Buckley Moonwall: Love Me Do

by Traci Nubalo

The harmonica. It was that wailing harmonica sound that got both of them. And once it had them, it refused to let them go.

One of them picked up a guitar, learned to sing and never looked back. He became Buckley Moonwall, one of Second Life’s premiere musical artists. The other one became me, Traci Nubalo.

I write this blog.

Buckley Moonwall: I became obsessed with music at an early age, especially with writing and performing. I loved the harmonica sound on The Beatles’ “Love, Love Me Do".

Traci Nubalo: Wow, so did I! So did that inspire you to start playing? Or writing?

BM: Yeah, well, it all happened at once. I think I may have actually started writing before that, but it was all happening at the same time. I was a kid,pretending I was on the radio.

TN: Do you recall any of your early songs?

A few rhymes and lyrics but not much else. I've forgotten a lot of my songs over the years. C’est la vie.

TN: Have you been primarily a solo artist in your career, or were you also in bands coming up?

I've been addicted to writing since I was a kid. I've kept notebooks since I was fifteen; don't know how many I've filled up, but I‘m always trying to work with words. I'm always writing songs and listening to music and I'm interested in art and finding new ways to stretch my mind.

BM: I've had a few bands along the way, but I’ve never have been able to reconcile my acoustic style into a live band situation. So it was either rock and roll with some players (I love Led Zeppelin), or me with my acoustic guitar simulating the rhythm and lead, by myself.

TN: How did you land in Second Life?

BM: Pilgrim75 Swashbuckler (Pete Mroz) told me about it. He'd been on here for about a month and was starting to get pretty big here. I was fascinated with it from the start.

TN: When you first started played here, were you doing some of the songs you do now?

BM: Yes. I've always tried to be doing my own stuff, at least as many originals as covers. So, in writing over the last twenty or so years, I've got some songs that seem to resonate.

TN: When you write does the music appear first or the lyrics?

BM: Usually some guitar part will elicit a phrase and then they grow together. At a certain point I step back and ask, "What is it?" Maybe it needs honing, maybe not. I try not to second guess myself too much, but sometimes it takes me a while to get back to where I started.

I usually just sit with a guitar on my lap and songs develop out of where I'm at emotionally. But I never really sit down specifically to write. I just like spending time with my music.

At a recent Second Life gig, Moonwall opened with the set of covers from heaven. He would have given the late Mr. Lennon a run for his money on harmonica as he kick-started the evening with a fierce restatement of the Ray Charles blaster “What’d I Say”, ripping through a racy intro and then an improvised harp solo with a vengeance. A couple verses and a chorus later he slashed and sliced his way through John Prine’s “Automobile”, answering his own vocal verses with mouth harp hot enough to put a blind beggar to shame.

Then, as the partiers had just started to break a sweat, he adeptly downshifted back into “What’d I Say”, restating the theme with a tinge of a reggae backbeat. Finally, to the delight of the dancers, he magically morphed it into a soul-satisfying rendition of “All Along The Watchtower” - much more Hendrix than Zimmerman. On this night he was a master saucier, and what a spicy gumbo he was cooking up!

Astonished, I took a quick peek at my watch. The entire journey had taken fifteen minutes.

* * * * *

TN: How would you describe your music?

BM: Well I guess you could say that I play in somewhat of a folk style, though I don't like calling my solo music "folk".

TN: Yes, what you do is rather indefinable style-wise. In a good way.

BM: “Roots" is a nice word. Or maybe “organic.”

When Buck used these two words - “organic” and “roots” I was reminded of the one comparison that most strongly seems accurate in describing his work as a whole - writing, performing, and relating to his live audience: Bruce.

I simply can’t attend an inworld Buckley Moonwall concert without being reminded of how he feels like Second Life’s very own Bruce Springsteen.

I’m a veteran of at least a couple dozen Springsteen concerts, and I hold The Boss in the highest regard as a writer and performer. And, while I fully expect Buckley to disagree with me out of modesty, I see him in that same category of style. And equally as adept in talent. Check out these lyrics from an original song called “Turn Out The Light” that Moonwall debuted on that same night:

She left her twenties somewhere behind her it was the dark before the dawn. She learned to lie about the bruises she wore collars and sleeves. Between denial and excuses she never found the time to leave.

The honesty - especially within the context of a topic as dark as spousal abuse - just brought tears to my eyes. It can rightly be compared thematically to Bruce’s “Streets of Philadelphia” (gay/AIDS awareness) or “Blood Brothers” (veterans issues).

I’ve long felt that it took a lot of artistic confidence and sensitivity for Springsteen to take on these dark-yet-significant issues in his work. Certainly, he took some large-scale career risks in championing such controversial themes. But he did them (and quite a few others) powerfully and poetically, and Buckley seems willing to put himself on the line in that same way.

In concert Moonwall has a fascinating way of assembling guitar, vocal and harp parts. He not only states the basics of the song, he also knows how to slam the instrumental parts against one another sonically, creating complex and aggressive stacks of sound. He’s also learned how to make those same parts just tickle one another to create some delicately-interwoven instrumental figures.

Quite frankly, there were times in this mini-set where the musical/vocal artistry and the pure live fire was so great that it rivaled many of the best live Springsteen shows that I’ve seen. Virtual or not, Buckley is a master musician who works his audience as well as anyone in either world. He also stands up as a true poet, lyrically.

* * * * *

TN: I’ve always been fascinated with the themes and poetry in your lyrics. Would you like to choose one or two songs and fill us in on how they came together?

BM: Sure. I wrote one called “Too Short to be a Man.”

TN: *smile*

BM: I was doing a set in Nashville, and noticed a woman sitting near the stage watching me closely and making all kinds of gestures and faces. I didn't know what she was up to, but being young and single, I decided to approach her afterwards.

She proceeded to cut me to shreds saying I needed to work on this and I needed to do that, etc. When I got back to my table my friend asked what she wanted, hoping for something real interesting. I said, without thinking, "She said I was too short to be a man."

TN: Excellent.

BM: I went home and a day or two later I wrote it. I was proud of my follow through on that one. That one had a definite beginning. Most of them aren't so easy to trace.

TN: How long did it take to build an audience here in SL?

BM: Not long. I was lucky and got hooked up with Kat Vargas and her team. They really got me going, and since Charmm Magic took over, it has been very easy for ole Buckley. She works very hard and is very good at what she's working on.

TN: You have one of the more passionate followings in Second Life.

BM: They've put up with a lot from me here, lately.

TN: Tough summer, huh?

BM: Yes, the summer has been difficult and I haven't been on SL nearly as much as I would have liked. My life is usually pretty unstable, but this was rough.

TN: How are you doing now?

BM: Feeling great, and settling in - getting ready to get back on SL a whole lot more.

TN: I know a lot of people missed you here.

BM: Yeah, it's tough, I find a lot of fulfillment playing here. It gives me a lot! And I don't mean just lindens. The lindens are nice, though. I sure would like to start to make a living doing this.

TN: And you deserve to.

BM: "Deserves got nothing to do with it" - Clint Eastwood, "The Unforgiven".

TN: What do you love most about performing in SL?

BM: I love reaching so many people every performance - it's incredible. it's all over the world. I love trying out new songs. A lot of times I've written songs when I wasn't actively performing and they just sat there. I've forgotten a lot of songs because of that. It's exciting to play new material.

TN: Let’s switch gears and talk technique for a moment.

You have this amazing chunky guitar style. What’s the secret to making that so tasty? Are you playing mostly in standard tuning or do you use alternative tunings?

BM: I’m not sure what to say about it, except that I’ve been writing a lot with an open tuning, but I play mostly standard tunings live. I never took lessons. It‘s all basically organic.

TN: Who do you admire, instrumentally?

BM: Well, I'd have to say Jimmy Page and George Harrison. But then, again, I admire a lot of players. My favorite might change every time something catches my ear, which is often.

TN: By the way, George is my favorite Beatle.

BM: Yeah, he was really beautiful. I loved his playing and I loved his songs too, although John was probably my favorite. He would have been 69 today, I just saw in my chat.

TN: Wow!

BM: That's what I said.

TN: I’m glad I'm not getting older! LOL

BM: Me three.

TN; So…what's next for Buckley Moonwall?

BM: I’m looking forward to regaining my presence in Second Life. I have a few things I’m going to try to get going to give my shows a little bit more pop. But mainly it's just going be more of the same, only better.

I’m still writing, of course, and I have some new ones. And, the goal is to be on tour by next summer in RL.

I’m just about to release two new CDs: “Redemption” and “Confessions of a Hummingbird Farmer.” The first one is full production, the second is really intimate - acoustic.

TN: When will we hear them?

BM: Hopefully by Christmas.

TN: You seem to have quite a loyal and loving SL fan base. How does it feel knowing that so many here look forward to seeing your next performance with such intensity?

BM: It's an amazing feeling to have a "fan club". It reminds me that in my Second Life I'm doing pretty good, you know.

TN: Well, this is your chance to speak directly to your fans out there. What do you want to say to them?

BM: Well, Buckeroos, it's been a long, hot, dry summer, and I want to thank y'all for hanging around and waiting for me. I promise there's a tall, cold, foaming glass of Buckley coming your way real soon!


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