Q&A: Daniel Martin Moore on Dear Companion, Hazardous Coal Mining, and How The Shins Led Him to Sub Pop"/>
Folk singer Daniel Martin Moore had grown up in Kentucky, served in the Peace Corps in Cameroon, and relocated to Minnesota before he decided to focus on songwriting full time. In 2008, Sub Pop released his quietly evocative debut album, Stray Age. Now, Moore is touring in support of his second record, Dear Companion, a collaboration with the Kentucky-based cellist and vocalist Ben Sollee. On the road, Moore took the time to chat with me about his hometown, connecting with Sub Pop, and the very specific cause that brought about Dear Companion.
Jonathan Willis Daniel Martin Moore and Ben Sollee will play the Crocodile on Tuesday, March 30.
I've been really excited to talk to you, because Kentucky is also my home state. I was born in Ft. Knox.
I was born in Elizabethtown.
Like the (Cameron Crowe) movie!
I've actually never seen it. I was home visiting my family when they shot that movie, and traffic was horrendous because they shut down all the roads.
Maybe you're still bitter about that.
I am; I was late to a family dinner because I got stuck in traffic.
You sent an unsolicited demo to Sub Pop Records. Why did you choose an indie label across the country in a grungy city like Seattle?
I was watching Saturday Night Live in early 2007, I think. I saw the Shins play on the show, and I thought they were really great. Then the next day I was in a store and I saw their record, just by chance, on the shelf. I picked it up and looked it over and saw that it was a Sub Pop record. A few weeks later, I had made some recordings, and I was sending them out to a few radio stations. On a whim, I sent one to Sub Pop too.
And they loved you!
I guess enough of them did!
Why did you choose to make your second record a collaboration?
Ben sent me an email after he heard a song I posted on MySpace. We ended up meeting up in Lexington a few weeks later. The song that I had posted was "Fly Rock Blues," so we were talking about mountaintop removal, and Ben told me he'd been thinking of doing some recordings around that. It just seemed like a good idea to team up and work on it together, because it was already something we'd been doing separately.
Your website says Dear Companion "addresses the impact of Mountaintop Removal (MTR) coal mining on the people of Central Appalachia." What exactly is that impact? We don't know much about coal mining over here.
The thing that bothers me the most about Mountaintop Removal is just how short-sighted it is. It's like, "we're gonna basically destroy this place, poison everybody, just so we can make a lot of money real quick. And whatever happens ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred years from now, who cares." I don't appreciate that. I have a lot of friends living in coal fields who are essentially terrorized, because you never know when a piece of fly rock is gonna roll down the hill and crush your house. Or you never know if the water you're drinking is full of cadmium or methane. It's just such a far-reaching amount of pollution and disregard for basic health, basic human rights.
Is there an alternative method to coal mining that is safer?
Mountaintop Removal accounts for a tiny percentage of coal production, but it accounts for a vast majority of destruction and of pollution. There's companies that are still deep mining, and that's a much cleaner way to get their coal.
I also read that you're giving some of the benefits from this record to a nonprofit called Appalachian Voices.
Ben and I have used their website, called ilovemountains.org, because it's a wonderful resource. You can go to that site and type in your zip code, and it'll show you with Google Earth which mines the coal comes from that powers your home. We were really impressed by that, and we had been pointing people to that for years. Appalachian Voices does a lot of really great work in all of Central Appalachia, whether it's conservation work or helping to bring in sustainable jobs and industry. Ben and I are donating all of our artist royalties from this record to them.
The purpose of this record is to raise awareness about Mountaintop Removal. We just wanted to celebrate the beautiful music and heritage that comes from Central Appalachia. It's not all doom and gloom; it's actually pretty positive. We're hoping to protect what we have left; that's really the point.