Rick Moon on New Music Video “Cracker Jack”

Miami singer-songwriter Rick Moon is set to premiere his music video “Cracker Jack,” December 15 with a free show at Gramps.  To preview the event Moon’s bandmate of The Unknown Legends and music video producer Oly interviewed him about songwriting techniques, influences and how addiction has impacted his music.
Oly: You are one of Miami’s best songwriters and I want to start my inquiries with your first album, Tired of Sleeping, these songs get stuck in my head, for days! Were you trying to write a poppy album or did it just come out that way?  
Rick Moon:I absolutely wanted to make an album where all the songs could be singles.  I wanted to make my most accessible work yet.  An album that didn’t require you to have my roots.  Looking back, I wish the production on it wasn’t as straightforward and clean as it is but I’ve come to accept it as a moment in time where I just wasn’t too familiar with experimenting too much with sound. 

Does catchy songwriting comes so easy for you? 
In a way, it does.  I’ve always been attracted to hooks.
How long did it take you from idea to release of Tired of Sleeping?
I wrote the songs for Tired Of Sleeping about a year before I started recording and then recorded it with one of my professors in college.  We met over the span of 5-6 months in his apartment after classes.
Where did you learn how to sing like that?
Well…some of my first cassette tapes were Roy Orbison, Michael Jackson and Backstreet Boys.  I can’t say that I didn’t sing to all those boy-band records when I was really young.  I think a lot of poppy singing came from there.  Then when I started getting into rock and roll I started singing rougher and shouting more.  Then I took some choir classes when I briefly studied classical music and that taught me how to not lose my voice after every gig.
I’ve read in previous articles that your sophomore album, Cottage Scenes, is about redemption, addiction, hopelessness and survival. Without knowing this upfront the music is very emotional and I’ve teared up on a few occasions. Was this a difficult process or was it more like therapy? 
It was definitely therapy.  I made Cottage Scenes to comfort myself during a difficult time.  I was also very focused on a project with DC Pérez that couldn’t be more different from that album.  That project was taking longer than expected, and I just was leading a life at the time with too many secrets.  I needed some type of outlet.  A lot of the songs were done, a big part of them, on intense binge-sessions of recording and then I just revisited to add final flourishes.  “Broken Bubble” I did most of in a day.
Would there be a Cottage Scenes without your drug addiction problem? Can you tell me how drug addiction has transformed Rick Moon’s music?
I have no idea how addiction directly impacted my music but it definitely has been a big part of my life.  I think a lot of the mentality of an addict has crept in the lyrics of my songs.  I definitely feel that I’ve experienced extremes in my life.  I come from a beautiful family and a good childhood but I’ve also made a lot of mistakes and ended up in some dark places.  I think that does something to you that I wish I could explain.  I like to think that you can hear it in the music.
Is your family musical? 
My dad.  He loves music almost as much as I do.  We can sit down and be showing us music and talking about it for hours.  He bought my first guitar and always had his own Spanish guitar lying around.  I hope to one day make an instrumental album where I interpret some pieces he wrote when he was young.  Me and my mom call them “The Greatest Hits”.  Anyway, his dad also loved music but I never had much of a relationship with him.
You are premiering a music video at Gramps, “Cracker Jack,” the single from your third album Electric Lunch. The cast for this video is amazing, a lot of heavy hitters. It’s dark, with dramatic lighting and a DIY aesthetic that is comical yet edgy. A lot of your other songs I can hear Nilsson, Lennon/McCartney and Yorke but this track is different. What was the inspiration for this song and video?
Well, that was written around the time I released Cottage Scenes.   It was written in rehab.  They were nice enough to let me play my guitar in my room after sessions.  One day I started writing this song that seemed to be an attack on bad behavior and I decided to give this person a name.  I quickly came up with Cracker Jack and he ended up becoming the voice of Electric Lunch.  I was lucky enough to meet Nick County after a Radiohead concert at some bar and we quickly became friends.  One day we were just shooting the shit and I mentioned how I needed to make a video for this song of mine.  He heard it and decided right then and there that he would direct the video and find the way to make it.  And he absolutely did.  It was pretty impressive, honestly.

Each album you have released is distinct, with it’s own universe of feeling and sound. Electric Lunch is way more rocking a la XTC. What was your mindset going into this record? Is there an ongoing theme?
I was starting to feel like if I made another borderline retro pop/folk album or whatever that I was going to quickly end up making things that any other songwriter would do.  So I decided I wasn’t going to put a cap on any ideas I had anymore.  I’m glad you mention XTC.  They’re a great fucking example of not having any limits.  There was a year in my life, I think around 18, where I literally only listened to XTC – no joke.  

As far as a theme goes, this album is supposed to be Cracker Jack’s tumultuous trip through his own head.  It begins with voices scolding him, he talks shit about the city he lives in, complains about the of stress living in this modern mess of a technological society, about having to participate in the system but also knowing that it is up to him to decide how far in or out he wants to go.  At the end, he decides to put the cross down and part ways with everything in him that wasn’t working.  Sort of a bittersweet ending.  It’s a journey and it’s definitely meant to be taken from start to finish.
There’s so many exciting things coming down the pipe for Rick Moon, you are performing at III Points 2019, releasing Electric Lunch and playing with Unknown Legends, Pans and who knows what else. Music is definitely your religion. What’s next on the horizon? 
Yeah, I’m so psyched about performing at III Points.  I think the Unknown Legends show is going to be very special.  It’s not every day you get that type of show in Miami.  I’ve been playing keys in Pans for over a year now and I got two Pans members in my live band.  I love those guys.  Adrian, from Pans, is currently working on writing and recording the second Pans album.  I plan to promote Electric Lunch, keep releasing singles and playing shows but the next thing I’ll be jumping in will be the project with DC Pérez that we started years ago.  He’s working on finishing his album now and then we’ll finally finish and release the songs we began to work on and start performing them.

Talk to me about where your songs come from. Do you start with an idea or a melody?  Words or a feeling? Do you feel like they come from within you, or from somewhere else? Do you make yourself write or do you wait for the mood to strike you? How has your writing process changed over the years? How did it start? Where is it now?
My songs come from where they always come from for anyone.  Thoughts, experiences, feelings, etc.  I usually start with some melody idea over some chords and then go from there.  I don’t have a lot of rules.  Maybe it’s a riff or a sample.  The sources could be very random.  I don’t make myself write them, I make myself finish them.   I can say something that I’ve always done is go back to a piano or a guitar and playing it naked.  Chords and melody.  If the song doesn’t kick ass there, it’s not a good one yet.
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Oly is a voiceover artist, singer-songwriter, and cofounder of Public Works, an independent record label in Miami. She hosts a weekly "karaoke for music nerds" party at Gramps every Monday.