Abra Moore has learned a few things about music, life and the intrinsic
happiness and balance. The quiet confidence she’s found seeps
through every element of On The Way, the new record she’s
made with long-time collaborator and producer Mitch Watkins. The new
collection is subtle, seductive and assured. In her own words,
it’s a “gentle sway” of an album. It
recaptures the organic, intuitive style that led to a GRAMMY nomination
and worldwide acclaim for her breakthrough album, Strangest Places.
“It’s not ego-based; it’s not about
making a stand,” says Moore. “It’s about
flowing through and capturing exactly where I was in life when I wrote
these songs.” It’s been
an interesting journey that brought Moore to where she is
today—one that includes the tropical wilds of Hawaii, a
modeling career (put away and unexpectedly revived), flirting with
major label stardom and ultimately settling into a productive and
satisfying life in Austin, Texas.
The journey began in Hawaii. Although born in California, her family
soon moved to Hawaii where she remembers growing up immersed in
creativity and surrounded by music. Her older brother was an
accomplished jazz musician and her father was a painter. The house was
always filled with music - from jazz greats to soul music and rock and
roll. The eclectic mix had a profound impact on Moore as she began to
explore her own creativity through music. She began creating in a very
free atmosphere, one without boundaries.
Upon moving to New York to study at age 15, she began playing piano.
She very quickly began experimenting and adding her own bits to songs
she was learning. “To be able to express emotions and life
experiences through music and song was very liberating,” she
says. “At an early age, I learned to communicate in a very
intrinsic and meaningful way through songs. I was hooked from then
When she returned, she found herself unexpectedly embarking on a
modeling career. A boyfriend sent in a snapshot for a contest in
Seventeen Magazine. Although she didn’t win, she caught the
eye of one of the top modeling agencies in Hawaii. After a few years,
she realized the hectic grind of auditions and casting calls was not
for her. Even more importantly, it didn’t satisfy her soul
the way music did.
Not only was music destined to satisfy her soul, it would literally
take her around the world with the group Poi Dog Pondering. As a
founding member of Poi Dog, she was able to dive into music as a
fulltime career. The band eventually relocated from Hawaii to Austin,
Texas. That’s how Moore landed in the city she’s
called home for more than a decade. However, after she left the group,
she lived in France and Italy for a year working as a musician singing
American standards on the streets and in cafes. When she returned to
Austin, she purchased a 4-track and began recording demos for Sing, her
solo debut on the independent Bohemia Beat label. Sing got the
attention of Sarah McLachlan, who was a huge fan of the record. A few
years later, McLachlan invited Abra to be a part of the Lilith Fair.
Sing also caught the ears of Arista Records. She was signed to Arista
Austin and released her seminal Strangest Places album. Moore broke
through when her hit-to-be,“Four Leaf Clover,”
ended up all over the airwaves and video channels (MTV, VH1),
subsequently earning Moore a GRAMMY nomination in the Best Female Rock
Vocal Performance category. In addition to a spot on the Lilith Fair,
the buzz surrounding the album led to tours with Matchbox 20, Barenaked
Ladies and Collective Soul.
Shortly after the success of Strangest Places, Clive Davis left Arista
to form J Records. Moore was one the acts he took along. Coupled with
her newfound national exposure, being on a major label opened other
doors for Moore, including a national ad campaign for Perry Ellis.
There were advantages of working for a major label, but there were also
demands and pressures that went along with the perks. During this time,
she wrote and recorded an album called No Fear, but ultimately decided
not to release it. She left J Records without the album seeing the
light of day. “It was an amazing experience working with
Clive Davis and J Records,” she says of her stint at a major
label. “When the album was done, it just didn’t
feel like me. They were gracious enough to let me walk away with the
album. Everything happens for a reason and my life took a hard turn at
that time. I was fortunate to have time to deal with life. Call it fate
or whatever you want, but things worked out.”
One of the hard turns was the death of her father. After becoming ill,
he made the decision that he wanted to die at home. It fell to Moore
and her sisters to take care of him in his final days—days in
which he refused to give up painting. He died literally with brush in
hand. Being at her father’s side during his last days changed
Moore. It gave her the opportunity to reexamine her life and career.
“It became imperative to me to find a place of balance, peace
and happiness,” she says. “One of the things I
realized is that I’m not a road warrior. It’s not
healthy for me to be on the road 250 days a year. I love to perform and
connect with the fans, but I also need time at home. Fortunately,
I’ve found a balance where I can go out for a while and come
back to Austin for a while.”
It would be a few years before she released another
album—Everything Changed on Koch Records. In many ways the
record was a stepping-stone, one that brought her closer to the
shoot-straight-from-the-heart style that launched her as singer. She
steps more fully into that mode on her new record, On The Way, which is
being released on the Seattle-based independent label Sarathan Records.
On The Way finds Moore completely at ease in her own skin and voice.
It’s a ferociously quiet album that unfolds gently but packs
an emotional wallop with its unwavering honesty. It’s an
album full of subtle moods. There’s always been an
atmospheric quality to Moore’s writing - maybe
that’s why Hollywood keeps seeking out her music.
Moore’s songs have appeared in more than 20 films and
television shows including Cruel Intentions, Sliding Doors (with
Gwenyth Paltrow), Happy Texas, Party Of Five, Dawson’s Creek,
Felicity and Melrose Place. Her song “Big Sky” was
used in the super-hot video game The Sims with one little
twist—she had to rerecord all the vocals in Simlish, the
language used in the game.
In many ways, On The Way captures the cinematic magic of a great fi lm.
From the opening seduction of “Into The Sunset” to
the closing reprise of the title track, it transports the listener to a
different space. It’s a roll-thewindows- down-and-drive kind
of record. “Making this record I found the sweet
balance,” says Moore. “My life is good and happy.
These songs are little snapshots of where I’m at. I tried to
capture and present these experiences as honestly as I could. If you
just stay honest and true, you’ll connect with the listeners.
You become part of their lives. That’s a privilege you
can’t take for granted.”
Part of Moore’s journey has been rediscovering the joy of
simply singing for the love of the music. To that end, she’s
been revisiting one her favorite pastimes—singing jazz
standards. It’s something she did in Austin in the early 90s
before she headed of to Europe. She’s been doing it again
without fanfare for the past couple of years. “Singing jazz
standards four hours a night, taking little baby breaks, keeps me
grounded and connected,” she says. “It’s
something I can always do. It’s something I’ll have
when I’m an old lady. It’s great for my voice. It
keeps it strong. Vocally it keeps that instrument flying.”
Reveling in the sheer joy of making music, living in the moment and
enjoying the process is an integral part of Moore’s journey.
That’s why On The Way is so aptly titled. It’s all
about the journey—life unfolding in all its mystery, agony
and majesty. True art holds a mirror up and refl ects back the hard
truths, as well as the ones that enlighten. On The Way is a masterpiece
of mood and honesty from one of the preeminent artists working in