For his new LP5, John Moreland went big. The acclaimed Oklahoma singer-songwriter’s 11-song set, out Feb. 7 and premiering exclusively on Billboard today (Feb. 6), was produced by Matt Pence and represents the fullest sonic footprint Moreland has made on any of his solo albums.
“I wanted to open myself to anything and everything — different instruments, different tunings, different chords, different sounds, just follow my impulse and see what happens,” Moreland tells Billboard. “I think I have a lot of interests and influences that in the past I had maybe considered off limits. I listen to a lot of indie rock, a lot of hip-hop, a lot of electronic stuff. It felt really good to open myself up to whatever felt good in the songs.
“I’ve spent so long with an acoustic guitar and pen and paper and no other tools at all. So writing with a whole bunch of fun stuff at my disposal was really cool. It was a really fun, creative time. I had a blast.”
LP5 is filled with all sorts of sounds — from vintage Korg drum machines and old Casio toy keyboards to other gear, all of which gives the set a fuller and more fleshed-out sound. Moreland even gets artsy at times, as on the ambient instrumental “For Ichiro,” inspired by catching baseball star Ichiro Suzuki’s final game on TV. But as different as those flavors are to have as part of his music, Moreland says the organic heart of his songwriting remained intact.
“That stuff was like a spark that provided the initial inspiration,” he explains. “Once I got going on the song I grabbed the acoustic guitar and finished it. The acoustic guitar is still the instrument I’m most comfortable on and the instrument I know how to express myself with the best. I would play with other stuff a little bit [to] get a vibe and an idea and finish it off on acoustic guitar and then put it all together.”
Moreland’s songs are, per usual, darkly personal — as evidenced by titles such as “Harder Dreams,” “I’m Learning How to Tell Myself the Truth” and “I Always Let You Burn Me to the Ground.” But on LP5, he says his lyrics took a bit of a back seat to what he was creating instrumentally.
“I’m in a place where I prefer to let the music lead the way rather than the lyrics,” Moreland acknowledges. “I’m not saying that I don’t want to write the best lyrics that I can, but it was fun to hear a sound and get an idea from that and turn it into a song rather than being all based on the lyrics. I prefer not to really know what I’m writing about, anyway.”
Moreland has been playing some of LP5‘s songs live with longtime guitarist John Calvin Abney. They’ve kept the performances stripped-down so far, but Moreland expects future dates to incorporate some of the technology from the album. “We’ll have a few more instruments on stage, I think,” he says. “We’re still working out how we’re gonna play some of the new songs. We’ll figure it out and it should be fun — and different from what we’ve done before. But not too different.”
Listen to Moreland’s LP5 in its entirety below.