When Kip Moore and his band set up at some of Nashville’s independent music venues to film the music video for his new song “Don’t Go Changing,” the country star admits his prevailing emotion was sadness — but not for himself.
“It didn’t bring up a Ah, I miss playing shows and I miss having my fans [feeling],” Moore recounts. “I had more of a feeling of empathy for people that own these venues, that can’t put anybody in them, and they’re trying to figure out a way to keep the doors open.”
Moore and his crew visit Mercy Lounge, the Basement, the End, the 5 Spot and Exit/In throughout the new video, which arrived on Friday (Oct. 30). Viewers will catch glimpses of, among other sights familiar to the clubs’ patrons, the red velvet curtains that are the backdrop to the 5 Spot’s stage, the End’s graffiti’d exterior and the neon sign that hangs on the Exit/In stage — the places where a younger Moore, new to town and pursuing his dream of a career in music, felt safe and at home.
“I think about living in a garage apartment that was 150 square feet when I was 28 [or] 29 years old — you know, having $315 in my bank account. And I think about what a scary place that is, mentally, when you’re watching all your friends build a 401(k), and they’re doing all the things that society tells you that you’re supposed to do,” the singer reflects during a virtual roundtable with media. “And so, for me, those venues were a place of refuge, or a place where my dreams were safe, because I was surrounded by other dreamers. So, those venues are everything to me.”
Moore’s “Don’t Go Changing” music video serves as a call to action for fans, to donate to Music Venue Alliance Nashville, a coalition of more than a dozen independently owned venues throughout Music City with a goal of “retaining and nurturing the fragile, yet complex ecosystem” of independent venues in Nashville — in other words, keeping themselves open and independently owned despite the novel coronavirus pandemic.
As the pandemic has worn on, music venues across the country have remained shuttered since mid-March, or are now operating at lower capacities and with restrictions. Some have been able to take advantage of aid opportunities, such as federal Paycheck Protection Program loans, or pivot to hosting private events, livestream concerts or other creative endeavors. However, with live music likely to be one of the last things to return to its pre-COVID form and assistance options running out, the situation is dire.
“We had reserves, but they’re gone, and we did get a PPP loan … but it’s gone,” Chris Cobb, Exit/In owner, tells Moore in an interview that bookends the “Don’t Go Changing” music video, “so at this point, it’s survival mode.”
Even with that money, Cobb says he’s already laid off about 50 staff members. Looking at the situation more widely, hundreds of National Independent Venue Association member venues have already closed, and nearly all of them say they “could be forced to close forever without meaningful federal aid,” according to an Oct. 29 statement.
“We’re all kind of in this fog, and we just think a lightswitch is going to cut back on and then we’re gonna see everybody and enjoy life the way it was — and that’s not the case … That ripple has not even hit us yet,” Moore says. “You can’t just walk around in the fog and expect everything to be normal if you’re not doing your part to take care of these people … Those venues that you think you’re just going to walk back into at some point, they’re not going to be there.”
Moore knows, as an artist, he, too, could be in a similar situation if pandemic-related closures last too long and more financial aid isn’t approved. At the start of the pandemic, the singer committed to paying his team for a full year, he says, and while he knows he’s fortunate to be in the position to do so, “if we stay in this state, there’s no way I can continue to do it.”
“So I don’t know what that means for my guys, you know,” Moore continues, “which is a which is a very scary thought.”
“Don’t Go Changing” is one of four new songs that will appear on the deluxe version of Moore’s recently released Wild World album, due out on Feb. 12, 2021. Although the song’s message, in a metaphorical way, is appropriate for current times, Moore says he wrote the song “probably four or five months pre-COVID.”
“There was a specific subject that we were talking about, and how it just feels like people are getting more and more flighty, a little more scared to stand on their backbone … and that’s kind of what we were speaking on,” he explains. “And now, it just seems more true than ever.”
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