Back before Kip Moore became a big-name country performer — before his fanbase took off, and before his music started taking him on tour all over the world — he was a struggling artist like so many others in Nashville, cutting his teeth on the city’s independent music venues.
Clubs like Exit/In, The 5 Spot, Mercy Lounge, The End and The Basement were his bread and butter back then, and also served as musical bastions where he could meet like-minded performers also following a difficult and unlikely path in the direction of stardom.
“I think about all the odd jobs, all the manual labor jobs I was working when I first got to town — I always had a dream,” Moore remembered to Country Now and other outlets during a recent virtual media event. “And I would go to those venues three or four nights a week.”
One of those, the singer goes on to say, was the night he saw Josh Kerr perform. These days, Kerr is one of Music City’s most successful songwriters, who has written hits for Kelsea Ballerini, Keith Urban and more. But back then, he was just some guy — just like Moore.
“I remember watching him at The 5 Spot — there might’ve been 20 people in there,” the singer recalls. “But I remember leaving, and my soul was so on fire.”
That electric feeling speaks not only to Kerr’s talent, but also the gratification Moore found from being around people who were also attempting to do the same improbable thing that he was.
“I think about living in a garage apartment that’s 150 square feet when I was 28, 29 years old, and having $315 in my bank account. I think about what a scary place that is, mentally, when you’re watching all your friends build a 401k, doing all the things society tells you that you’re supposed to do,” he recalls.
“So for me, those venues were a place of refuge. A place where my dreams were safe,” the singer adds, “because I was surrounded by other dreamers.”
That’s part of the reason why Moore was so personally impacted when he saw the difficulties independent venues have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. He knew he had to find a way to help the clubs he cut his teeth in stay open and afloat.
Simultaneously, he was also gearing up to announce the release of a new project. Moore announced his Wild World deluxe album on Friday (Oct. 30), and along with his news, he put out a new song called “Don’t Go Changing” and an accompanying music video.
Though he wrote the song pre-pandemic, Moore realized in 2020 that he had an opportunity to bring a spotlight to the plight of independent venues with its music video. He filmed the clip at five currently-shuttered clubs, bookending his performance with an interview with Exit/In owner Chris Cobb about how the closures have affected his business. The finished product also calls on fans to help keep these venues viable with donations to the Music Venue Alliance Nashville.
In their interview, Cobb paints a bleak picture of the future of local music venues, explaining that every contingency plan the business had in place for a situation like this one has run dry.
“We had reserves, but they’re gone. We did get a PPP loan, but it’s gone,” Cobb explains to Moore in the “Don’t Go Changing” video. “At this point, it’s survival mode.”
“I look at a guy like Chris, that has put all his blood, sweat and tears into the Exit/In…And I don’t think I’d be where I am without that venue,” Moore subsequently reflected, his voice gripped with emotion.
Now, he hopes his video will not only help generate much-needed relief for venues in dire straits but also raise awareness about the full, unbridled impact of the pandemic on independent business owners.
“I think there’s too many people walking around with pixie dust in their eyes right now. We’re all kind of in this fog, and we think a light switch is gonna cut back on, and everybody’s going to enjoy life the way it was,” Moore continues. “And that’s not the case. We threw that stone in the water eight months ago, and the ripple has not even hit us yet.”
Even after social distancing restrictions lift, the singer goes on to say, things won’t go back to normal unless everyone who can pitches in to help beloved small businesses stay open.
“These venues that you think you’re gonna just walk back into, at some point, they’re not gonna be there,” he points out. “That’s gonna be a real estate place. That’s gonna be some kinda tech place. That’s gonna be Amazon. It breaks my heart when I think about it.”
Despite the fact that Moore wrote “Don’t Go Changing” long before the pandemic hit, he knows that the song’s message has only become more immediate and powerful over the past eight months.
“[We wrote the song about] how it just feels like people are getting more and more flighty, a little more scared to stand on their backbone, whatever their truth is, whatever they believe in,” the singer elaborates. “Like, ‘Don’t let everybody sway you, everybody around you.’ And now it just seems more true than ever.”
“Don’t Go Changing” is one of four new tracks that Moore is adding to Wild World for the project’s deluxe version. The expanded track list will also include three more songs called “Midnight Slow Dance,” “How High” and “Man’s Gotta Do.”
The deluxe album will be available on February 12, 2021.