Interview | FFS 5 with Todd Warner Moore

Photo courtesy of artist

A pensive lyricist and keen composer, the work of Todd Warner Moore is a celebrated favorite at For Folk’s Sake HQ. The Hong Kong-based folk musician and poet has been turning out mindful songwriting in the ilk of Eckhart Tolle and Joey Ryan at a breakneck pace. His latest album, Path Overgrown, is the fifth that he’s written and recorded over the course of just eighteen months (June 2018’s Birdsong being the first).

Now, Moore is taking part in our ongoing ‘FFS 5’ interview series, wherein each artist set under the spotlight answers the same set of five questions. His answers reflect on the serene approach to life that he has taken, touching on meditation, his approach to songwriting, and where life has taken him since his humble beginnings in Overland Park, Kansas.

Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? Any defining moments along the path to present day?

I am originally from Overland Park, Kansas, U.S.A. I don’t remember when I started writing music. I’ve been writing songs for as long as I can remember. I used to always struggle with lyrics because I second-guessed myself. A few years ago, I woke up one day and wrote “Birdsong.” The words just flowed out. That was over 60 songs ago. 

Now, when I have a tune, I know that the words will come. It’s all about slipping into that gap. It’s hard to explain. It’s opening yourself to whatever is happening at that time, as opposed to trying to tug the song outside of you. Anyway, writing “Birdsong” was a defining moment for me. It was like I had learned a trick. 

As an artist, how do you define success?

I think success is a process, and not necessarily an end, in itself. Success involves the understanding that you are making music solely for the sake of making music. It’s easy to get caught up in followers, streams, playlists, sales, etc., but all of these things are distractions.  If people like your music, they will listen. Either way, it doesn’t matter because your music does not depend on them. Your spark comes from within, and listeners want to experience this. Desperation is never the way. I spent years almost begging people to listen to my music, and I was writing about one song a year.

What do you find to be your greatest struggle when it comes to the music business?

I don’t feel like I am struggling because I don’t tether myself to the results. I think I continue to attract listeners because of this. It would be not very easy to make a living off of music, though, in this day and age. On the other hand, people have never been able to spend a small amount of money and get their music on so many streaming services. That’s the trade-off. Self-promotion may be difficult, but a record company does not own you.

What do you think is the most realistic goal you can achieve as an artist? What do you hope to achieve?

I wish I had a physical goal. I’d like it if the quality of my songs continued to improve.  

Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?

I am a teacher. There is a lot of work involved, but I write my best songs on the ferry home after a long day. My students give me energy. I also meditate one to one and a half hours a day and attend a 10-day Vipassana retreat every summer. That’s how I tap into the stream. 

Words by: Jonathan Frahm