Nashville’s Steve Moakler does not shy away from risk. To kick-start his Kickstarter campaign that raised more than enough money for his most recent album “Watching Time Run,” Moakler jumped out of a plane. In addition to being a musician (and a talented one at that) and a daredevil, Moakler is an activist. Determined to bring about much-needed change and raise awareness about human sex trafficking, Moakler created “Free The Birds Records,” which funds freedom and restoration for those in need of help. Read on to learn more about his album, the creativity that made this album possible, and how he combines his passion for activism with his music.
Without using the words “singer/songwriter,” “pop,“ “folk,” or “country,” describe your sound.
Lyrically driven, sincere, moving, accessible, uplifting…
Congrats on the success of your latest album, Watching Time Run! What was your songwriting process like?
Usually, I’ll stumble upon a groove and chord progression that I like, then that landscape informs the emotion which inspires a melody. Once a mood is set and a feeling is established, I write lyrics. I wrote more than 90 songs during the course of two years. I wrote most of the songs by myself, I wrote others with friends, and a couple with strangers who became friends.
How did you decide which tracks would make it onto the album?
I brought all the songs to my producers and we narrowed it down to the ones that we were the most excited about. We played through some of the tunes with a band and it was pretty clear which ones had the magic happening. From three years of touring, I got a better idea of how strong a song needs to be in order for you to feel like singing it night after night. We tried to pick songs that would stand the test of time and I think we did a good job with that.
How does Nashville influence your music?
Nashville has challenged my idea of what a great song is. I have definitely raised the bar since I got here…I used to think Nashville songwriting was very formula, but now I see it as well-crafted. I love the structure of traditional country songs, and I also love pedal steel.
Do you write songs for any other artists in Nashville (or elsewhere!), or do you just write for yourself?
I write the best songs that I can, and sometimes those are for me to sing, and sometimes they’re for other artists.
You had a pretty unique Kickstarter campaign to raise money for this album. What were some of the ways in which you engaged your fans throughout the campaign?
After the initial video, there was not a whole lot of engagement. I think the whole “jumping out of a plane and needing a parachute” did a lot of talking and sent a pretty strong message. Throughout the campaign I expressed my excitement and gratitude through twitter as people got on board and that was kind of it until we met our goal. After we met the goal and finished the record, there has been a lot of engagement: I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of parachutes at shows, I’ve called over a hundred of them, visited a handful of their houses for dinner and a private show, and I have some Skype concerts I still need to do! It has taken an army to make this record. It has been really cool.
What kind of reaction did you see from the campaign?
The reaction was incredible. We raised over $22,000 and exceeded our goal by $7,000. Couldn’t be happier. I have generous and loyal supporters who believe in me an awful lot. I’m very blessed.
How have you continued to continue to market and promote Watching Time Run since its release?
I have been on and off the road the entire fall season. Other than that, we have a music video that we’re gonna be dropping really soon to pump some out energy back into the record. Not sure what’s next! That’s a good question though (laughs).
With the release of your last album, you created Free the Birds Records. What was the inspiration behind this?
My heart broke when I first heard about the sex trade about five years ago. I couldn’t believe that young girls were being bought, sold, and stripped of their freedom and innocence. It was too horrific for me to overlook. The seed that was planted never really went away. I realized that most of my listeners are girls between the ages of 14-25, and I thought “Man, if this strikes a chord with me the way it does, I can only imagine how they will react.” I saw an opportunity to use my small platform to make them aware and to invite them to act. More importantly than that, I saw an opportunity for us all to be a part of a bigger story that would have an eternal effect. Through selling birdhouses and t-shirts on helpfreethebirds.com as well as inviting people to donate money at shows, we have raised a few thousand dollars the past eight months. It’s been really exciting.
So what’s next?
For certain you can expect more songs, more birdhouses, and more freedom. It might get a little more country.