates with those familiar with your past works (one man, one guitar), this is anything but a solo piece. With a full band and some phenomenal production, is this a sound you envisioned, or one that developed naturally, during the early stages of writing this material?

100% this came out exactly where I pictured it, I tried to create a collection of songs that my voice was upfront could stand on their own (even if the production or arrangements involve more than just voice/instrument at times). While I may not have as much time to write as I used to, I definitely feel the experience of making a few records now allows for so much more in the way of knowing when to add things and maybe more important when to take things away from songs.

We had the recent pleasure of catching a show here in PA by a young Scottish singer-songwriter by the name of Billy Liar, whose music not only prompted me to think of you, but when chatting with him, learned that you and he toured together in Europe. Small world, right? Billy spoke very highly of you – any tales you wish to share of your times on the road?

Billy is a true treasure, I do remember one night in Berlin he very graciously hosted me at his flat after a night out with a group of friends in a bar that went on perhaps until the sun came out. I woke up around noon to a quiet kitchen and hallway and let myself out as I needed to start travelling to the next town. Around 3pm I got a text from Billy asking if I was up for some breakfast, I guess he just woke up and at that point I was a few hundred KM’s away on route to the next gig, he had no idea if I was still sleeping or not.

I’m sure that you’ve had plenty of opportunity overseas to road test this material, before bringing it back to North America. Right now you are in Germany once more. Any plans to head back home for a Canadian promotional tour? I see a few select December dates on your calendar for QC – will other provinces have the opportunity to catch you on the road?

Absolutely, the Quebec dates run right up until Christmas and in January I’ll have a few Western Canada shows plus just working out details on some possible dates in Latin America (fingers crossed they come together). The rest of 2019 will also be quite busy with a few return trips to Europe to cover some other areas and more Canadian dates in September.

Visit Rob Moir’s website.

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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