Women Making Music
Whitney Moore: Living her life on purpose
By: Peggy Ratusz
A true testimony that life gives what you ask for, Whitney Moore has spent the better part of the past four years attracting the laws of nature that make her world go ‘round.
2008 marked the beginning of a path she conjured up but never saw coming.
While planning her three-year vigil to Mexico to study Latin Music, feelings of true freedom and higher purpose, higher learning, steeped inside her. She was embarking on a nomadic lifestyle that she deliberately chose.
The universe answered back straightaway when, not long after landing on Mexican soil, her bags and all her belongings (including all her money) were stolen; everything but her passport and her guitar. Aghast, but not daunted, she quickly nixed the idea to call the states for relief. After all, she asked for this.
The first year in Mexico, she and her band-mates lived a bohemian existence. They let the wind blow them where it would. Among the people they met were like-minded minstrels from all over the world whom Whitney calls “travelers.” They would busk their way into large and small towns, stay and play in cantinas, bodegas, and restaurants long enough to establish followers and fans, working their way up to the biggest venue in town before bounding onto the next spot. The music they played moved scores of appreciative listeners. Whiney found herself writing her most prolific material, inspired by the beach and bonfires at night, the majestic sun rises, ancient ruins, and the “travelers” she ate, slept, drank, and played music with. Whitney was living her life on purpose and she was doing it very well.
Heading into that second year in Mexico, God and the universe were making more plans for this blond, fair-skinned troubadour. Through fans and friends, she was introduced to an American recording engineer who had built a state-of-the-art recording studio on his estate. Completely taken by her superbly crafted tunes and arrangements, he made her a deal she could not refuse. Delighted and self confident, she committed herself fully to the project. Then, like a ton of bricks, she developed drug-resistant typhoid fever—an infection that would last for a year.
As an artist, drive and discipline can be challenging. But at the same time that the illness was trying to keep her down, she dug deep and found her strengths: melody, rhythm, and love. It’s that two-edged sword we’re all faced with in our lives, when you’ve got to keep going in order to pay bills and make dreams come true. At the end of that second year, she finished her album but depleted her body.
Because she gutted through gigs and recordings, singing when she should not have been singing, she developed nodules on her vocal chords. The treatment options were: risky surgery to remove them, or a period of vocal rest. She chose the latter and when she did, another definitive spiritual course unfolded.
The doctors couldn’t say when (or even if), her voice would return; and indeed it took over a year for her to even speak without pain. It was a year of little comfort.Her body was too weak from illness to practice yoga or go dancing; even walking upstairs was a challenge. In desperation she turned to the one true thing she knew would distract her from her misery: serving and helping others in need. During that year she cared for a dying woman, a new mother, and a family struggling with drug addiction. As she slowly learned to sing again, serendipitously she used the opportunity to develop a curriculum to use with her own voice students—a holistic approach which combines technique with mind-body awareness practices.
Back in the states for a little less than a year now, Whitney’s life has evened out a bit. She’s teaching voice at the Asheville Music School, working as a DJ at 98.1 The River, doing TV and Radio Voice-Overs through ProComm Studios, and enjoying gardening with her man at their home in West Asheville. As she looks to the future, I posed these queries and questions:
Tell us about the songs on the recording you made in Mexico with Doug Robinson.
Most of those tunes were written during my time in the jungle. They were designed to channel all the freedom I felt and to lift up the listener. There’s a lot of influences in there- the Nueva Cancion (Spanish for “new song”) movement (Victor Jara and Pablo Milanes), modern day conscious rockers such as Michael Franti, Zap Mama, Mos Def, and Matisyahu, even a bit of Bob Marley and Bonnie Raitt. But there’s also some tunes in there inspired by stories. Nightshift was inspired by a family I knew where the father was a psychic to the stars, but totally ignoring his own children. Come Home was a way for me to process the love I still felt for an ex, to release him in gratitude.
Your father and mother are both musicians, how did their support pave your way?
Well, my family always told me I could do anything—be anything—I wanted; And they certainly led by example. They both came from traditional southern backgrounds and it took a strong spirit to break away to lead the unconventional lives they have. My dad’s still gigging full time, and has no plans to retire. There are sacrifices, and risks to be taken, but when you really love what you do, you never work a day in your life.
When you play out live, what’s the instrumentation and who are your musical partners?
At the moment I’ve got two projects going: a reunion of my old salsa band, Montuno and also an original group (which performs under my name). The salsa band is three-piece percussion section, horns, bass, keys, and sometimes guitar and a male vocalist. Grant Cuthbertson’s definitely my point man on the salsa.He’s been spearheading the salsa scene here for over a decade. As for the original project, I’ve been performing with the guys from the Secret B-Sides (who are awesome, by the way). Shayne Heather on bass, and Jeff Knorr on keys. They bring a real funky soulful feel to my Latin/World-beat tunes. It’s a sweet collaboration and I’m excited to see what will come of it. I’ve also been making a bit of music with Daniel Barber (of Jubilee fame). What a great songwriter that guy is! But I’ve only been back to performing for a few months, so things are still coming together.
What type of performance opportunities are you seeking and landing?
Well, my salsa band is going to be headlining Fiesta Latin this year. Our slot is from 7- 8pm, right after the dance lesson. It’s happening October 8th in Pack Square Park. I’m looking forward to playing on that new stage. I’ll be featured at the Female Spotlight Night at Tressa’s Downtown (28 Broadway) on Wednesday, September 28th starting at 8:30pm. Otherwise I’ve played a few dates at the Grove Park Inn, LEAF, Lake Tomahawk, and did an opening gig for La Sonora Dinamita. As for seeking, I’m still intending to play at festivals and yoga studios. But it’s gonna take a bit of time to build the buzz I need to get invited to those kinds of events.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
That’s one of my favorite questions. In my perfect world, I’ll be touring festivals on the weekends and keeping up my teaching practice during the week. Seeking out and collaborating with artists who inspire me and help take my music to the next level (no shortage of those around here!). I’ve got three albums mostly written: another World Beat/Latin dance album, a children’s record, as well as a gospel/old time album, and I’d love to see those recorded in the next five years. Hopefully I’ll continue to develop my understanding of music as a transformational art form—to make “sacred” music,whatever that looks like. I’ve lived every adventure I ever dreamed of, so I feel like it’s time to dig in and go deeper. I guess I’m kinda like Dorothy coming home to Kansas—only Asheville’s a lot more like Oz.
Find out more about Whitney and her upcoming shows at www.whitneymoore.com
Peggy Ratusz is a writer, songstress, and vocal coach who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. [www.reverbnation.com/peggyratusz}