Known to Austin music fans since his teenage years playing the clubs here, Ian Moore had an attention-getting stint in Joe Ely’s band that helped lead to his own record deal with Capricorn in the early 1990s. Since then, he’s released nearly a dozen albums and several EPs, including the new “Toronto” on Last Chance Records.
Moore turns 50 this month, and he’s returning home from Seattle — where he’s lived for the past two decades — to celebrate the occasion. He’s taken a cue from his old hometown to create something new in his current city: Seattle Musicians Access to Sustainable Healthcare (SMASH), which he co-founded, is patterned largely after the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM).
We caught up with Moore just before he headed back down to Austin for this weekend’s shows at Antone’s.
Austin360: Fifty is a pretty big milestone, obviously. How important was it to you to come back and celebrate with friends and fans in your hometown?
Ian Moore: It’s a big show for a lot of reasons. … Many of the people coming out have been fans and friends for decades. Antone’s was such an important club for me. I was there as a kid. I was there as a teen. I started playing shows with many of my idols on that stage. Austin is, and always has been, my musical home. It’s an honor to be able to be able to stand on the same stage (symbolically) that I have since I was a kid. So much of my life was on that stage, and I love it.
As I understand it, your actual birthday is Aug. 8, is that correct? Any special plans for that day?
From what I understand, I’m going to see Pearl Jam at Qwest Field in Seattle.
You’ve now lived almost as long in the Northwest as you did in Austin. With a long-lens perspective to look back on now, how has it all worked out to put down roots there?
I moved to the Seattle area to grow up. Wasn’t running from anything, just needed to see who I was outside of the “Ian Moore” that played music. It was a beautiful thing. I think it has given me perspective, and by extension hopefully some humility. I’ve toured the whole time from Austin, my band is based there, so that connection was never lost. I also love wandering through the wilderness, and falling into other scenes, other musical templates, has made for some wonderful rabbit holes to fall down. Just like everyone else, I’m a music fan first and foremost, and I love seeing it from different angles.
My presumption is that Seattle Musicians Access to Sustainable Healthcare was motivated by the success down here of the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. Is that in fact the case?
Reenie (Collins, HAAM executive director) and the HAAM family have been fundamental to us getting off the ground. I was pretty involved with both HAAM and SIMS at their respective inceptions, and through that I knew how important it was for the Seattle music community to have something similar.
What’s your role in the organization, and how many others are involved? What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
I am the president and co-founder. I have an amazing board that has given me a crash course in the nonprofit world. I feel like my main role is in convincing Seattle people that you have to support art and artists at this point in history. It’s a tough time and with the crazy cost of living in cities like ours, our artists need help.
“Toronto” is a pretty straight-on, high-energy rock record, fairly different in tone from last year’s full-length “Strange Days” album. What brought that on?
I’ve realized that is who I am. I’ve taken a lot of flak from the industry side for the diversity of my work, but at this point I think that defines me as much as anything. It feels like a sine wave to me. Loud begets quiet and vice versa. It all makes sense to me, but I see that from the outside, it might seem a bit disparate. This record seems like an extension of “El Sonido,” which was the release before “Strange Days.”
I am a big fan of the growth and arc of music in the ’60s and early ’70s. I love how bands like the Kinks could go from “Something Else” to “Muswell Hillbillies” to “Village Green” and back. To me, this is what a band is, and as a fan I love bands that are a bit unpredictable. I feel like all of these sounds have been part of me since the beginning.
I had to fight a bit to define myself by who I was and what I was into. At this point it feels like I’m given that space. Ironically, I feel like this is the deepest Texan influence that I’ve internalized. Doug Sahm, Joe Ely, Willie — it was always them, but they sure followed their own twisted roads
One example of that range is the holiday-season acoustic show you played with a handful of local musicians here last December. Do you feel more out of your natural element in that setting compared to a full-on electric band, or are they just different ways to give voice to the same musical instincts?
It all feels the same to me. Music is music, and when I hang out with older musicians that have years on me, they tell me the same. To me, playing with Bukka (Allen), Brian (Standefer) and Warren (Hood) felt as natural and emotional as does playing with my touring rock band.
When: 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday (Eric Tessmer opens both nights)
Where: Antone’s, 305 E. Fifth St.