John Moreland comes to Fayetteville: “My songs are really all I have to offer”

Courtesy photo

When John Moreland first visited Fayetteville in June 2013, he performed for a crowd of about 75 in a breezeway behind Nightbird Books. Less than three years later, the crowds he attracts now are larger, which means he performs in much larger spaces, too. He performs Friday (April 1) with beloved Memphis/Arkansas country rockers Lucero and returns in August for a spot on the main stage of the Fayetteville Roots Festival. He also performed on the main stage of the Roots Festival last year.

A singer-songwriter with a background in punk music, Moreland now specializes in heartwrenching tales of love and loss supported by sparse acoustic guitar.

Who: Lucero / John Moreland
When: Friday, April 1, 2016
Where: George’s Majestic Lounge
Cost: $22 / Purchase online

Moreland, a native of Tulsa, Okla., has been gaining traction steadily since the release of his most recent album, “High on Tulsa Heat.” That newfound success resulted in his late-night television debut in early February courtesy of “Late Night with Stephen Colbert.”

On the eve of his upcoming show at George’s Majestic Lounge, Moreland stopped to answer for an email question-and-answer session.

You can catch his set with Lucero beginning at 9:30 p.m. Friday at George’s. Tickets are $22.

You’ve been through Fayetteville several times in the past few years. What keeps you coming back?
I really like Fayetteville. My sister went to school at U of A. I used to have a lot of friends in Fayetteville bands that would come over and play Tulsa. It doesn’t hurt that it’s only a two-hour drive away.

I saw you here in 2013 performing in the alcove behind Nightbird Books. Was that your first gig in this town, or had you performed here prior to that show? (Ed note: Nightbird has taken over that space as their permanent location since Moreland’s show there, which also saw performances by Water Liars and Phillip Farris.)
Yeah, I think that was my first Fayetteville show.

You spent several years in various bands. What made you decide to go it alone?
Well initially, it was done out of necessity. The band I was in didn’t work out, but people were still asking me to play shows. Once I had been doing the solo thing for a while, I realized I really liked it.

Your current approach is very minimal – you come out, sit on a chair and play. A lot of musicians couldn’t do that – they need lights or a backdrop or … something. Do you think about your stage persona and presence much?
I think my songs are really all I have to offer, and I guess my shows are arranged in a way where the songs themselves are at the forefront. That wasn’t planned out or anything, it’s just what comes naturally, but luckily it seems to work.

When I listen to your songs, I hear a palpable sadness. What do you hear?
I don’t know, I try not to analyze my songs too much.

It’s been a busy year since the last time we saw you in Fayetteville. What’s the biggest difference between your average day one year ago and your average day now?
The audiences are a little bigger, but other than that, everything’s pretty much the same.

Your last album was very well received. Do you feel any pressure to exceed that recording with your follow up?
Yeah, sometimes. Usually I do a decent job of ignoring it.

Where are you in the process of making your next album?
Haha, somewhere in the middle. There’s no clear path to completing a record. The path to this one is still unfolding, so it’s hard to say where I am. But yeah, I’m steadily working on it.

For Friday’s show, you’re teamed up with Lucero. How has this run of shows been going for you?
Friday will actually be my first show of this tour, but I’m predicting it’ll be a great run. The Lucero guys are genuinely some of my favorite people, so it should be fun.

You’ll follow this show with a return in August for the Fayetteville Roots Festival. How do you keep those shows different for both yourself and the fans who might see both?
Well I don’t know, that’s sort of a question that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Maybe I’ll bring some other players with me in August, who knows.

Anything else you want to say to the folks here in Fayetteville?
See y’all on Friday.