By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
There's a good chance you've never heard of R. Stevie Moore.
Despite his legendary status in the indie underground, you more than likely don't own a single one of the 400 albums he's recorded over the past 35 years, mostly from his own home.
But his lack of mainstream notoriety doesn't necessarily speak to a lack of quality. Popular indie artists such as Ariel Pink, Dr. Dog and MGMT have all cited Moore's music as an influence. And it's certainly not for lack of accessibility: Since the early 1980s, the RSM Cassette Club (and eventually the RSM CD-R Club) has made available an average of 15 releases per year—all shipped directly to Moore's fans through the U.S. postal system.
The biggest detriments to Moore's mainstream success, however, are likely the very attributes that his fans find most endearing. Due to his unyielding desire to experiment with all types of musical styles, his underdog spirit of being so unshakably DIY and his stubborn, eccentric nature, Moore has remained abundantly well-regarded yet substantially undervalued throughout his career.
"I desperately need and crave fame and fortune," Moore says. "And yet I shy away from it just because of my personality. Who even wants to get involved in the rat race of showbiz, Lady Gaga and shit? I've always chosen the avenue of doing it my own way—DIY. There's a lot of compromise required if you want to get into showbiz and the Top of the Pops."
So Moore has found a comfort and naturalness in his home recordings that few other artists have managed. Maybe too much comfort. His current tour, in support of his upcoming Advanced LP, is the musician's first full U.S. tour in his decades-long career.
"Naturally, I'm a bedroom hermit," he says. "So when you do that, you're not putting yourself out on the street in people's faces. That slows down the process. I've constantly been a part of the underground mysterioso kind of thing."
Interesting thing is, Moore's current tour may have never happened without some intervening by a former Dentonite. Jon Demiglio—brother of The Demigs' frontman Chris and drummer Mark—initially befriended Moore in February 2010 when he moved to New York for school and began working with the musician on a documentary film project. After Moore moved to Nashville and finished recording Advanced, it was also Demiglio who sold him on the idea of touring to support it.
"I suggested we plan a tour," Demiglio says. "A friend of mine from my Denton days, J.R. Thomason of Tropical Ooze, had been the one that got me to listen to Stevie, and J.R. was the first person that came to mind to tour with him."
Fortunately, Demiglio was able to convince Thomason (who locals might remember as the former Silver Arrows frontman), fellow Denton ex-pat Wilson Novitzki and the rest of their Tropical Ooze bandmates to take on the double duty of not only opening for Moore's first U.S. tour, but also serving as his backing band.
"I've never had the opportunities that I have now," Moore says. "I have a big underground fan base that keeps swelling bigger and bigger, and they never thought they'd see me in the flesh. It's fantastic. It's just so much work."
In many ways, the growing power of the Internet and the influence of social media and online networking are the reasons for these new opportunities. For instance, earlier this year Moore used the popular website Kickstarter to raise $11,568, and later $8,368, with these amounts funding the recording of Advanced and its tour, respectively. Backers who donated anywhere from $5 to $2,500 were rewarded with anything from postcards from the band and copies of the album to dinners with Moore and opportunities to write and record with the musician.
Of course, there are more obvious examples of ways in which the Internet has simplified Moore's modus operandi. Moore truly believes that a blog and a means to convert home recordings to MP3s are all anyone needs to make it onto the radio these days. But perhaps the biggest change that technology has brought to Moore in particular is the way it has allowed him to more effectively do what he's essentially always tried to do—build a fan base one person at a time by being accessible to his fans and communicating directly with them.
"The Internet was invented for R. Stevie Moore," he says. "I'm a motherfucker on Facebook. And these people can't believe it. 'You mean R. Stevie Moore wrote on my wall?' But it's all helpful because I'm trying to get fans, and, more importantly, I'm trying to get customers."
So far it seems to be working. Finally, at age 59, and after plugging away independently in the music business for four decades and flying mostly under the radar, more people than ever seem to be paying attention to what Moore has to say.
Better late than never.
So goes the scourge that comes with the territory of being an innovator. It often takes years for the rest of the world to catch up. Lucky for Moore, the shift in the indie-rock climate—where his home recording philosophies and techniques have become squarely en vogue of late—happened within his lifetime.
"I often wish I was 20 years younger," Moore says. "Because now I'm being hailed as this big pioneer of it all. I'm also being viewed as 'the coolest old guy ever,' as somebody just wrote in another article."
And, if all goes well on the current tour, perhaps R. Stevie Moore's fans will be seeing a lot more of him from now on—and especially here in North Texas.
"I only lived in Denton for 2 years," Jon Demiglio says. "But it was enough for me to know that Stevie had to play there. J.R. [Thomason], Wilson [Novitzki] and I keep half-jokingly suggesting to Stevie that he move to Denton and live like rock 'n' roll royalty."