Kip Moore connects with fans by doing things his own way

By John Benson

Kip Moore has always enjoyed playing the Buckeye State, but over the past five years he felt there was something special about Northeast Ohio.

That feeling crystallized last fall when the Nashville singer-songwriter said a Cleveland show at the Masonic Auditorium changed his life.

“It was one of my favorite moments ever playing music,” said Moore, calling from London, Ontario. “Man, it’s just sometimes the audience shows up and they give you that thing that fills your entire soul. That’s what that crowd did for us that night.

“All the years of writing songs and having moments where you wonder if it’s ever going to happen, they end up reminding me why I got into this game. It made it all worthwhile.”

There’s something about Moore’s fan base that he feels is different from his peers’. Sure, there are plenty of other acts selling singles and concert tickets, but this country singer believes his fans are more akin to diehard followers of the rock scene where during a concert, deep album tracks and unreleased material are cherished (and not used for bathroom breaks).

That’s why Moore recently released special fan-centric EP “Underground,” which includes unrecorded set list songs “All Time Low,” “My Kind,” “Midnight Slow Dance,” “Separate Ways” and “My Baby’s Gone.”

“I’ll tell you this – I don’t think fans understand how difficult something like this is to pull off, especially when I’ve already made a new record that is different from the EP,” Moore said. “The full-length record is coming out in late spring, but I was able to have a conversation with the label and explain how passionate this fan base is.

“These are a handful of songs I’ve been playing underground for a few years that I recorded in a very raw fashion. It’s kind of cool to see it all come to fruition.”

Fans attending Moore’s Saturday show at Packard Music Hall can expect to hear a few EP tunes, as well as his hits.

On the surface, Moore appears to be similar to most rising Music City artists. His 2012 debut effort, “Up All Night,” was not only the best-selling debut album from any solo male country artist in 2012 and 2013, but also included No. 1 singles “Somethin’ ’Bout A Truck” and “Hey Pretty Girl,” as well as his top-10 hit “Beer Money.”

The album was followed up by 2015’s sophomore project “Wild Ones” with radio tunes “I’m to Blame” and “Running For You.”

What makes Moore stand out is the same reason other country artists (think Eric Church and Sturgill Simpson) are garnering national attention. These singers are collectively rocking the boat regarding how music is viewed on Music Row.

More importantly, they’re not apologizing for being who they are, which is probably why fans are flocking to their songs that ooze sincerity and authenticity.

“I’ll tell you this – it’s a difficult business to be in,” Moore said. “I feel like sometimes I’m fighting an uphill battle. It can be soul draining at times when you try to do things your way, and there’s such a focus on so many people around you asking, ‘Will this get played on radio?’ I just don’t write that way.

“I don’t want to have to put on a hat to be who I am. I can’t get up on that stage and sing songs that I have no connection to. I haven’t picked songs that I know in my heart were hits because I couldn’t imagine getting up on stage and singing for the rest of my career. I just won’t do it.”