Quentin Moore plays up the retro vibe, finds fans here and abroad
Musician Quentin Moore raised more than $10,000 through a Kickstarter campaign. He poured the money into his latest release, You Forgot Your Heart. And then he got signed to the Tokyo-based Sweet Soul Records.
Oh, and before he picked up a record deal, Moore saw his single “Natural Sista” reach the top of the soul charts in the United Kingdom.
When he walked onto the stage at the Palace Arts Center in Grapevine for the official album release concert earlier this year, Moore seemed more than ready to kick his burgeoning neo-soul career into a whole new gear.
Vandell Andrew, a jazz saxophone player who’s gigged with Grammy-winning jazz musicians Kirk Whalum and Tom Braxton, opened for Moore and then joined his band. Moore’s set went on with a full soul band — horns and keys, guitars and bass and backup singers.
Ten thousand smackers is a lot of money for an indie artist like Moore, but he still had to ration money to make sure You Forgot Your Heart did what he want it to do.
“The main priority was to find the best engineer for this record,” Moore said in a pre-show interview last month at J&J’s Pizza on the Square, where he performed an acoustic set of favorites from Vintage Love, his solo debut, and lots of work from his latest release, You Forgot Your Heart.
“I also wanted better equipment — I got some new recording equipment — and spent money on venues and traveling. I wanted to make a quality product,” Moore said.
Moore conducts his music career from his Dallas home, but Denton has seen a lot of Moore’s talents. When he was studying at the University of North Texas, he was part of the Denton-based R&B band Soulbol. He’s booked and organized neo-soul shows locally, too. Soulbol is still part of his life, this time as the name of his production company and label.
He doesn’t have to play long before his many abilities announce themselves. Moore can be thumping along, controlling an audience with an irresistible soul groove. On a dime, he can pivot the same song into straight-up funk — the bass swaggering and the snares hitting just behind the beat. Jazz chromatics seem easy for Moore, too. Unexpected harmonies bubble up in tight intervals.
Moore radiates a retro sort of cool. His cover of soul artist William DeVaughn’s “Be Thankful for What You’ve Got” is usually his opening number, and both the funk influence of Prince and the slippery groove of Curtis Mayfield are palpable whenever Moore goes live. He channels the Temptations on You Forgot Your Soul and experiments with jazz more ably than ever.
Moore also has a formidable knowledge of soul itself. “I Want to Be In Love” has the Philadelphia sound circa 1980, and he sounds a little like Philly soul singer Daryl Hall in spots.
There are parts of the record that are more workmanlike than transcendent, but that’s because Moore did an awful lot of the work himself.
“I played all the instruments on the record except horns. I hired other musicians to play saxophone, trumpet,” he said. “But I did the lead vocals, played guitar, bass and was my own rhythm section. I knew I had the ability to do that.
“And I did want to challenge myself to really work on guitar, bass and drums. I knew I had to just milk myself till I had no more, till it’s dry.”
Since 2010, Moore’s guitar skills have improved, especially.
“Since then, I’ve done more solo stuff and traveling,” he said. “I started working on my lead [guitar] chops. I was prepared to do more solo stuff live. That’s a lot more than I did on my first record.”
Before the album was out, Moore released the single “Natural Sista.” The song floated to the top of the U.K. Soul Chart, where Japanese label Sweet Soul’s artist development heard it.
“They’re going to distribute Vintage Love, and see where it goes from there,” Moore said. “They’ll also plan some gigs in Japan. If that happens, that will be the first time I’ll have ever been to Japan. I think it’s pretty exciting.”
In the songs “Y.O.L.O.” and “My Way,” Moore tells the story of his decision to make music his life.
He’s set a high bar for himself, both with his job playing music in a Dallas church for pay, and by pounding the pavement for gigs and networking. He’s played his first show at the Potter’s House in Dallas, the church of world-famous preacher T.D. Jakes. In 2011, Moore was selected as one of the top 10 finalists in the MySpace Budweiser Opening Act soul-singing contest.
Not everyone appreciated Moore’s hustle during his Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for You Forgot Your Heart.
“I’d go to Cafe Brazil in the morning and work on the campaign like it was a full-time job. A few people got really tired of the texts and e-mails, but I was going to make it happen,” Moore said. “I got a thousand nos. But what matters are those few yeses.
“I don’t turn down an offer if I can help it. You got to get out there and play. You need to put yourself in front of people, because that’s how you get fans.”
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877.
On the Web: www.qmooremusic.com, www.facebook.com/qmoore
Where to buy: Albums available at Bandcamp.com, Amazon, iTunes, Google play, CDBaby.com and Spotify.
TRACK BY TRACK
Quentin Moore: You Forgot Your Heart
“Natural Sista” — Moore isn’t a born lyricist, and there’s a touch of triteness in this track, but there’s a reason this celebration of un-processed, as-God-gave-it black hair landed atop the U.K. Soul Chart. “Sista” was inspired by the firing of Rhonda Lee, a Louisiana television meteorologist who addressed a racially charged Facebook comment about her short, natural hair. While the station explained Lee was terminated for violating company policy not to respond to criticisms made on social media, the event sparked a conversation about the angst about black hair. Moore croons a seductive praise about a “natural sista.” The chorus is the kind of hook that gets stuck easily in your head. “Now don’t you ever think about giving up that crown, baby,” Moore sings in his easy falsetto, “all because the uncultured might stare or frown/Hold your head high, baby, because you’re a queen/And hopefully the others will join your team.” India Arie might have more authority as she sings about the angst in “I Am Not My Hair,” but Moore wears his hair natural, too.
“Witch” — This scathing burn delivered to a hypercritical and haughty woman starts out as a tribute to the Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like an Eagle” with a shot of Lenny Kravitz guitar growl. But it quickly becomes a funky call-out of bad female behavior, specifically the stuff brought on by the pious dismissal of men because they’re trifling, lazy or piggish. “Witch, I don’t want you/Maybe I did, but now I don’t.” The bass wobbles and spanks and the guitar grooves out while Moore gets loose with a gravelly refrain, “I just wanted to love you.” Gospel keys warble into the situation, and things seem to resolve a little too quickly. Then, just when you think it’s over, organ, bass and guitar kick back in for the real crescendo and fade out.
“I Want to Be in Love” — Remember way back in 2001, when Elton John released “I Want Love” on Songs From the West Coast? This song stands in the same stream. Moore sings about being ready for real love. The messy, dangerous stuff that either busts up happy (but ho-hum) homes, or that propels human beings through times when lust is not enough. The tune is a jazz-infused piece featuring a rap bridge by Arkansas Bo. It’s too rough to sit pretty in the easy listening bin, but too smooth to be an easy picking for pop. It also betrays Moore’s ongoing allegiance to the masters of soul — Al Green, Sam Cooke and Marvin Gay. Moore keeps it clean, even leaving out a certain vulgar word in “Y.O.L.O.” He’s gotten funkier than he was on Vintage Love, but Moore is still a gentleman.
— Lucinda Breeding