Abra Moore was sleeping in her own room when I called to interview her. She hadn’t quite gotten around to the waking up part yet.
Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. (Sound of phone knocked from cradle by clumsy hand, followed by rustling sheets and a heavy, breathy sigh). “Hhmmmmmyello . . . ”
“Hi, could I speak to Abra, please.”
“Hi, is this Abra?”
“Hi. Mmmmmmm . . . I’m just waking up, ha ha. I’ve been enjoying a little time off. I’m kinda between getting ready to go to Europe for a couple of weeks for some promotional work and just got off a bunch of tours, the Lilith thing and some other festivals. Busy, ha ha ha.”
Moore laughs a lot, her little staccato bursts of “ha”‘s (pronounced exactly that way) making it clear that she didn’t rely on studio trickery or lyrical chicanery in fabricating the giddy mirth and joy so evident throughout her second solo album,
Strangest Places. Of course, just as her first single, “Four Leaf Clover”, rides up the charts on the strength of that angst-free vibe, Moore is discovering just how hard others will try to generate conflict and competition where none was intended. Case in point? How about the header on a recent article in Interview magazine which read: “Abra: Move over, Alanis Morissette.”
“Isn’t that crazy?” Moore asks. “I don’t get that, it’s just this strange reaction that people have, like my success has to hurt hers or something. And it was really crazy being on the Lilith Fair, watching [tour founder] Sarah [McLachlan] have to react to a lot of media questions about her ‘girl tour’ and all of that, ha ha ha. I mean, when people ask me ‘How does it feel to be another popular female singer’, what am I supposed to say? Y’know, it’s not like it’s a fad or something, or like a phase I’m going through, being a new chick singer and all that, ha ha ha ha.”
Moore actually began her career as a musician over a decade ago in Hawaii, where she was raised by her father and step-mother. “I was actually born in Mission Bay, California”, she notes. “But I moved to Hawaii when I was about five. My father was an artist and a painter and he was lookin’ for a change. I lost my mother when I was young and so he just remarried and moved us to Hawaii. So later on, I was hangin’ out with this big bunch of college kids, ha ha ha, having fun with, y’know, these big spaghetti wine parties and songs and all that. And we all
just decided to go travellin’ after we’d been playing together for a while.”
That big bunch of musical friends went by the moniker Poi Dog Pondering: Moore toured extensively throughout the United States with the band and worked with them on their eponymous first record, still generally regarded as the group’s finest. After a few years of helping her mates reach the proverbial “next level”, however, Moore left Poi Dog Pondering just as the group was inking a deal with Columbia Records.
There were no artistic differences involved in the split. “I just wanted to go live in Europe for a while,” Moore explains. “No negatives, ha ha. Just sort of a family affair: ‘I’m gonna go do this now’, ‘Okay, you go do that,’ ha ha ha. An’ I lived in Europe for about a year, almost. Lived on the coast in a small town near Nice with a friend of mine whose family ran a patisserie. I rented a flat above the patisserie and I worked in the little clubs along the beach playing mostly, y’know, swing and standards and jazz. I didn’t really do much original stuff then.”
Upon returning to the States after her European adventure, Moore settled in Austin, Texas, a city that she had first sussed out when Poi Dog Pondering had made a temporary stay there. “I kinda just chose Austin as my home,” Moore explains. “I just really like it. It’s not really a big city or a tiny town; it’s just kinda got a nice melting pot oasis feel about it, ha ha ha. And it’s a nice music town too. But, y’know, I do kinda feel geographically rootless, I do, ha ha ha. Whenever I go to California I always feel it in my cells like that’s home . . . an’ I didn’t live there very long or anything but there’s just something special when you get there, the smells, the feel, the memory bank or something tells you it’s home. But there’s something familiar about Austin too, something special, something I like . . . I dunno what it is, but it’s there and so I’m here, ha ha ha ha!”
While Moore released her first solo album, Sing, after relocating to Austin, the music that comprised that critically-acclaimed debut disc was actually an accumulation of material Moore had been working on for years. “Sing was filled with stuff from years ago, y’know, it was kinda backtracked, kinda like a first chapter in my music life, my first efforts, my first recordings. An’ it’s like a treasure to me now, like a captured piece of history in that collection of songs that I had been been carrying with me since age 18.
“An’ I was lucky ’cause I was given an opportunity to make another record, which is like the next chapter–but ’cause of the timing involved in making that second record, there are several songs carried over from a few years back along with a few brand new ones that were written right as I was making the record.” Moore yawns deeply, spent by her lengthiest declamation of the morning. “So, y’know, it’s half brand new and half tunes from three-four-five-six years ago. An’ having a major label gave me a little more time and creative freedom to go after things a few more times than I might have been able to before, which was nice.”
Moore is finding the public and media response to the finished record equally nice. “I’m in Spin this month and Interview and in People magazine too,” she marvels. “There’s a nice, what do you call it . . . ummmm . . . a nice review, ha ha ha, a review of the record in People. And a nice picture, too, and everything.”
She pauses, and I think she’s drifted off to sleep again before she resumes, leaving me with one last happy, dream-come-true-as-she-dreamed-it thought before fading away completely. “Y’know, the best thing about having the new record out there for everybody to hear is that I get to have the really special experience of pulling into a town and playing a gig in a place that I’ve never been in–and hearing all the people there singing my song! That’s really nice, really good, really . . . mmmmm! An’ I like it that people are coming out to see me, ’cause I’m fun, I really am, ha ha ha, really, I have a good time. Mmmmmmm, ha ha ha!”
Sweet dreams, Abra.