From “Big Jim” to The Farmer’s Revenge, Alyssa Moore Finds Relief in Creation 

I've been a musician for quite a while now," says Alyssa Moore, with characteristic understatement. She's lived and breathed music for as long as she can remember, and to this day it helps her process any upheaval in her life. As many of us have gone into semi-hibernation during the era of social distancing, the multi-instrumentalist has done just the opposite, creating art-pop and grunge-metal masterpieces into the wee hours with gear from her Move the Air recording studio.

"I put my studio on hiatus because I was about to move locations, almost at the exact same time that everything got locked down," she tells me. "A CrossFit gym had just moved in next door, and all day long, I could hear them throwing weights against the wall. It was awful." Accordingly, Moore was relying on her live sound work more than ever when shelter-in-place rules went into effect. "I remember my last show. We didn't know if we could shake hands or how close to stand to each other. Every minute, another band would call to cancel a show. Things got really dire really quickly."

click to enlarge Alyssa Moore - COURTESY ALYSSA MOORE
  • Courtesy Alyssa Moore
  • Alyssa Moore

And yet, if anyone can handle dire circumstances, it's Alyssa Moore. Three years ago, her former boyfriend, suffering from severe mental health issues, immolated himself outside of Murphy's, and attempted to take the bar down with him, while she was running sound there. That was more than dire, but Moore's natural response was to work through the trauma musically. That led to her finest work to date, a pair of closely related albums titled The Girl Became a Farmer (2017) and The Farmer's Revenge (2019).

"It's no secret that I was in a pretty violent relationship," she reflects. "All my life, the way for me to express myself has always been through music. So it just made sense for me to write an entire album about what happened. I figured, 'Maybe somebody else will relate to it, and feel better.'

"So, when I say, 'The girl became a farmer,' my idea was, 'Okay, here's this person who's been put into a situation where they have to grow because there's nothing else that you can do.' I like the idea of farmers growing things and this girl being forced to grow from this situation. With the next album title, The Farmer's Revenge, the farmer has now grown, and now she is a full, able person. And when I look back at my abuser, I do feel it's a bit of a revenge just to be able to keep writing and recording songs and putting them out and expressing myself. Especially expressing myself — because in abusive relationships that's one thing that's really taken away from you."

Meanwhile, she's perfected another kind of revenge via a character she created last year, complete with mustache, who has the music community in stitches. "Big Jim" is the ultimate male explainer-in-chief. In Moore's video vignettes, Big Jim takes it upon himself to enlighten his female audio engineer interlocutor. "I guess your boyfriend left his tool bag in here," he says as he goes through the studio gear. Fervently holding a package of guitar strings, Big Jim exclaims, "You've gotta look at your guitar strings under a microscope, or else you're gonna ruin the fretboard!"

"As a teenager, I wanted to be either a documentary maker or make ridiculous, dorky cartoons," says Moore. "So I feel like Big Jim is both of those, in a way. I'm a woman in a field where only about, like, 3 percent of audio engineers are women. So it's very easy for me to come up with material, just based on how I'm treated sometimes."

Meanwhile, her home studio and one-woman band are always on call, until live sound becomes a thing once more. Her video and song, "The World is Listening," written in response to a Donald Trump press conference early in quarantine, captures our sense of dislocation in driving '80s New Wave rhythms. Look for an album of related material from Moore in the near future. "I want to do something, but I have to wait until I can figure out what our world looks like in a year. Usually when I do something, inspiration hits, and within a day, I've got to either do it or give up. 'Cause I know that inspiration doesn't stick around very long."

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