Interview: Steve Moakler’s ‘Blue Jeans’ Tells His Story, Pocket By Pocket
Each song on Steve Moakler's new project, Blue Jeans, tells a story of its own. Together, though, they all fall under the same larger thematic umbrella, which the singer says is best summed up in the album's title track.
"Even the hook itself -- 'Breakin' in this life like a pair of blue jeans' -- I was like, 'This is an overarching storyline. It's big. Breaking in this life is everything," Moakler told The Boot recently, during a release party celebrating the third and final segment -- or, more thematically, "pocket" -- of his new record.
"So, the rest of the songs that followed it are more specific stories and emotions that fall under that, but the "Blue Jeans" song, to me, is kind of a metaphor for my journey in Nashville the last 14 years," he explains. "It's all spoken in metaphor, but it means a lot to me, and hopefully other people can relate to the lines in it. The rest of the songs are a little more zoomed in, and you can hang those songs on that storyline."
Over the course of the past decade and a half, Moakler has become a fixture of the Nashville songwriting community. He has written or co-written songs recorded by Dierks Bentley, Reba McEntire, Jake Owen, Ashley Monroe and more. Meanwhile, he released a series of projects as an artist in his own right: most recently, 2017's Steel Town and 2018's Born Ready.
Seasoned both in the studio and on the road, Moakler also continues the annual tradition of his Hometowns & Campgrounds Tour. Each year, Moakler and his wife, Gracie, hit the road with a camper in tow, plotting out a route of small shows that take place in tiny, creative venues, fans' backyards or anywhere else he can perform.
Putting together those tours each year has long been a large part of Moakler's career, and is a part of Blue Jeans, too: "'72 Winnebago," off the third and final installment of the project, is named for the camper that he and Gracie took out on the road as newlyweds for the first-ever Hometowns & Campgrounds Tour.
"It was a '72 Winnebago that we picked up in Kentucky, and that was just the start of this whole tradition to continue," Moakler explains. He even brought along a piece of that first tour to his Blue Jeans album release party, performing his new songs from a wood pallet that he took from a Kroger parking lot and used as a makeshift stage on the first-ever run.
Much has changed since then, both personally and professionally. On his most recent Hometowns & Campgrounds Tour, Moakler and Gracie had a new passenger in tow: their young son, Jack, who was born in January of 2019.
"You know, we were bracing for impact -- we thought it was going to be so difficult [to take a baby out on tour], we almost didn't try to do it," Moakler admits with a laugh. "But it was incredible. I'm not gonna say it wasn't hard, but I think it was so much fun having him there, and it made the whole experience so much more joyful, that even the things that were harder we probably just overlooked because it was so worth it having him there as part of the adventure."
Next time Moakler tours, that adventure may have expanded even further: The singer and his wife recently shared news that they're expecting their second child, another boy, this summer.
Like any artist releasing records, Moakler has to navigate the changing world of music consumption. Many of his peers in the music business have been altering the way they release music, often focusing on shorter projects and EPs or even abandoning the album format altogether in favor of sharing one single at a time. While Moakler understands that streaming and digital platforms have changed the way people listen to music, he's still a full-length album guy.
"I'm old-fashioned. I like records," he relates. "It was important for me to make an album. But I also notice, even with myself as a listener, when my favorite artists are releasing music, I don't feel like I sit down and listen to the whole record."
That's how the idea of releasing Blue Jeans as three separate "pockets" came to be. "I realized, 'Hey, maybe there's a fun way we can roll this out slowly, kind of like how John Mayer did ... I just really feel like that's where music is going," Moakler muses. "People have a shorter attention span, and I think I'm the same way. I think it gives people a chance to chew on the songs instead of releasing a whole album and then it expires in a month. It's like a slow burn, if you will, that amounts to an album.
"The 'pockets' concept was just a fun way to bring it all home," he adds.
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