No Cover Podcast, Episode 7: John Moreland

May 6, 2020

This is No Cover, a production of KOSU and Oklahoma State University and hosted by Matthew Viriyapah. On this episode is Tulsa-based singer-songwriter, John Moreland.

Moreland released his fifth album, LP5, in February. Teaming up with producer Matt Pence, he wanted to keep a small group on the record with only a few other musicians like John Calvin Abney.

Choosing to also introduce new instruments into the studio like drum machines, Moreland relearned how to enjoy songwriting amidst new pressures and expectations.

In this episode, Moreland talks about growing up in the Christian punk rock scene in Tulsa, and the recording and songwriting process behind LP5.

Listen to No Cover above (or subscribe on Apple PodcastsStitcher and Spotify) and read some highlights below.


On growing up in the punk rock scene in Tulsa

There are things about it that are easy to make fun of now, but ultimately I’m really grateful for it. It was an accessible place for me to get experience playing music and to learn the punk ethics of how to be in a band, how to do stuff. Just kind of a typical little local punk scene, except because it’s like the Bible Belt, we were all church kids.

There is something like a visceral thing playing that kind of music. That’s an experience that I don’t ever have anymore — kind of getting your anger out. But I also find that I don’t need to do it as much as I did when I was an angry teenager.

On recording his latest album

The whole studio experience was fun and positive. I wanted to keep it like a small group on the record.

Matt Pence, the guy who produced the record, he played drums on it and he just gets the best drum sounds ever. But we also used a couple drum machines and I wanted to blend drum machines and samplers with live drumming.

I think that drums are the element in music that can be the most interesting, but also are the most overlooked most of the time, especially in singer-songwriter stuff.  

There’s only so much you can do with just an acoustic guitar, before you start feeling unfulfilled, or like every song feels like you’ve written it ten times.

I didn’t know how talented of a producer he is, because when we went down there I wasn’t really thinking about who the producer was. I just wanted to record at a studio where I knew we would get really great sound. So I knew Matt would be the right choice for that.

I would have an idea and Matt would just help me expand on it. It was kind of just taking what we were already doing and going like, ‘okay, instead of playing that melody exactly the same eight times in a row, maybe make it kind of randomized.’

On 'relearning' how to enjoy writing music

It's like all I wanted to do was make music and do my thing. But when you get a little bit of success, you start hearing people tell you 'oh you're going to be the next so and so...'

And it's just like I don't actually care about that, but for a while, I guess it had me convinced that I did. Like you hear it enough and you feel like 'okay, that's cool — that's what's gonna happen.' And then when it's not happening, it's like, 'oh I'm a failure and I'm letting everybody down.'

And then I just kind of stopped writing songs, which makes sense because why would I want to feed into that? So, this album was really just what came out of relearning how to just make music because it's what feeds my soul. And not have it be any kind of like 'I hope this does some cool things for my career. And I hope I can get on a bigger tour next year.'

This is probably the first time that I can honestly say that it's really not on my mind.

Music featured in this episode:

  1. John Moreland - Terrestial
  2. MxPx - Punk Rawk Show
  3. Thirty Called Arson - I'll Make You Famous
  4. MxPx - Punk Rawk Show (acoustic)
  5. John Moreland - A Thought Is Just a Passing Train
  6. John Moreland - laserwah
  7. Ester Drang - Proustian Moments
  8. John Moreland - Harder Dreams
  9. John Moreland - When My Fever Breaks
  10. John Moreland - Two Stars
  11. John Moreland - In Times Between
  12. Porter & The Bluebonnet Rattlesnakes - East December
  13. John Moreland - East October
  14. John Moreland - For Ichiro
  15. John Moreland - Let Me Be Understood
  16. John Moreland - I'm Learning How Tell Myself the Truth