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Who even is Robert Steven Moore anyways?

Art by Ket Gill

Robert Steven Moore was born on Saturday, January 18th, 1952, at around three o’clock in the afternoon. His father was Bob Moore, a well-known session bassist who worked with many legendary folk and country acts such as Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley, among others. Although as a musician he would never be as renowned or financially successful as his father, Moore would have a massive impact on the music industry as one of the prominent pioneers of home recording.

The first R. Stevie Moore track I ever listened to was “I Like to Stay Home” off of the album Glad Music. The idiosyncratic vocals, humorous lyrics, and catchy guitar riffs were immediately intriguing. As I continued to explore Moore’s vast discography—which consists of approximately 400 albums, or 5000 songs—my interest only grew. Raised in Nashville, Tennessee during the mid-20th century, Moore was surrounded by music. Despite his father’s influence, Moore drifted away from the country-dominated Nashville scene and began taping his songs at home in the late 60s.

Image Credit: Robert Steven Moore - Cover art for the compilation Lo Fi Hi Fives (a kind of best of)

In all of his earliest home recordings, Moore plays bass, guitar, keyboard, and percussion, and does his vocals as well as overdubbing. He recorded on lo-fi equipment out of necessity, but eventually, it became a defining characteristic of his work. After compiling several albums worth of material (some of which he put out independently), Moore released his first major compilation under his uncle's label in 1976, titled Phonography. A mixture of pop rock and conversational, spoken-word preludes, Phonography quickly garnered praise from critics and was popular among members of New York’s burgeoning underground music scene.

Image Credit: H.P. Music

After the success of Phonography, Moore moved to New Jersey, where he continued to record at home, but also in professional studios. Glad Music, released in 1986, retains the lo-fi aesthetic of Moore’s earlier works, despite most of the recording process being done in a professional studio. This might suggest that what really makes R. Stevie Moore R. Stevie Moore is his complete creative control over the music-making process. This creates a certain personal quality inherent to Moore’s music; something unlike anything that came before it, and unlike anything that it would go on to inspire.

Moore opened the door for future generations of independent and DIY musicians. The ethos of his music is widespread, spawning entire genres such as hypnagogic pop, and influencing fellow lo-fi innovators such as Guided by Voices and Ariel Pink. Through his passion to create, Moore made clear the viability of writing, recording, producing, and releasing one’s music from behind their bedroom door.

Image Credit: Robert Steven Moore - Cover art for the album Oatmeal Goatmilk

Moore often refers to his discography as a “diary of sound”, some of which is available on streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. However, if you want a more complete R. Stevie Moore experience, head over to his Bandcamp, where you can find somewhere around 350 of his albums.

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