Tulsa Folk-Rock Artist John Moreland's 'Slow Build' To Fame

Monday, July 3rd 2017, 4:40 pm
By: News On 6

Tulsa-based singer-songwriter John Moreland started writing songs almost as soon as he picked up a guitar at the age of 10. He "wanted to be a dude in a band first."

"Then much later I kinda learned that a songwriter isn't exactly the same thing," Moreland told "CBS This Morning: Saturday" host Anthony Mason at New York's Gibson Showroom. 

As a teenager in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Moreland played in punk bands, but his tastes broadened when he "borrowed" CDs from the downtown library.

"I didn't have a library card. So I would take my sister's library card and check out a bunch of CDs and never return them," Moreland said. "She can't go to the Tulsa library anymore." 

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He released the first of four solo albums in 2011.

"When did you decide you had something to say?" Mason asked.

"I feel like I want to say something but I don't know what it is, and writing songs is a way to feel around and search and figure that out," Moreland said.

Audiences began to take notice, even if Moreland couldn't always hear the applause.

"Sometimes I come off stage and my wife will tell me, like, 'You got a standing ovation.' And I didn't even see it. I'm just like, 'I feel like I want to play the music, and then when I'm done, it's like, get me out of here,'" Moreland said.

He met his wife, Pearl, at a folk music conference in Kansas City.

"She just walked by, and I was in the middle of a conversation with somebody. And I was like, 'Excuse me, I got to go talk to her,'" Moreland recounted.

They married while he was working on his new album, "Big Bad Luv," which Rolling Stone said is "likely" to be his "commercial breakthrough." 

He's already made hardcore fans of musicians like Miranda Lambert, who tweeted: "How does John Moreland know everything? A song for every emotion."

But not long ago he was playing in bars to anyone who would listen. 

"It's just been a really slow build from that to here," Moreland said.

"What made you keep going?" Mason asked.

"I don't think I can do anything else," Moreland responded. 

Moreland wasn't convinced that the music industry would accept him.

"I don't really have, like, much of an aesthetic. … I'm not like, I don't look like a pop star," Moreland said. "So I just always figured you know, I'm just going to be myself and do what I want to do. And I don't care if that makes sense to anybody but me." 

"I thought I'm just going sing at the bar or I'm going to be the door guy at the same bar," Moreland added, laughing. "That was going to be my life."