Kip Moore couldn’t have picked a better setting for his new video, the latest in his “In The Wild” sessions previewing the songs from upcoming album Wild World in acoustic form — as well as the master track video — both premiering this morning. The song is “Southpaw,” a wistful look at the outlaw life. And the setting is Red River Gorge in Kentucky, so authentic to the story told in the song that you might expect a posse to come riding into the picture at any moment.
The narrator in Moore’s song wishes he could live that kind of life, one where he’s “wanted by the law and every woman.” But, in actuality, his songwriting inspiration came more from being fed up with modernity than from any desire to be a gunslinger.
“I get a little frustrated with the way I see society shaping up and the way everything’s become a little vanity-ridden,” Moore told American Songwriter in a recent interview. “Social media to me has gotten out of hand. At times I just feel like I was born at the wrong time and I feel kind of isolated in those thoughts. And then it makes me feel like maybe I’m crusty and jaded. I’m not sure. I’m still trying to process the way I feel sometimes about the way I see everything going.”
Moore began formulating the idea for the song while on tour in South Dakota. “I think I’d kind of seen a few things on the news, seen a few things on social media, just really frustrated with the way I feel that society and humanity is moving in the wrong direction. I think I woke up that morning with a chip on my shoulder. And I walked straight up to the stage at sound check and I just started blurting out that melody from the verse and chorus. I had nuggets and fragments of lyrics and words. I just kept saying ‘southpaw’ over and over.”
For the record, Moore is right-handed. But it was the otherness implied by the word “Southpaw” that appealed to him.
“Being a kid, my dad was a huge, huge boxing fan and he turned me on to boxing at an early age. He was showing me a lot of old, classic fights. And I just grew up being a huge boxing fan. I understood that a southpaw is very dangerous, very unpredictable and a rarity. I’m not a southpaw in real life but, metaphorically, that’s how I’ve always felt.”
Once he had the main idea in his head, Moore took the song to his trusted songwriting collaborator Weston Davis.
“I called Weston and told him I had this melody and I told him the premise of the way I was feeling at that moment. And he immediately shot back those opening lines of the song: ‘Should have been a cowboy/Living in the Black Hills/Living on the outside of the law/Crazier than Wild Bill.’ It was one of those things where he pulled some nuggets that I already said in the spitfire thing that I went through. And we spent that whole day chomp-chomping away that song. That’s the bond that Weston and I have always had writing.”
Moore might not have known it at the time, but his own outlook on life worked its way into the song.
“I’ve always felt sometimes that my edges were just a little too rough for such a sensitive and vain society. And I’ve just felt different. I’ve just always felt like I was maybe more suited for a different time or era. And ‘Southpaw’ was just a metaphor for feeling that way, feeling like I’m unpredictable.
“I understand what a rough life it was back then. But there’s also a romance in that free, outlaw, anything-goes lifestyle. I’ve just always been drawn to the wild.”
As for the “In The Wild” versions of this and other songs from Wild World, Moore says that recent touring experience helped him to shape the new versions.
“I think that from doing an acoustic tour for a year, I learned that I might have to work these songs up in a different way. Because they might not speak the same way when you’re trying to attempt to do them the same as the studio version was. For me it was sitting back and really trying to absorb the best way to make these songs communicate in such a stripped-down manner.”
The previews that Moore has provided so far of Wild World has his fans excited for what looks to be a tour de force album. “There’s usually a theme that comes to life and starts happening for me and that’s when I try to tap in and try to write a record. For me, when I think about the backbone of this record, it’s the songs that aren’t necessarily the fun-loving songs that are the backbone and the core. And there’s a central message and a theme going through those songs and its simplicity. Finding joy in simplicity.”
Wild World arrives on May 29. Moore hopes it provides some consolation to those suffering in different ways in the midst of our current health crisis.
“Even though I’m disconnected from the normal society right now, I’m just rock climbing and pretty much to myself, I’m still aware of the heaviness of the situation. I’m still aware that people are trapped in homes, maybe in bad marriages, and it’s only getting worse. I’m aware of people that are by themselves and don’t deal well with being alone. I’m aware of people that have lost their job of 20 years because their company’s closing and they’ve been living paycheck to paycheck this whole time. I’m aware of all these things because I did many jobs before I was in music and I understand what it’s like.
“I haven’t lost sight of any of that. That’s probably why I do some of the charitable things that I do under the table that nobody ever knows about. Even though I’m disconnected physically, I’m not disconnected mentally.”