Possessing little more than a deep, gravelly voice and a three-song demo produced by a childhood friend, an avid outdoorsman left the comfort of his Michigan home and the security of the family business to pursue the long-shot of making it in Nashville’s music industry. Twenty-two years and sixteen albums later Geoff Moore can look back now knowing he made the right choice, hearing God’s voice through the clamor of life.
But even after all this time, Moore maintains a steady conviction to work hard at making great music. His latest project, Speak to Me, finds the veteran artist stretching himself again, teaming to co-produce with Dwayne Larring (By the Tree, Sonicflood) to create an album that is stylistically relevant while transcending trends. Larring, a former band member for Kelly Clarkson and Sonicflood, musically provides a timeless sonic atmosphere perfectly suited for the singer-songwriter’s Americana roots.
Moore’s first demo, recorded in 1983 with Billy Smiley (Whiteheart) producing and a then-unknown Michael W. Smith playing keys, was the initial trigger that launched his unexpected career as an artist. The youngest of four, Geoff lost his father while he was studying business administration at Taylor University in Indiana, and he fully expected and planned to step in to head up Moore Iron Works following graduation. But after a short stint with the family business, he and his wife Jan felt led to pack up for Nashville, though it was far from an easy decision. “Leaving the steel business was a big deal for us. Not only did it represent security but also the expectations of my family. The carrying on of the work after my father’s death weighed heavy on us. But it was what we needed to prepare for the road ahead. We made a big leap and sacrifice to pursue music, and it gave us the passion and desperation we would need.”
That sense of desperation turned into a career that’s thrived for more than two decades, literally taking Geoff and his music all around the globe. While most of his career was spent recording and touring with his band The Distance, Geoff decided to go the solo route in the late ‘90s, returning to his earliest roots in music. “I literally learned to sing sitting in the large communal showers at Taylor with my roommate playing Christian tunes and me reading the lyrics from album covers. Our reputations suffered a bit on campus for the ‘shower room sessions’ but the porcelain reverb was worth it… Even back in the band days, almost all my songs were written on acoustic guitars. These days my music still has rock sensibilities, but it’s more acoustic based. It is as important as ever to me to be authentic and relevant. I want to make great modern music by digging into my roots and drawing from the amazing experiences God has afforded me and by learning and growing from the new artists I get the honor of working alongside. But I never, ever want to be something I’m not.”
With his latest effort, Speak to Me, Geoff marries those long-held acoustic leanings with a theme birthed from his own perceptive insights into modern life, a timely message we all need to heed. “We live in a noisy world. Do you ever feel like everybody is either selling something or asking for something? I do. I don’t know if there has ever been a time when it has been harder to ‘be still and know.’ The voice I want to hear is God’s voice. As the album’s title track so wonderfully reminds us, in order to hear, we have to be listening. ‘Speak to Me’ is more than a song or album title to me. It is a lifestyle. I want to desire to hear God’s voice so much that I will wait and listen no matter what.”
For Geoff, listening is an active endeavor. In addition to time spent in study, prayer and the discipline of “being still,” he also finds God communicating through his personal, professional and ministry relationships. Throughout his career, he has taken younger artists on the road, providing the first national touring opportunities for Audio Adrenaline, Out of Eden and Big Tent Revival among others. And several years ago, his work serving as an artist mentor took a new form as he and partner David Lipscomb opened Overflow Management, Inc., home to Moore, The Afters, Hyper Static Union and StorySide: B.
But nowhere does Geoff more clearly hear the voice of God than through his ministries to the least of these. Through years of travel and touring, Geoff has been an eager and fervent voice for Compassion International and their work with children in need. “Compassion has given me the opportunity to regularly see the world, as it really is, by allowing me to travel with them and meet the children that they serve. The song ‘Every Single One’ is specifically about the work of Compassion, but many of the songs on this album have been shaped by the experiences they have afforded me.”
Forty pairs of little eyes / Stared into this heart of mine / A memory burned inside my soul / One that never has let go/I looked into the face of need / The least of these stared back at me… I’ve seen Jesus in the eyes of all His daughters and sons / Every single one
Caring for “Every Single One” has extended beyond trips to Africa and South America to minister to children at Compassion projects—Geoff, Jan and their teenage sons, Josh and Justin, have also become enthusiastic advocates for adoption. In 2001 and 2003 respectively, they journeyed to East Asia to adopt Anna Grace, 6, and Ashley Rose, 4, from China. “Nothing has shaped me more in the last six years than the adoption of the girls. It has worked its way into every corner of our lives. Less sleep, more laughs and literally, a constant amazement that God could love us all this much to allow us to be a family. I remain convinced that adoption is the great metaphor for the Gospel. Not a single day goes by that at some point I don’t think about the wonder of God’s adoption of me into His family. Anna asked me a while back if Jesus knew her when she was a baby in China and if He knew where she was. I think of that every time I sing ‘He Knows My Name.’”
Beyond conveying a message true to his own life and mission, Geoff also wanted to create an album that was just as authentic when it came to music and production. “I think this album is more diverse than others I’ve recorded. There are a few ideas I took into the project. One is that I would record songs that I loved and that meant something to me. I also wanted music that felt good without necessarily having to be perfect. With today’s technology, you can make every moment and every note perfect. Perfect time, perfect pitch and perfectly sterile and lifeless. Finally, I wanted to be open to God shaping it as we made it. Some of the best moments, including having Christy Nockels and Kendall Payne join us, were unexpected surprises.”
With Speak to Me releasing in Spring 2007, Geoff not only celebrates another step forward in a long and remarkable career but he also reflects once more on why he’s here in the first place. After all this time, the same motivations that led him to forego the family steel business are calling him again to step on stage and sing the songs he’s been given.
“It’s interesting, the longer I do this the bigger my goals are for what I want my music to do, and at the same time, the smaller they become. I guess as I get older, and hopefully mature a bit, I have a global view and see how giant the problems that face mankind really are. At the same time, I live day to day in a small world of family and friends where my wife and kids need a Dad present in the simple things. So, I see this music like ‘loaves and fishes.’ I give what I have to God and trust that He will multiply it to get it to the people that need it… When I put my head on my pillow at night and all the thoughts of the day wash over me there is so much I’m unsure about, so many choices and decisions and mistakes. But in my heart of hearts, that place where it’s absurd to even think about lying, I believe this is what God has called me to do: to write and record songs that make Him known, and then travel and sing those songs, using the platform that they create to be a voice for the poor and oppressed who have no voice.”
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